Hill Climb Racing 2

April 22, 2023 by Lucian Mogosanu

Hill Climb Racing 2 is a masterfully crafted physics simulation engine wrapped tightly in an eastern RPG.

The "RPG" part is precisely what you'd expect from the genre: vehicles' attributes are upgradeable, which requires the player to collect coins from the playing field; good thing coins can be doubled for the cost of an ad; fortunately for those lacking the patience to watch ads, the game provides various types of chests, most of which can be "activated"... through timed events. The player can open the daily chest -- and also for the cost of an ad, a second daily chest -- but also the weekly chest and up to three chests that may be gained by winning races -- which also require waiting anywhere between three and twenty-four hours, depending on the "chest value" -- as well as a fourth chest that may be opened immediately upon winning ten races, but no more than two times a day or somesuch.

As far as the three (and maybe other) chests are concerned, the waiting time may be skipped by spending a certain number of diamonds, which may be obtained by collecting ranked chests in adventure mode, depending on the distance traveled in any adventure session, a multiple of five hundred meters. There's a maximum of four (I think) such "adventure chests" that may be collected once a day, each providing two diamonds (I think) per rank. Anyways, in general diamonds may be used to unlock any timed waiting event, such as the crafting machine.

The crafting machine generates scrap from parts. Scrap may be used to build availability (I shit you not) for other parts, however building the parts themselves still requires coins, which may be obtained as described above. Of course, parts, scrap, diamonds and coins may also be obtained by paying actual dollars for them, or at least the player may buy chests which guarantee him some classes of items. I hope you're keeping notes.

The game has two "tracks": an "adventure" track, where the player may drive until he runs out of fuel or dies in some other way, where new levels are unlocked based on some other in-game currency computed based on the total maximum distance traveled in all previous levels; and a "race" track, where the player competes with other players' race recordings in 100-1000 meter long levels which for the most part are based on the same levels as the ones in the adventure track. Upon winning races, the player advances in some race ranking, but at this point I'll be damned if I have any patience to describe this part of the game. Oh, and there's also randomized "tasks" to pick from a pool of tasks which are regenerated daily, which provide some other inconsequential sort of chests.

I suppose by now you've figured out that at this level, the game is designed to emulate the most tedious bureaucratic hellpit you can imagine. According to marketing studies this is what supposedly keeps kids hooked, or at least this is the only explanation I can come up with for the authors' choices. I find it to have the opposite effect on me, which is why I paid for the ad-free experience while at the same time I ignored the RPG side of the game altogether. Fortunately all upgrades for parts and attributes get maxed out at a certain level, which creates what I call the Diablo effect -- after a certain point it makes very little difference whether you're level 103 or 87 and either way the gaming experience is pretty much the same: you have a car shown in classic 2D platformer style and you need to run up and down some hills until there's no more car/fuel. The fact that in adventure mode you never get to "win" provides a very rogue-like experience that stands as a testament to the nihilism behind such games: you "live" for a while, then you "grow old" and eventually you "die" some way or another, just like any other animal on God's green Earth.

As far as I can see, the major problem with this kind of game is that it trains kids to optimize their behaviour for the sort of tedium described above, which in the long run I suspect is more ruinous for the developing mind than the school reward system ever managed to be.

I for one remember Hill Climb Racing before it had a 2 at the end and moreover before there were any Androids and any JavaScript ads on the online market. If I remember correctly, back then HCR was a flash game with a single vehicle, a single stage and no sophistry, that had the player struggling to discover new ways of reaching new heights... which brings us back full circle to the fabled physics simulator, i.e. the reason behind this article.

Despite the long list of annoyances, I will admit that the level design has greatly improved since 2005. Aside from the usual hills there's springy stuff, obstacles, ceilings, water and quicksands; parameters such as the trivial friction coefficient are tuned so as to provide an extra layer of challenge, which'll have the player working continously on new fingering skills; it was a true pleasure to see that some levels introduced air friction to the equation, as much as this simulation lacks any "realism". I suppose that this is the closest a postmodern Android gamer can get to the classical arcade experience, with a sad touchscreen replacing the plastic joysticks and buttons of ye olde Capcom machines.

There's no Super Auto Pets or Hill Climb Racing to replace the Boulder Dashes, the Arkanoids, the Incredible Machines and the Volfieds of days old gone, just like there's no Kentucky Route Zero capable of replacing Day of the Tentacle. I have no idea whether the next generation will be able to muster the patience to develop a taste for such games, but even if they don't, who knows, maybe the alien anthropologist will.

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10 Responses to “Hill Climb Racing 2”

  1. #1:
    Cel Mihanie says:

    The Incredible Machine games were BASED. Those and The Lost Vikings are the masterpieces that honed my synapses to the obvious glistening perfection seen today. Should one indulge in procreation, one could do worse than bringing up one's progeny on a steady diet of TIM levels.

  2. #2:
    spyked says:

    The Lost Vikings definitely deserves an honest review, as does The Incredible Machine.

    The 1993-1995 period was a focal point for great DOS games. In the strategy genre we have Master of Orion and HoMM, while in action/adventure there's Doom, Gabriel Knight and Earthworm Jim, followed by a long list of more or less obscure games that still make the lists of abandonware sites for now.

