Sunday, August 2, 2009

Out Run

NEC Avenue / Sega

Out Run is by far the best looking of the PC Engine's driving games, and it plays better than most of its peers. It also allows players to select from three different tunes to drive to, none of which are objectionable. So it certainly has the basics down.

But... it doesn't do much for me.

I think one reason for this is that I didn't get around to playing it until I'd already experienced many of the other PCE drivers. This is not to suggest that all of those titles are superior to OR. But most of them keep me busy with things other than simply rolling down a road. Final Lap Twin features an incredibly innovative RPG mode, but even when partaking in its standard races, I have my hands full trying to complete each and every course in good standing so as to earn enough points to conquer the circuit. Chase H.Q., S.C.I., and Knight Rider Special have me engage in explosive auto combat. And of course there's Victory Run, in which parts management is a significant factor and changes in road type call for alterations in approach.

Out Run doesn't ask you to do anything, really, besides reach the next checkpoint before the time you're allotted runs out. There are the usual "other cars" and roadside objects to avoid, but with the game's smooth controls, you aren't likely to experience many exciting "close calls" or dream-crushing crashes. Not that smooth controls are ever a negative, but without any hazards other than the relatively unobtrusive aforementioned ones to be concerned with, the game feels easy and not very rewarding... and, for me, kind of plain and empty.

Of course, if all you want is a traditional, fundamentally sound "beat the clock" driving game, then Out Run should make for a great pickup. And I suppose the Darius-esque stage progression (the course splits at the end of each leg, allowing you to travel numerous roads and see different concluding scenes) is something distinctive and worth noting...

...though the various endings really aren't much incentive to explore every possible path.

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