On the surface, Hot Lap League is a racing game with all the stuff that I hate. First off, it’s a paid game with IAP. The IAP can only be used for cosmetic stuff, but still, it’s kind of off-putting. It’s also an online-only game. Then there’s the fact that it’s auto-acceleration only, so you only control steering and drifting. Ok, not a huge deal, but I typically prefer manual acceleration at least as an option. Then there’s the fact you don’t race other cars, just a ghost of a car. It is called Hot Lap League after all, but time trial games aren’t normally my thing.
I could probably go on naming more things that would typically cause me to avoid a particular racing game, but people in our forums have been raving about Hot Lap League since it came out, so I figured it was worth sacrificing a fiver to see what it was all about. Boy am I glad I did. I’m not sure what the special sauce is here, but Hot Lap League is extremely hard to put down once it gets its hooks into you. Some have likened it to a puzzle game rather than a racing game, and from that angle I can see why even with all the things I normally don’t like in a racer it has won me over.
There are only two regions in the game, and the campaign is made up of multiple tracks using various configurations of each region. These are not realistic tracks, by the way. Massive jumps, loop-de-loops, and inverted portions that defy gravity are common. The tracks are fairly bite-sized and shouldn’t take you more than a minute to complete, and like I said before all that matters here is finishing a lap as fast as possible to earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals or to set a new World Record.
This is where the game feels like a puzzler. There is most certainly an ideal line through each of the tracks, and with how bite-sized the tracks are it’s hard not to try and retry over and over just shaving fractions of a second off your previous times, searching for that perfect lap that will net you the next medal or record. Every track you complete and medal you earn gives you experience points towards your overall level, and you’ll need to earn a certain number of medals to unlock additional tracks and difficulties.
I think this progression system is the real hook of Hot Lap League. It always feels like you’re progressing towards something with each medal earned, and there’s a real drive to do better and earn more medals to unlock new tracks. I should also mention that this game is quite difficult, and the medal times for each course are a real challenge to obtain. But they ARE obtainable, and this is the type of game where you actually notice your skill improving. As basic as the actual racing mechanics are, this is very much a skill-based game.
I’m sure that a bunch of the negative aspects I listed before will be enough to turn off some people from Hot Lap League, and I get that. However, hopefully my experience can convince some doubters that there’s more here than meets the eye. It’s a truly clever variation of a racing game that is a very nice fit for mobile, and as much as this is always said, the IAP really is unnecessary. I hope new regions and vehicles will be included down the line, but for now I have my plate plenty full with what’s here, not to mention the Daily Event and Daily Challenges which are also fun to pursue. Hot Lap League was a really pleasant surprise for me, and hopefully it will be for you too.