Friday, 2 September 2011

SNES - Rock 'n' Roll Racing

Rock ‘N’ Roll Racing

If it wasn’t for the musical score, this game would play in near silence, and would simply be called “Racing”.

Yep, there’s nothing Rock ‘N’ Roll about the game itself, but the choice of music on offer while you race is spectacularly good. Of course, just as graphics alone do not a good game make, neither does a soundtrack.

Luckily enough, then, this game was pretty good, at least for a while. Taking a kind of isometric viewpoint, the graphical style is reminiscent of Skidmarks, or even RC Pro-Am, and the handling’s fairly similar too. You will find yourself skidding quite nicely round corners, and the whole thing moves at a fair old whip.

Let’s get some semblance of order to this review. You get to choose one of various racers to take through some kind of racing league, where you must earn a set number of points to progress to the next division. The racers you choose from have their own benefits, some accelerate better, some handle better, some have a higher top speed. Leagues are held on a series of planets, and in order to be competitive you will need to upgrade your vehicle when you can.

There is, as you might expect, hidden characters in the game, one is Olaf from The Lost Vikings, the other is a mysterious shadowy character, and they both have the benefit of improved stats above anyone else. Whilst Olaf is accessible through a button combination on the character select screen, “The Shadow” is only accessible through a password.

And so we’re off to our first planet, and the races begin. The first set of tracks are very uncomplicated efforts, which is a good job as your car’s handling isn’t up to much at this stage. For that matter, neither are your power-ups. With each race you’ll earn points, and you need a certain number of points to progress to the next set of races, or indeed next planet. However, as you earn money in each race, you’ll probably not want to move on early, maximising your money for upgrades or new cars.

Upgrading your car is simple enough, there’s the usual components that can be upgraded; the tyres, engine, and armour, for example… but then there’s the weaponry. No futuristic race game is complete without some form of weaponry, right? The actual weapons used depend on your vehicle, but you can increase the amount of ammunition you carry… which is magically replenished each lap.

So the weapons then… there’s 3 categories of weapon, your “Forward” weapons, “Rear” weapons and “Boosts”. To begin with, they’re all pretty crap, you’ll get weak little bullets to fire forwards, “Slipsauce” to drop behind you, and a Jumping ability which can be used to cut corners, but is more likely to cause you to fall off the track than give you any real benefit.

They get better though, missiles and “Sundog Beams” (imagine fireballs with homing capabilities) will become available, as will nitro boosts (far more useful than “jumping”!), and various types of mines to drop behind you.

Trying to stop you conquering the game are Rip & Shred, they’ll always be two of your opponents in every race (except if you’re playing a 2 player race, obviously.), the other will be the current planet’s resident champion.

Gameplay aside, then, the “Rock n Roll” aspect of the game came from the music. And what a great soundtrack it was… With tunes like the Peter Gunn theme, Paranoid, Born to be Wild and Bad to the Bone, it tied into the game very nicely, but became a little on the repetitive side after a dozen races... as did some of the races.

Thankfully the gameplay and track layout remained varied enough to keep you interested, whilst Larry, the in-game commentator, will repeatedly tell you who’s “about to blow”, or who finishes a “weak 3rd” in the race.

Whilst I doubt I’d have the inclination to play the whole game through again, I’d enjoy playing through the last planet or something, and I’d certainly recommend giving it the time of day. If you’re a fan of sliding your way round corners at breakneck speed to a great soundtrack, you might just get drawn right in.

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