  3. #3:
    Cel Mihanie says:

    Also not to be forgotten IMO is Tyrian, which took the 2D scrolling shooter formula to its absolute (on the PC at least).

    One thing I didn't know for a long time is that Lost Vikings is actually a Super Nintendo game, that got an admittedly flawless port on the PC which is what we Romanians know. For obvious historical reasons, I think the Nintendo golden age is rather obscure to us Romanians, which is a shame since that's when some really good and seminal work was done regarding not just presentation but rather gameplay. A lot of the mechanics in 2D and 3D games alike, that we take for granted now, were pretty much invented by Metroid, and were polished to perfection even back then. It's really a masterclass in how to design a game right.

    Interestingly, some Romanian folks have set up a joint, 1Up Gamers Pub or something like that, which has a retro section too. How they stay afloat I couldn't even begin to guess. Anywho, their vision of retroness is patterned after the American one with Commodores and Nintendos, which is likely to draw in hipsters but never really existed here. Would sure like to see a retro bar with HC-85s for a change, heh.

  4. #4:
    spyked says:

    > Also not to be forgotten IMO is Tyrian, which took the 2D scrolling shooter formula to its absolute

    Indeed, let me add that to the list.

    Regarding NES games: I went through a JRPG phase more than a decade ago, which had me playing Chrono Trigger, the old (pre-VII) Final Fantasy games, Earthbound and a few others that I can't recall. The gameplay consisted for the most part of the same linear bureaucratic process wherein the player would split their time between fighting mobs, the game map and the town, where stuff could be bought and checks could be marked in the proper binders. I could never replay these games, so the only part that I still wholeheartedly enjoy are the soundtracks.

    > Would sure like to see a retro bar with HC-85s for a change

    Not sure how many of these you can find anymore... anywhere, really. There's one on the second floor of the new UPB/ACS building, I played with the BASIC interpreter for a couple of times when I last visited.

    Besides, I'm not sure how you'd go about renting these, given the time required to read game tapes.

  5. #5:
    Cel Mihanie says:

    Indeed, JRPG games and all their successors are super formulaic. It's definitely a very successful formula though, particularly to certain personality/neuro-types. It's clear that these games were cleverly engineered around dopamine hits and reward mechanisms and whatnot, many years before Zucc. I think Curt Dolittle (could be wrong about the author) analyzed them in greater detail, called them "symbol manipulation games" at their essence, catnip for autist types. Could be worth a read.

    Nevertheless many of them do have genuinely good stories, and many remember them fondly for that aspect in particular. After all, if the mechanics are the same tired crap, you stand out and live and die by your story. Chrono Trigger explored time travel / dystopia themes that were at the time rather unvisited in games (though this is old hat by now). Had great music too, ofc. And from time to time someone manages to make something interesting out of the JRPG formula even nowadays. Don't know if you have the time/patience, but I highly recommend OMORI. It's Earthbound-like in mechanics and style, superficially. It starts off cutesy and could even fool one it's a great game for children. It's very, very, very definitely not for children, heheh.

    Dude... If it's publicly accessible, I definitely gotta check out that building then. Thanks for the tip! I'm sure there's still plenty of viable Romanian Spectrum clones lying around, it's just that few realize their importance. I still have the CoBra I grew up with (badly in need of major restoration alas), and a CIP-03 in an unknown state. Have to make the time to work on them one'a these days.

    The tape loading time wouldn't be such a problem I think. In this scenario, it's totally acceptable to use one of the gigabillion SD-card based virtual drive solutions, even though, of course, SD card on its own is orders of magnitude more powerful and complex than the Spectrum, heh. And if you insist on authenticity, later model Spectrums, including their Romanian counterparts, had 3.5" floppy drives or interfaces anyway.

  6. #6:
    spyked says:

    > Dude... If it's publicly accessible, I definitely gotta check out that building then

    Not sure about that, but I'm sure you can ask one of the esteemed profs (Țăpuș? Carabaș?) to show you in. The hardware was in great condition last I checked in '17.

    > And if you insist on authenticity, later model Spectrums, including their Romanian counterparts, had 3.5" floppy drives or interfaces anyway.

    At the risk of sounding like an old geezer, I'd put one of these younger ones face to face with a HC '85 loading a game off magnetic tape; if only to watch their brains melting with impatience at a game that has 1% the graphics and 10000% the gameplay of all the stupid shit they get hooked on nowadays.

    Well, I suppose I *am* an old geezer.

  7. #7:
    Cel Mihanie says:

    Waiting for minutes for a game to load from tape? PARADISE! Why you young'uns haven't even experienced life before the luxury of punch cards! Back in my day, we used to load games one bit at a time by crossing wires, uphill, in a class 5 hurricane, and at the end of the day our dad would blow our fucken heads off with a 44 magnum!

    But srsly now, one thing I sure don't miss is the dreaded "R Tape Loading Error". Every LOAD was a crapshoot. You could try fiddling with the azimuth on the tape deck heads, and all sorts of other arts that some might consider unnatural.

  8. #8:
    spyked says:

    > Back in my day, we used to load games one bit at a time by crossing wires, uphill

    Adrian Surpățeanu would agree.

    edit: Forgot that I had referenced the character in question earlier, so I added the link here.

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