Ting. That's the distinct, SEGA-smeared audio cue that resonates from your speakers when you flick through the menus in SEGA Rally Online Arcade. It's a familiar, beautiful sound - the exact same Ting which blurted out of your screen during 2007's SEGA Rally, a largely underappreciated racer from the now-defunct UK developer SEGA Racing Studio. While the team has now been snapped up by Codemasters, you wouldn't get a rich Ting like that in DiRT 3 or F1 2010.
It falls to another UK developer, Sumo Digital, to rev SEGA Rally's engine in 2011. But this 800 Microsoft Point title is actually the arcade-only SEGA Rally 3 wearing the 2007 console version's skin. This might come as a shock: you're only getting five tracks, for instance, and one of them is quarantined off from the others.
At first glance the amount of content on offer seems anaemic, which shows just how far the genre has come since games like Ridge Racer shipped with but a single course back in the mid 90s. This downloadable title finds itself at the mercy of the retail sector, with 2007's more developed SEGA Rally console game available second-hand for less than the asking price of this reduced digital offering.
Sadly, you're also forced into the 30fps mode of the console version as opposed to the silky smooth 60fps of the arcade game. The nice high-definition textures are still there, complete with those rich SEGA-blue skies, as are the lovely incidental details such as rockets taking off in the background, or a pack of rabbits running off the track.
You're also getting some of the simple flourishes you'd only see from this series, those simple pleasures you'd never get from a po-faced rally racer with Richard Burns in the title, or with the slick energy-drink sponsored riffs of DiRT. Ping-ponging around turns with comically wide drifts, capped off with bouncing into corners... it's as gleeful as it is impractical.
The main difference between SEGA Rally Online Arcade and the 2007 game is that this uses the handling model of the arcade series, as opposed to the more conservative approach of the failed console revival. This means silly inconsequential things like 'reality' and 'physics' have been thrown out the window.
Most corners in the game can be handled in exactly the same way. You don't even need to let off the accelerator; just turn into corners early and ease off the gas to throw the rear of the car out, and then slide around like a professional. You rarely need to worry about the brake. Instead you simply spend your time revelling in a smooth racing line, gliding along tracks like oil over water.
SEGA Rally has never been one for confrontational engines. Come snow, dirt or water, you'll never be battling physics with excessive acceleration or desperate counter-steer: these cars will slide gracefully and obediently around every corner with only the simplest of nudges from the player. Hairpin turns still pose a more significant problem, but you can count the overall number of these across the five tracks with a single hand.
While the regular Single Racer and Time Trial modes are available (the latter complete with downloadable ghosts) the meat of the game takes place in the Championship. This has you careering around three tracks - Tropical, Canyon, and Alpine - in an attempt to slowly move up from 22nd to 1st place. Manage to finish as numero uno and you'll be thrown into a bonus one-on-one race on the complicated Lakeside track, against a CPU opponent that will completely thrash you until you get to grips with the course.
Seeing as you can only practice on the course after you've won this race, this might take some time.
The final course - kept alone in its own Classic mode - is Desert, the course from the original arcade SEGA Rally, nicely re-jazzed to what your mind's eye probably thinks SEGA Rally looked like back in the day. Trust me, it didn't; it was really pixellated and it seemed like the colour palette couldn't stretch to a number higher than four.
While the game also supports six-player online races, I'm not entirely convinced that's where SEGA Rally is at its best. While Tropical might be chock full of the relaxing, warm-up qualities that help smooth you into the more demanding turns of Alpine and Lakeside, it doesn't particularly translate well to multiplayer, as every corner here is so basic, the host of the game will more often than not claim the gold simply on account of having been at the top of the starting grid.
Three quarters of the hosts on Xbox LIVE do exactly that, sadly - especially since one Achievement is tied to winning online races, further encouraging the masses to cheese their way through 1-lap encounters on Tropical. Still, taking the game around the Desert track delivers a massive nostalgic kick that will go straight to the core of anybody who remembers feeding arcade machines an entire tube of fifty pence pieces back in the day.
For the rest of the world, though, there are better alternatives.