Thursday, 20 August 2015

SNES Game review 86: Race Drivin

Sometimes part of reviewing games is about buying things to review. I am going to review 150 SNES games I said, instantly I was met with people asking if I would be reviewing this or that. Now if I was using emulators and illegally downloading games then I could review anything but I made a few early decisions including that I was going to play on an actual system using real cartridges playing with a real joypad. There is no glorious story of how and when I came in to contact with this game I simply brought it purely to review it and one of the key reasons it was picked was due to its price, I paid £3.69 for the Pal Cart and postage which I guess in a way already tells a bit of a tale of what I am in for.

So as you will have already guessed from the photo above the game I will be reviewing today is Hard Drivin. Hard Drivin was originally an arcade game but it made its way to a fair few consoles in the case of the SNES it was programmed by Imagineering Inc and published by THQ.  I have touched on Imagineering recently so will just bypass talking about them besides there name is hidden away in the odd credit line with THQ and Tengen (the creators of the arcade version) being the names seen on the cart and in large print in the game.

THQ Inc. is a company I am sure many of you will be familiar with for a number of reasons now I might be wrong but I think this could be the first time I have mentioned them so here is a quick bit of information on them. THQ was a former American video game developer and publisher. They were founded in 1989, they developed products for video game consoles, handheld consoles, and personal computers. Their name stood for “Toy Head-Quarters”, they had offices in North America, Europe and Asia.

The company published both internally created and externally licensed content and they would later become very well known for the likes of the Saints Row series, the Red Faction series, and others. Although they had some titles which were making gang busters levels of money others were literally losing more cash than you could imagine. This is why after several years of financial struggles THQ declared bankruptcy in December 2012 and its assets began to be liquidated the following month, with several properties either being acquired by other developers.

Loading this game I was automatically reminded of an Amiga game I used to play called Stunt Car Racing, as both are sort of polygon based racers with stunts in them, unfortunately all comparisons end there. Think about all of the things you want from a racing game, get a pencil and a piece of paper and make a list. Now I am almost certain that my version and your version of this list of needs would be very different but I am sure that both lists would contain ‘’a sense of speed’’. This is where this game instantly falls down I swear that a child could make a better sense of speed with simplified car drawings in a flick book. Now day’s people moan if a game doesn’t manage 1080p with an almost constant 60 frames per second frame rate. Now I am not mathematician so I haven’t worked out the exact rate at which this game runs, if I was to put it on an emulator and run some tests maybe I could do it, but instead I will just talk about the way it feels. It feels like the game lurches from a slow 5 frames per second to an absolutely crippled 3 frames per second. Yes the graphics are for the time kind of advanced in the fat that it’s a 16bit system using polygon based graphics without any special on board chips as far as I know however the graphics are still bad and as basic as can be. Squares everywhere flat square cows by the square roadside lots of very plain backgrounds lots of green and grey. I think really in truth we just were not ready for what they were attempting at the time. It would have been better to have had simplified graphics and to have tried to keep some of the spirit of the arcade machine.

On to the gameplay more. Well to start with you can pick one of 4 cars, 3 have a manual transmission where you’re responsible for changing the gears and the remaining 1 is automatic but beyond this I cannot tell any real difference in how they handle. Ok so you have picked your car the next thing is to pick your track, well there is not a lot to think about as there is a grand total of 3 to choose from. There is an Autocross track where you just drive then there is a Stunt track, with jumps, and loops. Lastly, there is what is called the Super Stunt track, in this track you go around diagonal corners and drive up on to a raised road you can fall off. The screen itself is sort of split into 3 parts the bottom shows you the cars dashboard, you can see your hands on the wheel and they move the way you’re telling the car to move on the pad and the speed and RPM dials move but this is actually the largest part of the screen. At the top you have the bit above your head in the car and you can see a part of a mirror and then your score and best and lap time are displayed on the upholstery. The actual view of what you are doing, your actual game window is in the middle and it’s a slit which takes up about a third of the screen real estate if that.

This game could be fun with the stunts and the jumps but they have decided to make it sort of over realistic, if you go for a loop or a jump and don’t do it at the perfect speed and land it exactly your windscreen cracks and it puts you back to try it again.  This is where they needed to make things a bit looser a bit less true to reality, this is a game people and a games main reason to exist is to be fun, having to be 100% precise to land a jump going just at the right angle just at 35 miles per hour to see a perfect realistic landing is not fun. Sure maybe the first time you manage to actually do it there is a sense of pride but what most people honestly want to do in a game is to floor it and hit that son of a bitch at 90 and land with a bounce the other side and carry on, we all want to pretend to be Evel Knievel not the amazing practical driver. If you want a game that actually makes you feel like good old Evel then I recommend you look at the Joe Danger games as they have gotten the feeling spot on.

Ok so what about the games music? Well in honesty there really isn’t much, you could say that there's 5 pieces in the game, the title, the name input screen music, the car selection screen music, the instant replay music and the game over theme but most of them are little more than short jingles of several notes. As for sound effects there’s a crash noise and there is an engine noise which sounds like it’s been taken from the Atari 2600 version of pole position.

Ok this is quite simply one of the worst games I have reviewed for the SNES it doesn’t do the system any justice at all. I would score this game 2 out of 10. If you are crazy enough to want it then you should with a little bit of looking be able to find a copy in the region of £3.50 to £6 including postage but please spare yourself.  Look at the free PC version of the previously mentioned Stunt Car Racer for a far better time  or look up one of the other decent SNES racers I have reviewed like TopGear, PowerDrive or Exhaust heat for example.

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