So, what, maybe you are thinking “are you kidding me, there were already fun racing games on the Pandora so far!“. Sure. Like one of my all-time favorites, Super Cars III (actually a remake of Super Cars I and II) as pointed out in my earlier article. And there’s the excellent F-1 Spirit Remake, very challenging but very fun as well once you get the hang of it (and it’s also a very nice example of how PtitSeb optimizes his ports for the Pandora). But these two games, as excellent as they are, are 2D racers, and while we have a good collection of 3D racers (TORCS, Ultimate Stunts, Super Tux Cart, Skunks, and more…), even the FOSS-loving person in me faces the harsh reality that we all know too well: it’s not because it’s Free Software that it’s great.
Especially when it comes to games. There are some notorious examples of the contrary (OpenTTD for one), but it’s fairly easy to explain why what is true for applications is not necessarily true for games. Games require a cohesive, consistent design and vision in order to be successful, and usually achieve that best when work is led with clear directions and objectives, design wise. Then, the other issue is the lack of proper folks with artistic talent in the free software community. Level design, textures and sprites are often sub-par versus their commercial counterparts. Which brings us to RVGL, a rewrite in OpenGL (and DIrectX if you are on Windows) of the Re-Volt engine. Re-Volt was a very successful racer both artistically and mechanistically (the driving model of RC cars is superb for its time) and remains great to play even to this day.
A lot of folks wonder if this engine rewrite is open source/free software. Well, unfortunately it’s not. The original Re-Volt game rights were purchased by another company which seems to be aggressively defending their newly acquired property – if I trust a comment from a redditor familiar with the project:
WeGo interactive (some Korean mobile game company) got the IP and promptly started sending broken-english letters to the community forums trying to get us to take down the logos and stuff ( I say “us” loosely, was before my time). Then they turned around and sold the community-made patch (at the time v1.1, and a horribly buggy version at that) on GoG without asking or giving credit. Now it’s kinda stagnated since the bastardization they call “Re-Volt 2”, but it’s not exactly the kind of thing where WeGo can be trusted to not flip out if a PC version is properly released and there isn’t money going into their pockets as a direct result. Hence why the RVGL splash screen explicitly says “NOT FOR SALE” in all-caps. OTOH, this re-write is based on the leaked xbox alpha source code, which as far as I’ve gathered is proper abandonware and wasn’t included in the IP transfer or something.
So, it will stay close source for now until such matters are resolved (if they are ever…) but in the meantime our legendary PtitSeb was able to get in touch with the devs to get a port done for the Pandora. You will need the original game files for that – time to look for the original CD lying somewhere in the attic, or find the files through other means, since the game is currently not available for sale online. Once you have the game installed on your PC (either a WIndows PC, or a Linux PC using WINE) just copy all the files and folders into appdata/rvgl on your SD card. Launching the PND will then take care of the first time setup, and unless you messed things up somehow, you should have now a working game.
Re-Volt lets you drive RC Cars in a realistic 3D environment – for example the first level is your usual suburban neighborhood, complete with roads, cars and houses bordering your way. Just like in Micromachines, everything looks huge around you, and the cars feel like genuine RC cars in the way they react on the road – they certainly don’t drive like regular cars, and you will soon learn about the do’s and don’t’s as you practice driving around. For example, trying to swerve right after a jump will result in making your car drift on itself most of the time. While you can technically decide to take shortcuts everywhere on the way (the game even encourages you to do so by providing bonuses to catch on such spots) it’s a double-edged sword as you might just as well lose control and remain at the back of the pack.
Re-Volt is pretty much unforgiving and it takes real grit to make it to the first spot, even when you know the circuit well. You can use bonuses picked up on the way to provide handicaps to other cars around you, but it’s never that easy to turn into a significant advantage. And other cars do use their own bonuses back on you as well so it goes both ways. But that’s the challenge that makes really exciting as well. You progressively end up taking places and getting closer to winning races, so it really boils down to skills and not just luck.
And even though the game is, frankly, old, it still looks great to this day. I’m not sure I can say the same thing of many other games from 1999, but that’s a testament to the great design the original developers were capable of, with limited polygon count and texture space at their disposal. And kudos to the RVGL team which made it possible to run this game on OpenGL, paving the way for a Pandora port.
And surprisingly, it runs amazingly well on a 1Ghz Pandora even with all graphical details to the max, delivering more than 20 fps pretty much all the time. Older Pandora versions may need to tweak settings down a bit, but that’s still a remarkable achievement.
So there you have it. Probably the best racing game you will ever get on Pandora. Even months before the Pyra release, the Pandora is far, far from dead.