From the Tron-style motorbikes, to the tube-shaped tracks allowing a full spiral of movement, Cologne, an arcade-style racing title developed by Nhneno Games, elicits the feel of classic future-inspired racing games like F-Zero. But it doesn’t take long for the facade to crumble, as sadly, Cologne is plagued with frustrating design, tedious gameplay, a barren multiplayer, and more than a few bugs.
Races take place across different planets with a total 28 different tracks with three different race types. Circuit races have you and several CPU controlled opponents do laps through a looped track. Speed races are similar to circuit races in terms of course structure, but the race itself is a one time run from beginning to end. Drag races are pure speed challenges as you go as fast as you can down a straightaway. In each race type, you’re collecting power ups which can boost or repair your bike, and give you more fuel or coolant so you can shift to a higher gear. You’re also dodging different obstacles which will require you to maneuver around or even jump through them as you come roaring in.
While each planet has a different neon color scheme–and each track type has a different composition of turns, power-ups, and obstacle placement–every track plays nearly the same and comes with same kinds of headaches. For instance, you will come to hate the bright red blockades, because despite your best efforts, you will be hitting those things a lot, which means a hard stop for you no matter how fast you’re going. It doesn’t help that the game respawns you back just far enough to where you’ll need to back up your vehicle even more just to get around the obstacle. Even the power ups can be detrimental to a successful race, as an ill-timed a speed boost will propel you right into another wall, killing all of your momentum. On such a setback, you’d have better luck just restarting the race to try again, but that means you’d have to watch another 20 second unskippable intro of the track you’ll be playing. What can also ruin your playthrough are the game’s clipping issues, with CPU opponents passing through obstacles like the obstacles aren’t event here, and your own racer slipping off the game map entirely, forcing you to restart.
Additionally, upgrades for speed and control, handled with the in-game garage, are initially very expensive. You’ll be losing more races than winning, and considering the high level of challenge, you may end up having to play the easiest track again and again just to finish in the top 10 and farm out a small amount of money for an upgrade. Also, multiplayer might as well be non-existent. Several times I ran the in-game multiplayer matchmaker and have yet to find other players, even after 10 minutes of waiting.
Really, the only thing about Cologne I had no issues with was the music. With multiple tracks spread out over each race course, the music has a kind of late 90s/early 2000s Fast and Furious vibe that meshes well with the bright lights and fast pace of each race. That’s really the only nice thing I can say about a title that is, for the most part, equal parts buggy and frustrating. Unless the developer puts some heavy work into Cologne, I recommend avoiding it.
Cologne is available now on Steam and on the Windows Store.
A copy of this title was provided to us for review purposes.