Monday, May 6, 2013
Like a lot of other folks who became acquainted with it back in the day, I have very fond recollections of the old racing game Super Sprint. There was something quite charming and cool about microscopic cars speeding about compact single-screen courses. And in one of the most astounding instances of game-related serendipity, a friend of mine was able to obtain a "free" copy of the NES version as he and I were trekking home from school one afternoon. (He spotted a plastic bag tucked away in a bush and found the cart stashed inside. We asked no questions, sought no owner, and suffered no crises of conscience--we simply ran away with the thing. Ah, the memories of virtue-less youth...) I did actually play the game every now and then, but I don't remember much about those sessions. The context is what matters here.
Moto Roader MC is a Super Sprint rip-off that joined my collection sans such cool context. I hadn't spent afternoons in arcades being delighted by its small-car action. I hadn't found it stowed away in foliage during a school-day jaunt. But I had read lukewarm reviews of it, and I had spent a bit of good cash to obtain it. And I was quite ready to scrutinize it, as I wasn't particularly thrilled that it had deviated from the play style that its highly enjoyable predecessors feature in order to assume a single-screen Super Sprint-ish look.
MC does stay true to its roots in that it incorporates combat elements into its action; it's a "shoot and swerve" sort of driving game. It controls fairly well for a high-speed, highly compressed racer aside from its cumbersome turbo-switch-based weapons-activation system, which serves to dissuade players from initiating hostilities and leaves them in the unenviable position of praying that their opposition also takes a passive approach. In addition to your missile-blasting, bomb-tossing foes, you'll have to deal with scattered track elements (like ice patches, speed boosters, and sludgy stretches) that can affect your car's performance.
The game isn't visually impressive but does offer vast variety in course design. You can race for glory in areas as disparate as a standard event park, a shoreside dirt tract, a Wings of Wor-esque giant-face-plated industrial zone, a gargantuan-monkey habitat, and the psychedelic domain of a scantily clad chick, while cows, swimmers, waddling birds, and other tiny onlookers observe the action.
You've gotta be as precise as possible when maneuvering your vehicle, but the races have a very random air about them. You might practice to the point where you're a fantastic driver and an utter expert on the course layouts, but if your unruly adversaries arbitrarily opt to bash you around or pelt you with projectiles, your chances of winning will be virtually nil. Sometimes, you'll be able to zip along unharassed and pull up to the finish line in good standing, but such worry-free runs are possible only if your opposition is in a benevolent mood. The quite-out-of-your-hands feel of the affair can be frustrating, especially when you're bumping and banging your way along on the more ridiculous courses, among which is a dusky dungeon with "warp points" that are sure to prove disorienting (and not in a "welcome challenge" sort of way).
Modest ending scenes constitute poor prizes for persisting through the available groups of tracks. The opening cinematics are just as unimpressive.
Should you decide you've had your fill of getting slammed and shot in the main racing competitions, you can partake in some silly soccer-esque mini-games...
...or just ditch the disc for good. MC simply isn't a whole lot of fun and rates as a huge disappointment considering how enjoyable its HuCard predecessors are. If you one day happen upon a hidden copy while on a homeward jaunt from work or school, leave the damn thing alone. Go home and play one of the other Moto Roader games--or just revel in great memories of Super Sprint.