Jet Racing Extreme is Awesomely Unfair

Jet Racing Extreme is a simple game.  You’ve got a supercar powered by a rocket and a track littered with debris, ramps and assorted bits of clutter.  The car isn’t particularly fragile, but when you get up to hundreds of kilometers per hour that’s hardly going to prevent it from turning into a barrage of flaming shrapnel when it takes a hit.  Sure, the damage modeling is good enough so that if the back has disintegrated but the front is mostly intact that means you can use the front-jets for propulsion, but the squealing sound of metal over asphalt is just a little bit grating.  On the plus side, it’s always fun to see how far you can push a shattered ruin of metal past any reasonable hope of functionality.

Jet Racing Extreme looks like a serious time-trial racing game but is actually only faking it.  The car has individually modeled components that break off when struck, with an in-depth system for adjusting shocks, separate sliders to change the balance of braking power and tire grip between front and back wheels, and there’s an upgrade shop where you can buy stronger and more effective parts.  While those can be fun to poke around with for those who like that kind of thing, Jet Racing Extreme’s real identity is that of a troll.  Not the mean-spirited, blights the very ground they inhabit type, but the sort whose meanness is tempered by being smart and funny.  All the junk littering the track is there to kill you, and just about every button on the controller is designed to make you smash into the debris that much faster.  Once you realize that, the game becomes less about making a perfect run and more about enjoying the giant explosions and seeing how far you can go before resetting to the last checkpoint, once the broken remains of the rocket car have been driven into the ground.

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At the moment, Jet Racing Extreme is still very early, with a total of four tracks available in a single environment.  The area is fairly intricate, though, with tracks that intersect and squiggle all over the desert landscape.  Ramps, loops, rock outcroppings, banked and unbanked curves, and plenty of random junk make each course an exercise in speed management, which can be extra-tricky when fighting the temptation to hold down accelerate, booster, and afterburner all at once.  Hitting a ramp with all three maxed out is a great way to lose control, but so much fun to do that it’s very difficult to resist even if there is a stone arch up ahead waiting to extract explosive payment for the slightest failure in control.

While off to a great start, the earliness of the game does bring a few problems with it.  There’s a load of bugs, some small and many entertaining.  My particular favorite was when the driver got stuck in a wall but the car flew into the air, and the camera angle showed it flailing end over end in the background.  Not only that, I could still control the rockets, so with a bit of timing on the thrust and airbrakes I got the car to fly a few graceful loops into the distance before it disappeared from view.  It was a moment of pure bug-driven gaming magic.  Less entertaining is when the camera gets stuck as you go through a loop, glitching into the ground and out again, and if you fall off the loop the changed camera angle has to be manually reset instead of popping back behind the car where it belongs.  Jet Racing Extreme could also stand a few extra features, such as the ability to de-turtle the car when it gets flipped on its back.  At this point I just reset to the last checkpoint when this happens because no amount of wobbling the controller is going to set the car back on its wheels.  And as long as I’m hoping for updates, better gamepad support would be nice.  Unity’s front-end just doesn’t seem to like mapping the standard thrust to the analog triggers.  –Update– Or maybe it’s just the controller I’m using, a standard Xbox 360 wired USB pad.  According to the developer, in the comments below this article, it works fine on the game pads he’s worked with and will be updated for the 360 pad when he has one to test.

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While there’s a lot that needs work in Jet Racing Extreme, there’s no denying how ridiculously entertaining the whole thing is.  There’s been a lot of love thrown into the physics, individual breakable components, and overall car design, and the tracks are very well put together even if it seems their main purpose is to kill you.  While it’s honestly entertaining to see the many ways the course works against you, it’s well within possibility to clear the challenge, possibly without even taking damage if you’re extra careful.  On the other hand it’s always fun to tear off the side of a rocket-powered car and keep on driving as long as possible, and with a bit luck you might survive long enough to see the next checkpoint.

Jet Racing Extreme comes in three versions to try, two of them free and one cheap.  They’re all linked off Itch.io, as is the game’s Greenlight page, and I’d recommend checking the browser version and skipping the microtransaction-based free version entirely.  If the game can come even slightly close to living up to its potential the $5 asking price seems more than fair, paying off in entertainingly mean-spirited course design within minutes of firing up the ultra-boosters.