Monochrome Racing Review—Gone in One Second


I could write a review of Nordcurrent’s Monochrome Racing that ends within this sentence and get away with it.




But I won’t. Monochrome Racing’s core gameplay lasts for a few seconds per race, and it’s not enjoyable at all. In theory, this kind of gameplay could really work on the Minis platform. Its pick-up-and-play nature fits the bill of what a Mini ought to do. But, the execution in this one is atrocious. You could win or lose a race in one second.

The “monochrome” scheme simply becomes a bland gimmick because of its problematic gameplay.  Such a shame, though, because on the exemplary side of things, Monochrome Racing is one of the few Minis that include software manuals. Monochrome Racing’s software manual supports several languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Russian and English. Also, this game uses the language you set on your PSP. By the way, I am reviewing the European release of Monochrome Racing; the North American version may vary.

Upon starting the game, you are asked to create a profile, choose your avatar and pick the color that represents you. And then you should prepare yourself for one of the most cumbersome and unintuitive menu and system interfaces you’ll ever plow through. There is no dedicated physical “back” button. Sorry, Circle has no use in menu navigation. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s really helpful if you are the kind of player who goes in and out of menus, especially for this kind of game, which features an upgrade system (more on that subject later).


Here is how you control your racing car: D-pad for steering and X for accelerating. Circle is for braking, and you can spill oil and eject napalm with the shoulder buttons. I’ll tell you as early as now, neither of these is useful, and I doubt you are ever going to use either one of them. There are lots of power-ups, too, but hey, you won’t use them. There are many factors that surround such a disappointing phenomenon.

First, the core gameplay really ends in seconds, 10 seconds max. The objective of the game is not to win the race in the long run. Once you or any of your three opponents get left out of the screen by the leading car, you and/or they are knocked out of the competition. Hey, as soon as the race begins, someone could be left behind by the simple nature of a “racing” game. Don’t even get intimidated by the winding roads and dangerous curves the maps show you before the race.

Second, Monochrome Racing is a combat racing game. You must push, derail or grind your opponents out of the competition. Damaging opponents gives you more cash than simply running past them. BUT HEY, SOMEONE SNEAKS BY! You can’t let yourself get wrapped up in a one-on-one battle. One minor delay and you’re out of the race!

Finally, the AIs are stupid. As soon as the race starts, they bump into each other, and if there is a curve ahead, they get entangled, grinding against each other. Time for telly-bye-bye!

The core gameplay issue may at least be tempered if the game is optimized and it’s very quick to jump in and out of menus. But, as I’ve called out earlier, it isn’t. The navigation scheme is horrifying: the slight delay in reading your input when you navigate around, the lack of a physical “back” button, the convoluted design of the menus (you can’t use the shoulder buttons in picking your desired track out of 80+, and no, you can’t use the D-pad, either; you must highlight the arrows first so that you can sift through lots of maps until you find your desired one) and, of course, the loading times just magnify how short the races are.

There are lots of upgradeable parts, like side bumpers, rear shields and the oil and napalm barrels. Truthfully, though, only the speed component of your car is of the utmost necessity. Oh, and memorize the icons of each component as it is defined in the software manual and in-game, because there’s no text info to guide you. You do have to go grinding to get more money for the vehicles, like returning to the tracks you already have won to further extort fallen opponents. But because of the upsetting game design, it isn’t worth it. Imagine playing the grind of Disgaea while using a menu system as horrifying as Front Mission 4′s, compounded by the frequent loading times of Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter from the PS1. SUFFERING.



The artwork and the soundtrack are amazing. The comics-like graphics, coloring scheme and entire atmosphere are also great (but you can’t contemplate it given the gameplay mechanics of the game). There are lots of unlockables, too, and there is an achievement system (but the achievements are too few to be substantial). The special effects also look good. BUT STILL….

Overall, Monochrome Racing is an exercise in bad game design. And I have nothing more to add to that.


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11 Responses to “Monochrome Racing Review—Gone in One Second”
  1. onmode-ky says:

    Wow. . . . And, uh, I have nothing more to add to that.

    Oh, what’s telly-bye-bye?

  2. Jasper Nikki says:

    Teletubbies. lol.

  3. Nexus Prime says:

    Slim pickings over the past few months had me eyeing this one. This review saved me from eventually wasting $5. Thanks! The game initially seemed good but i guess it’s another case of good from far, but far from good.

  4. confuletlyf says:

    this is very dissappointing to hear. I was really excited for this one since it resembled micro machines or super rc pro am so much…

  5. thumbbandit says:

    I dodged the bullet also.
    I really hope this game gets an update to fix all the flaws.

  6. volcane says:

    Hmm, the race mechanics that you’ve described are exactly like Micro Machines and TNT Racers (i.e. you need to avoid getting knocked out of the race if you fall behind the bottom of the screen).

    Is that correct?

    If so, I can see how you would find this a bit strange if you weren’t expecting it but it is something that Micro Machine veterans (like myself) will be very familiar with! :-)

    Regarding the nature of the combat, where the act of combat brings potential reward while running a risk of being overtaken, the aim is therefore to save your aggressive tactics for when there are only two of you left in the race and you are fighting to knock out the final opponent.

    Sounds like the menu system could do with some refinement, but everything else you’ve described about the game sounds like a great Micro Machines clone!

    I’m seriously tempted to buy this…

  7. onmode-ky says:

    volcane, I don’t think those two games exclusively play like this, though, no?

    I found gameplay footage from the WiiWare version of the game, and I think it looks as poor as Jasper describes. You can basically ignore the course maps, because you’re never going to drive a whole lap. And, at least as far as that footage is concerned, you don’t really need to use any power-ups because you can simply rely on the other racers (and/or you) crashing out without assistance.

  8. ChaosRandom says:

    Have we ever talked to Norcurrent guys? Wish we could helped with this one. This game looked good. Too bad.

  9. JeremyR says:

    Nordcurrent is sort of like the Maxwell Smart of game developers. They can put together a pretty decent product, but they always seem to miss things by a little bit.

    But then, I think a lot of things could have used just a little more tweaking after feedback from testers. But I don’t think Mini developers have that luxury…

  10. volcane says:

    Well, I’ve taken a punt and bought this game.

    The gameplay is what I thought it was, essentially exactly like the basic Micro Machines style whereby you have to win by knocking your opponents off the bottom of the screen in order to win a race. You rarely complete an entire lap unless the AI give you a run for your money (and they do get more competent – and thus are a harder challenge – in the later levels).

    It look me about 2 hrs of playtime in order to win all 85 races/tracks, buy all the upgrades & obtain all the achievements (to win on a track you only need to beat your opponents once on that track). I used the napalm powerup the most (it’s a great way to slow down opponents who are creeping up behind you). Make sure you buy the cars that accelerate best, and then focus on upgrading the engines first. Handling is important too because most of the tracks are very slippery.

    I think you need to know what you are getting into with this game before you risk your money. If you enjoyed Micro Machines on the Sega Mega Drive, then you’ll likely enjoy Monochrome Racing too. On the other hand, if you are after a traditional racer type game then you’ll likely find Monochrome Racing too frustrating and you should probably avoid it.

    The graphics, sound & atmosphere are great. The controls are fine for the game type. I personally didn’t find the loading times a problem either.

    My review score: 7/10 (but only buy it if you like old skool Micro Machines)

  11. confuletlyf says:

    hmm, just followed the link here from Mena Speed, remembered how good this game looked initially.
    Never saw your post before Volcane. Have still been looking for some kinda itch for some handheld racing. 2 hours of gameplay though? Will pick this up if there’s a decent sale or price drop.

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