Racing Gears Advance (boxart)Platform: Game Boy Advance
Published by: Orbital Media (2005)
Developed by: Orbital Media (2000-2004)
Format: 8MB ROM + 4Kbit EEPROM

Despite flying under the radar and shipping several years after completion, Racing Gears Advance was applauded as the system’s best 2D racer and one of the best games on the platform.

Racing Gears Advance a 2D, isometric racing game, similar in play to games such as RC Pro-am, Super Sprint, Rock’n’Roll Racing, or – the game it was inspired by – the Amiga classic, SuperCars.

Licenses and Abilities
In a really unusual move, the game also featured multiple car licenses, which as I – vaguely – recall was mainly to try and benefit from the marketing pull that might provide. (Just as people like to have real football players in the NFL games, it could be argued people like to have real cars in their racing games.) The characters and abilities you can see in the game are a response to the car manufacturers requirement that no car was inherently better than another – we sidestepped the issue by giving characters unique abilities that couldn’t be directly considered car performance. (My favorite character to this date is still Spacewave, strictly because he could see past all of the annoyance tactics from other drivers.)

Racing Gears Advance (screenshot)Racing Gears was one of a select few GBA games to ship with 4 player compatibility, and we tested that feature often. (I wonder if there was ever a real life situation where 4 people gathered with 4 GBAs, 4 retail copies of the game, and the 3 link cables needed to make it all work together?) It was also a big influence on the starting position mini-game. The entire campaign is multiplayer compatible, which is not surprising given that most of the appeal comes from trying to earn money to beat your friends.

Music for the game was composed by a friend of the company, Neil Voss, who was well known at the time as the composer for the N64 game Tetrisphere. He had worked with us on previous projects and was a friend of my boss from back in the H2O Entertainment days.

Racing Gears Advance (screenshot)Release Issues
Originally, Orbital Media was just a developer, but after extended trouble finding a suitable publishing contract, the studio decided to publish Racing Gears on its own. This is crazy for a number of reasons – you need money for the cartridges, relationships with retail, relationships with distribution, and so on – but Orbital finally found a way to do it. The downside to all of this? The game was basically finished in 2003. Some bugs were fixed in 2004, but the game did not release to retail until 2005. In fact, it shipped first to Europe thanks to a cross-publishing agreement.

Racing Gears Advance (screenshot)Rankings and Awards
Metacritic (GBA): 83%
IGN Best of E3 (2004)
IGN GBA Game of the Month (February, 2005)
IGN GBA Best Racing Game (2005)
IGN GBA Best Game Nobody Played (2005)
Gamespot Best Game Nobody Played (2005, nominated)

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