Art of Rally review: meditative, minimalistic racing

I don’t think I would have equated racing cars with catharsis pretty much ever… until I played Art of Rally.

Unless it involves jumping into traffic and causing mass chaos or throwing shells of some sort, I’m not much of a racing game player. I can appreciate the depth and nuance that goes into proper racing simulations and admire their adherence to feeling like the real thing while dipping in and out of curves at yet another version of the Nürburgring. But actually being competitive in such a scene is beyond me.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The screenshots here are official images from the full-fat PC version. The Switch port is a bit more sparse (see the trailer at the bottom of the page).

Art of Rally by Funselektor is a game that neatly fits in between the simplicity of arcade games and the details that make simulations so intriguing.

Played in a semi-top-down viewpoint, Art of Rally takes you across a minimalistic set of roads that threads from snowy mountains to dry savannahs and everything in between, and it teaches you the subtleties of rally racing without overwhelming you. Rather than racing against a myriad of opponents, your goal is to drive as quickly and precisely as possible to get the fastest time. There’s a vast stable of vehicles to choose from that have variances in the way they drive, but it doesn’t seem necessary to always change up what you’re driving to stay competitive. Rather than having a co-pilot barking instructions at you, like in the actual sport, the game does a marvelous job of leading you into understanding what you’re supposed to do by feel.

I’ve always been a ‘pedal to the metal’ kind of racer, so it took me perhaps a bit longer to get the hang of it. But when I did, Art of Rally suddenly became this meditative experience that I couldn’t help but keep coming back to. The differences between coasting through a corner, to sliding through it, to using your handbrake on 90 degree ones is fascinating; being able to accomplish what you need to do when you need to do it has to be one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had with a video game, period.

So rather than stressing out about my performance, I became contemplative instead. You’re always ‘racing’, as it were, but I also had this sense that I was just going for a Sunday drive through meadows and hills. As I said, the visuals are intentionally minimalistic, but they’re all the better for it. It gives you the chance to master the roadways while still appreciating little details. The game features various times of day and weather, which make each track feel distinct just by changing up the colors and shadows. I often found myself pausing the game to take advantage of the photo mode, and I would hit up free roam just to look around the courses (and find baubles) in what actually is an aimless Sunday drive.

Color me impressed. Art of Rally is a fresh take on an old sport that pours in all the joys one could find in rally racing without making it overwhelming dense. It is very much a gateway title; the type of thing that has opened my eyes to a type of game I would normally have no interest in. While the name might seem pretentious, Art of Rally is exactly what it states in its title – a skillful observation of and love letter to driving.

Art of Rally was developed by Funselektor, and it’s available on PC, Xbox and Switch. We played the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: review code for Art of Rally was provided by Future Friends Games. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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