You know that video (which eventually became a GIF) of the news reporter asking the little boy if he’s going to miss his mum when he starts school? The one where the kid laughs at first, then suddenly realises what’s happening and starts crying? Lawnmower Game: Racing is that video in game form.
In case the title didn’t make it painfully obvious, Lawnmower Game: Racing is a game where you race lawnmowers. Apparently, lawnmower racing is a thing in real life and it looks like fun. This is not based on real-life lawnmower racing, and therefore doesn’t look like fun. And that’s because it isn’t.
Your suspicions may be aroused when you start up the game and realise there’s no title screen, just a screen that says “MENU” in a big white Arial font. Choose the Start option and you’re presented with a barebones list of 22 tracks. “Hey, that sounds like a good selection”, you may be thinking, but having a lot of things isn’t always good. If someone elbowed you in the throat 22 times we doubt you’d thank them for the generous portion size.
The tracks look like they were chucked together in a lunch break. One of them, Farmtown, still shows a development screen in its menu thumbnail, with wireframe boxes around some of the objects. Some of the tracks have grass, which is just a solid green floor. A couple of the tracks are just straight lines. Practically all of them take about 20-30 seconds to clear, except for the last one, which takes around a minute. Take that, Rainbow Road 64.
If the tracks were underwhelming, the vehicles whelm even lower than that. There are four to choose from: a sit-down lawnmower, a slightly bigger one, a small household one you have to push and a street sweeper. That’s right, a game about lawnmower racing could only manage to offer four vehicles and one of them isn’t even a lawnmower. Not that it matters anyway, because they all handle as well as a yacht in a storm.
Every mower is driven by the same bald man. It’s like Jason Statham decided to clone himself three times and instead of making the ultimate four-man action film, he decided to stick them on big Flymos instead and slowly slide along the ground in an unconvincing manner. The guy pushing the handheld mower doesn’t even move his legs, he just hovers across the surface.
As we’ve touched on, the handling is abysmal. Sometimes when you move left or right, your lawnmower (or street sweeper, we suppose) will go left or right. Other times it just decides “nah, I’m the captain now” and doesn’t bother turning, so you smack right into a wall (or, more likely, a tiny piece of scenery) and come to a jarring stop while your three opponents slowly trundle past you.
That’s when they’re working properly, that is. The AI is so bad in this game it should just be called the A. Opponents are just as likely to get stuck in the scenery, miss turns or do full 180-degree turns when you brush against them. It’s like racing against people who have only been given a lawnmower five minutes ago, and also hands.
When you race, your given position might as well have pictures of hamsters in its place, because it has no bearing on your actual position. It's only really accurate when you cross the finish line. If you win a race, well done. Your time is logged and that's it. There are no Grand Prix or career modes or multiplayer modes or anything of the sort: just pick a track, pick a mower, do your 20-second race and go away.
Ultimately, it’s all well and good putting the boot into this shambles but, like the boy in the news video, there comes a time where you have to stop laughing and start getting upset about it. We’re fully aware that there’s a good chance it’s a joke – the Steam version currently has an average user rating of 8/10 – but it’s a rubbish joke, and it’s a joke that costs actual money.
The complete lack of effort here is just insulting: not just to the potential customers who may buy it in good faith expecting a competent racing game, but to the other developers who are already struggling to get noticed in a cramped eShop without tripe like this elbowing its way in and taking up valuable space.
Literally the only positive thing to come from this game is that it should finally stop all the ignorant comments from people who complain when it’s announced that a new game is using the Unity engine. A game’s quality is down to its creators, not its engine, and this has never been proved so perfectly well as when you start up Lawnmower Game: Racing and see a massive Unreal Engine logo. Oh, it’s unreal alright, pal. It’s unreal that we haven’t horsed our Switch against a wall yet while playing this.
Please don’t buy this game, not even ironically. It’s a very real sign of everything that’s wrong with the Switch eShop at the moment and if nonsense like this continues to flood the service you’re going to end up with the console equivalent of Steam, with countless cynical, lazy attempts to fleece money from customers.
Besides, the lawnmowers don’t even mow the grass when you drive over it.