We like to regularly shine the spotlight on an exceptional XBLIG, and the developers behind them, in what we like to call the XBLIG Spotlight. This week, we take a look at Cro-Mag Rally Extreme, a (mostly) prehistoric kart racer. Check out some gameplay video below and as always, my perspective and an interview with the developers behind the game (Author’s Note: I never read the response to the interview questions before writing my review to ensure that it remains unbiased). Add Cro-Mag Rally Extreme to your download queue! First, check out some unofficial game footage:
First, tell the readers a bit about yourself: what is your history as a game developer, previous efforts, why you decided to start getting involved in making games?
citizen12 studio is an indie game studio founded by James Osborne in 2009. After spending several years “in the business” at places like Apple, Eidos, and Microsoft Game Studios, I decided the time was right to see whether I could make it on my own. I work 100% for the studio and get help from other developers and artists on an as-needed basis. Almost all the work we do is paid solely in profit sharing from game sales. Our profit sharing is unique (or at least unusual) in that 70% of profits are shared among our games’ contributors (with the remainder going to the studio).
I first became interested in video games when I was in grade school. I was lucky enough to be one of the very first kids to have access to computers in the school (the first one being a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III). It didn’t take long for a curious kid to realize you could play (and even create!) games on these devices. I was hooked!
If you had to pick one specific game to describe as your inspiration (for this game or in general), what would it be?
I’m dating myself here, but the text adventures from INFOCOM just rewrote my brain’s wiring and inspired me their creativity and wit. I’ve played many, many games over the years since then and I would say the Half-Life series also stands out because of the quality of storytelling and excitement the games offer.
Have you in the past, or do you currently have plans to work in any other platform? What made you decide to develop for XBLIG?
I was at Microsoft Game Studios working on Train Simulator 2 (which never shipped) when XNA Game Studio launched (as the Creators Club). I felt very proud to be working somewhere where something so amazingly great for indies could happen. It was hard to believe that anyone could not only create a game to play on their Xbox, but could also sell it in a real marketplace.
citizen12’s first game, Zombie Armageddon, was created for XBLIG because it was such a great platform and XNA was such a great technology. We went on to do other platforms including iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7, but we decided to bring our Cro-Mag Rally Exreme! to XBLIG because we believe there’s a vibrant market there for all kinds of great games.
How long did you spend on development? Can you explain, roughly, how the development process worked for you? What tools and programs did you work with?
We originally ported Cro-Mag Rally from iOS to Windows Phone 7. Unfortunately, the game didn’t do very well on WP7. After approximately 570 hours of total development time, we were very disappointed in the sales. We thought about what it would take to bring the game to Xbox (after all, you can effectively “write once” on XNA and deploy to WP7 and Xbox), and eventually decided that if we were going to do it we should do it right. We invested about another 100 hours to add multiplayer, fix bugs, and completely redo the game UI. We’re quite proud of the results and we hope the XBLIG community will enjoy it as much as we do!
A game’s soundtrack can make or break a game, tell us how you selected yours. Did you produce in house, team up with a music producer or simply purchase royalty free music?
The original creators of CMR, Pangea Software, did a fantastic job with the soundtrack for the game. They worked with a composer who wrote and recorded all the game’s music. Each of the 9 single-player races has its own original score, and they’re all appropriate to the race course, whether it’s the Jungle or the Great Wall of China.
If you had to pick one thing that you would improve or simply do differently in regards the game’s development what would it be?
We would love to improve the models and textures for the game to make them more HD and look even better on the Xbox. We’d also like to add Avatar drivers.
Many gamers dream of making their own games, what advice would you give someone hoping to make the jump from gamer to developer?
Be honest to yourself about what your goals are. If you’re thinking you’re going to make a million dollars on your first game, you might be better off buying a lottery ticket. It happens, but it happens very rarely.
It might be worth noting that I made more money in my last year at Microsoft than all the money I have made as an indie game developer in the 3 years since then.
