Wave Race. That’s my only point of reference for video games with watercraft racing, and I’m sure that’s to be expected when talking about another one on a Nintendo console. Since Vector Unit is behind this title though, it also ended up bringing Beach Buggy Racing to mind since that was their previous entry for the Switch. Is Riptide GP: Renegade a similar case to Beach Buggy, or does it manage to achieve the qualities of Nintendo’s own classic series? Well…It’s a bit complicated.
There’s apparently a slight narrative going on in this game. The main characters consist of people that don’t seem to like following rules. They race around in circuits illegally and get arrested for it shortly after. So what would be a better way to learn for the greater good, than to keep racing around illegally? Probably not the brightest way to train for the professional circuit, but I digress.
The impressive thing about Vector Unit’s games on the Switch is how the team manages to compress them. Riptide GP: Renegade is only 151 MB big, yet has lots of graphical detail and a remarkably smooth framerate. Visual pop-up is a little more noticeable this time around, but it doesn’t distract from the view that much. I also like that the courses differentiate from each other with neat details of their own; one course had ships firing machine guns at the buildings you race by, and certain ones may have the waves bounce for players to take advantage of for airtime.
I didn’t find the audio department to be as impressive. The music is fairly forgettable, and there isn’t a lot going on when it comes to sound effects; it’s a far cry from the scrumptious sound design of Wave Race 64. I also found it odd that Riptide GP shares some sounds with Beach Buggy Racing. I guess they’re both made in the same mold as each other.
What further convinced me that they are is that Riptide GP: Renegade shares a lot of the same structural elements as well. There are plenty of tracks to race on in this game, but you can expect them to be reused for differing objectives throughout the lengthy single-player campaign. The more you progress in the game, the more annoyingly stubborn the AI gets and the more you need to pay in-game currency to upgrade your vehicles. Multiplayer options are sound; there’s local multiplayer split-screen for up to four people, and intriguingly there’s online play for up to eight people. If only people actually played this online…
As for the basic mechanics, Riptide GP: Renegade has the checklist filled. The tracks are designed pretty well, and there are a variety of ways racers could pull off tricks to fill up a boost meter. It’s a good mechanic because it rewards skill, and it’s not something you obtain through an item box. Shortcuts could also be used for an advantage, but there appear to be few and far between. The races can get intense considering all you really have to one-up each other are your abilities to maneuver through the tracks and potential boosting power. If only the AI could stop being three steps ahead of me. I don’t mind a hard game, but if I have to grind for money by doing races I already beat, that’s just artificial padding.
Riptide GP: Renegade is clearly rough around the edges, but there are good qualities within it that could make the overall package worthwhile. Maybe give it a whirl if you’re curious enough. It’s certainly a content-heavy game for the $10 price. And who knows? If there actually are online players to race against, the game could be that worth picking up that much more.