It took me a few goes to read the pitch for Hot Lap League before it all sunk in.
It’s a new free-to-play mobile racer from a studio in Footscray, Melbourne. Unsurprisingly for the area, it’s filled with a bunch of ex-EA Melbourne/Firemonkeys developers, which has more experience making racers feel good on a phone than just about any other studio on the planet.
When I first read the email for Hot Lap League, though, I wasn’t immediately sold. “A free to play mobile racing game, with the opportunity to race for real money prizes,” the email read, which almost entirely drained any hope or interest I had in the concept.
There’s no NFTs or blockchain involved in Hot Lap League, and I figured I should at least dig through to the official trailer to see what the Melbourne studio’s idea of play-to-earn was like.
And that’s when it clicked: they’ve basically made a mobile Trackmania.
It doesn’t have controller support at this stage, which is a real shame, but it handles well on touch controls. You’re not expected to accelerate, only drift and steer, which works well for the mobile environment.
Tracks are unlocked with “track cash”, which you get for knocking off the bronze, silver, gold and world record times for each respective track. Drivers are ranked based on a “track skill”, although I can’t see in the app how that’s calculated precisely. There’s daily challenges on harder tracks for more rewards, you can powerslide mid-air to straighten up your car, and — naturally — there’s turbo gates to work your way through.
The full pitch for Hot Lap League is tied into this idea of a weekly Pro Cup, which starts this Sunday. It’s available to all Australian players and offers a $300 cash prize to whoever sets the fastest lap in a 24-hour period on an unrevealed track.
That’s all fine, although I think the main appeal of picking up Hot Lap League is really more for that super chilled Trackmania vibe, without having hundreds of ghost cars flying around your screen at any one time. There’s a certain zen in just restarting a lap over and over again so you hit that loop at the right time, and the right angle, so you can hit the following apex at the perfect point.
Hot Lap League has soft launched in Australia on iOS and Android, with over 80 tracks at the time of writing. There’s no annoying notifications or prompts pushing for microtransactions so far, either, although there are “currency bundles” and “premium VIP” packages within the in-game store if you go looking.