If your goal is to go out there and make something fun and eventually make a living at it, then understand that it take a LOT of work to finish a game. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who have started a game then gotten bogged down somewhere in the middle. Don’t be one of those people. Start with something small—Defender, Asteroids, whatever—and finish a few games before you take on your Opus.
XBLIG have had a mixed result so far, what can make it better? What one thing do you think would improve the service as a whole, from designer to consumer?
Xbox seems to be going through a transition right now from being game-oriented to “entertainment-oriented”. I think there are good business reasons for this, but I also fear that the game experience will be diminished. Right now it’s almost impossible to find XBLIG games. I think Microsoft could do more to feature the “best of the best” indie games more prominently in the Xbox experience without taking away from their overall strategy.
What can fans of your game(s) expect in the not too distant future?
citizen12 has done a number of ports in the past year. We’re happy to say that we’re currently working on 2 original titles that we expect to launch this year. We’re living the dream!
Anything else you would like to say?
I’d like to thank Clearance Bin Review for providing a thoughtful questionnaire! (Editors note: And thanks to our readers for helping to come up with it!)
Cro-Mag Rally Extreme is a popular iOS game that is making its debut on the XBLIG service that features classic kart style racing in a mostly pre-historic setting. You race through various tracks based on different historical eras in cars also based on various periods, as one of two different cave men. Does this iPhone port prove a worthy addition to the XBLIG marketplace or should it have been left in the past?
Those who frequent the site may know that this reviewer has a soft spot for two genres in particular; space combat and kart racers. Making a general statement, there simply isn’t enough of these types of games that once represented some of the best games in the N64 era. As a rule, Mario Kart (and its best incarnation, Mario Kart 64), represents the yardstick with which all kart racers are measured (somewhat unfairly). While Cro-Mag Rally Extreme is no Mario Kart, the game does offer an enjoyable experience that is both rare on Xbox and rarely done well among XBLIG’s.
As stated previously, Cro-Mag Rally Extreme has you racing through various historical periods, including a pre-historic desert, ancient Greece and Egypt and even Atlantis. Each map has little touches, such as mummies walking around in Egypt, that make them more than just a re-skinned version of the other maps, and are all of a descent length (offering some tricky parts to navigate as well). These tracks range from fairly large open areas full of twisters or statues that fire some form of laser, to tight corridors like those along the Great Wall of China. Also a nice touch is the fact that each level has its own music, something that many developers would opt out of to save time/money. Many of the game’s power-ups also appear in levels that make sense, such as bone bombs showing up in the pre-historic desert level and a fireworks based weapon showing up in the China themed level. All told there are 11 different power-ups, with the most useful being Nitro, Sticky Wheels and Suspension, which simply improve your speed or handling for a short time. All weapons can be fired either forward or backward as well.
The game also sports a fairly decent selection of different vehicles. Designed around certain various periods or specific items (a car that looks like something out of The Flintstones or a car that looks like a Trojan Horse for example), they all offer slight variances in speed, acceleration, suspension and handling. While there isn’t a drastic difference between the cars, there is enough that it is somewhat noticeable and your selection matters. For drivers you have two choices, between a cave man and a cave woman, but this choice doesn’t affect much outside of aesthetics. Some other characters choices would have been unnecessary but enjoyable, especially since the whole Cro-Magnon theme really only applies to a couple of the early tracks and the characters.
All the tracks are available both in single player and multiplayer (the addition of multiplayer is actually why this version of Cro-Mag Rally is called Extreme). Also available in multiplayer are eight battle arenas (some of which are unique designs compared to the tracks) where racers can play either a capture the flag variant or tag. Multiplayer can be played via Xbox Live, Split Screen or System Link. Unfortunately, no one was ever online when I tried to find a game, and also somewhat unfortunate is that it appeared to limit the multiplayer game to only two players. The races at least would be a lot more fun with an extra player though, so if you can convince a friend to drop a buck as well it would be worth playing (or if you just got a friend already lazily sitting on your couch).
