Hands-on: Rec Rally is Another Fun (and free) Slice of ‘Rec Room’ Magic

Rec Room is launching ‘Rec Rally’ on September 29th, which brings to the popular social VR platform a go-kart racer that feels like an awesome starting point for the studio’s first vehicle-based mini-game. We went hands-on so you can get a look at what to expect when it goes live on all supported platforms tomorrow.

Matches serve up to six players who duke it out across a single track in different colored dune buggies.

The track is big and has plenty of quirks and secondary pathways that branch off, which feels like home for anyone who loves the Mario Kart series (like me). Here’s a brief video overview, courtesy of VBunnyGo, which shows off the pit where you can hang out for a chat or buy stuff from the shop, the starting line, and the winner’s podium.

Buggies are simple arcade affairs, and are equipped with a steering wheel, a physical boost button and a handbrake for drifting fun. You can control the buggy either by using the analogue stick for both steering and acceleration, or by gripping the wheel directly with motion controllers. You can toggle between the two in the wristwatch-based settings menu both before and during gameplay.

I played on Quest 2, and I found the direct control method to be pretty difficult to master since the cart physically shifts along with the road, which is a series of bumps, hills, and tight racing terrain. It was hard to keep track of where my hands were, which was a bit of shame because of how much more immersive driving with my own two hands can feel.

That’s me below fumbling to smack the boost button and getting overtaken.

I felt most comfortable using the analogue control method, as it was the most simple, although it feels like forward motion should be mapped to a different button. You jam the stick on your dominant hand forward for max speed, and turn the same stick slightly left or right and the same time, which isn’t exactly geared for fine steering adjustments. I only had about a dozen laps in Rec Rally though, so I can see myself building the muscle memory needed to compete at a higher level.

To be honest, I was hoping to see more Mario Kart-inspired stuff like weapons and environmental traps, however the only pick-up for now is the boost tank. You need to collect three tanks to activate your boost button, which begins to flicker red when it’s ready. It’s basic, but a good enough game mechanic to keep things interesting as you vault over obstacles for hidden shortcuts and leave your competition in the dust.

Rec Rally is marked as ‘Intense’ in terms of user comfort within the app itself. VR games with cockpits like Rec Rally tend to be more comfortable than, say, going at the same speed and angular velocity without a cockpit, but the frenetic nature of the buggy and amount of obstacles you can smash into make for an unavoidable bumpy ride that may not be suitable for all.

And it is intense, almost to the point where I’d imagine screen-based users on PC, mobile, or console having a marked advantage, as they have greater control over their vehicles and zero comfort issues with having their POV jostled about the cockpit. I took a few breaks during my time with Rec Rally, and I would suggest any VR player to know when they should too. You can’t just push through motion sickness, I’m afraid.

In the end, if there’s one thing that’s constantly reinforced when playing Rec Room’s mini-games, it’s that the team ultimately excels at offering a buffet of bite-sized fun. Rec Rally is no exception, and while I’d love to see a bunch of new tracks and more game mechanics to support its growth, in the end it could easily just be another fun activity to go along with the platform’s highly polished first-party content, like its Rec Royale shooter and awesome co-op Quests.

Like all of its mini-games though, Rec Rally not only acts as a highly-polished anchor to attract users, but it also gives those same users a solid jumping-off point to inspire them create their own wild stuff, of which there is now a literal mountain. And with Rec Rally, we’re sure to see plenty of vehicle-based stuff in the near future that I just can’t wait to explore. (someone please make Rainbow Road)

You can find Rec Room for free on official app stores across Android, iOS, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC via Steam, Oculus Quest, and all SteamVR-compatible headsets. Rec Rally is free too, and is available for cross-play between all supported devices.