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Whenever I think of the phrase “favourite childhood games”, my brain immediately goes to RC Revenge. Not necessarily because it’s number one on my list of games I grew up with, but because it’s not the kind of game that exists today. It hasn’t been remade or remastered, not since the Playstation 2’s RC Revenge Pro, in any case. If I want to play it, I have to dust off an old console or figure out an emulator. It’s truly a relic of the past.
So… what is it? Well, it’s an arcade racer based on RC cars. You’d start with a number of options to race with – I always chose RC Action, the car on the box art – and as you went through the Championship cups, you’d always race against one car you didn’t have the option to select. Jungle Ranger, Yella, Sarge, Skull Duggery, these cars had a special presence in races, and unlocking them at the end of each championship felt highly rewarding. Two cars I never figured out how to unlock, one of which was a UFO, always remained a mystery to me, though I later found out you were supposed to unlock them by completing Time Trials. Hilariously, the thought had crossed my kid brain, but I figured they’d never force anyone to unlock them through boring Time Trials and they must have been unlocked in other ways instead, like beating championships without losing a single race or taking a single hit. Ah, the days before the internet.
My favourite thing about this game was the varied tracks and the structure of their championships. To start with, you have five themed worlds – a horror theme, a jungle theme, a space theme, a monster theme and a wacky theme – each of which had two main tracks. Those two main tracks also had two longer variations for the Gold and Platinum cups, which means that tracks you were once familiar with suddenly had new pathways which opened up and let you see another perspective to the world. This may not sound particularly crazy now, but it blew my little 5 year old mind.
I vaguely remember spotting RC Revenge Pro on the shelf of a completely non-game related store on a trip to town on day (I want to say it was in a shoe store?), and my dad rolling his eyes, knowing it was an essential purchase. RC Revenge Pro brought the game to PS2 with enhanced graphics – and they really did look enhanced to me then – alongside a new pirate themed world and more unlockable vehicles with special abilities. I remember thinking that the pirate tracks were somewhat boring to play, and I never fell in love with any of the new cars, but I certainly got something out of seeing the game on PS2 with better graphics. It was truly ahead of its time in this way.
With old games like this, I often wonder how many hours I put into it. Did I play for hundreds of hours over the years, as a kid with little else to do? Or does it simply feel that way because I have a lot of fondness for those memories? If it was released today, would I give a crap about it? It’s worth noting that the PS1 version received average reviews and the PS2 version did worse, which is an argument against taking review scores too seriously, as I clearly enjoyed it plenty. I’ve revisited the game in my adult years too, and still had a good time.
One last thing I’ll mention is that I only recently discovered that RC Revenge is actually a sequel to a far more popular RC Racing game named Re-Volt. Some years back, Re-Volt launched as an iOS game, and the entire time I played it I couldn’t shake the sense of familiarity I felt. Much later, I looked up RC Revenge on Wikipedia out of interest and found the link there. Curiously, I don’t find Re-Volt nearly as enjoyable as RC Revenge, which is super interesting given that the general consensus is that people prefer the first. In this way, I feel I’m able to conclude that if I discovered RC Revenge for the first time as an adult, I probably wouldn’t get much more enjoyment out of it than I did out of Re-Volt, which is something to think about.
Either way, if somebody were to come out with a spiritual successor to the series, I’d be on it in a heartbeat.