Overall the game offers a somewhat simple, almost cell shaded visual style but it looks pretty good. Power-ups are pretty easy to spot and with one or two rare exceptions (an odd turn in the level Glaciers) the tracks were clear and easy to follow. Things are a little blocky in the level design, but that’s part of the game’s simple art style and shouldn’t be faulted. Sound wise the game also doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t offer much, but it is always better to keep it simple and good than complex and “meh.”
Cro-Mag Rally Extreme does feel like it is missing a few things though. A few more characters would have been a meaningless but fun addition, and too many of the power-ups feel similar to each other in function. The game is also relatively easy when playing single player, though in defense of the game, few kart games provide much of a challenge to me. That said, it wasn’t uncommon to have a significant lead by the end of the race. There was at least one problem area in the game, where several oil spills had been dropped in a tight area and as a result they were unavoidable at any thing close to high speeds and they would force you up a wall, you would then slide down and hit the series of oil spills again sending you backwards, only to make you go back again. Lastly, and most importantly, the game is lacking a “tour” or “grand prix” mode. Something simple, even just four random tracks where you were given a score based on your performance to ultimately decide the winner would of added significant life into this game. As is, there isn’t much of a feeling of accomplishment in placing first through third in a race other than to unlock the next track. The lack of this is really the game’s main strike against it.
Cro-Mag Rally Extreme is ultimately a solid game experience in a classic, beloved genre that you most likely haven’t had enough of lately. With a friend to play along with you the experience would be greatly improved, and it still offers a fun distraction from the FPS’ and RPG’s that likely take up most of your gaming time. While probably best suited for the portable experience (the game is also available on Windows Phone 7), there is still a fair amount of enjoyment to be had from the XBLIG version, especially at the reasonable price of $1. Offering a unique theme, solid mechanics and fun gameplay Cro-Mag Rally Extreme is worth taking for a spin.
Final Rating: 7.5/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360 – XBLIG
Time to completion: N/A
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Review copy furnished by Citizen 12 Studio.
Current Price: 80 MSP ($1)
Recommend Purchase Price: What, are you waiting for it to be free?
Why you should buy it: You probably haven’t played a new kart racer in years.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: You are still suffering from intense shame of hundreds of lost Mario Kart 64 races.
Add Cro-Mag Rally Extreme to your download queue!
Citizen 12 Studio wants you to take you back in time for a race or two, so they have hooked us up with a couple of download codes for the game so that we can in-turn reward two of you with a free copy! You can gain up to three entries, please read the details on how to enter below:
First entry: There have been a lot of kart style racers in the past, this one quite litteraly, and we want to know what your favorite is. The catch? We want to know your favorite non-Mario Kart one! That’s it, tell us your favorite kart racer game that isn’t Mario Kart, whatever your answer, just tell us in the comments below and you have your first entry!
Second entry: Follow us on twitter and send the following tweet:
More #contest! @ClearanceBinRev is giving away the #XBLIG Cro-Mag Rally Extreme! Enter now at http://wp.me/p1oOv5-1De
Remember that you have to follow us; any winner we attempt to DM via Twitter who isn’t, automatically forfeits their win. If you enter via Twitter include your twitter name in your post below, winners who have their twitter listed will receive their codes immediately after winning.
Third Entry: Like our Facebook page and then simply like the post on our wall for this article. Simple as that. (Keep in mind the article may be lower on the Facebook page towards the end of the contest and it may take a minute or two to post on FB)
Contest will go until Monday at 8pm CST. A pool of all eligible entries will then be randomly selected from and the winners will be notified. CBR reserves the right to disqualify any entry we feel either violated the rules or spirit of the contest, including attempts at duplicate entries. Winner selected with no twitter name provided will be notified by email and have 24 hours to respond. We do not always announce the names of contest winners, but do encourage them to post about their win.