If you were to think of racing games where you race against other cars, collecting power ups along the way and obtaining weapons to use against opponents – hang on wait a minute. Racing around laps in circuits? Collecting power ups? WEAPONS TO USE AGAINST OPPONENTS? What does this sound like?…it sound’s somewhat like Mario Kart does it not? Or Ivan Stewart’s Off-Road Racing, maybe for the pacifists something like Micro Machines? Well before all those, came along a game that didn’t involve monster trucks, or Formula 1 cars, but radio-controlled cars out of everything in the world to race. Given that it was made by Rare, who according to these reviews struck somewhat dull gold with Slalom and faeces with Anticipation, will it be third time lucky for the boys from Twycross?
R.C Pro Am is a racing game where the cars themselves are remote controlled cars, with the idea (surprisingly for a racing game) is to race round circuits, finishing within the top 3 to progress to the next level. When you turn on the game, your treated to the funkiest opening music you’ll ever hear in your NES library. Pressing start takes you straight into the game – no options menu customising your buttons, no dilly dallying or shilly shallying, just straight into the track conditions for the first race and where you’ll be able to view the customisations you make to the car – but thats for later. It’s time to buckle up (as much as you can in a remote-controlled car) and get ready for your first race!
The controls are as simple as they can be for an 8-bit racing game. Pressing the B button makes your car accelerate, and the A-Button fires your weapon when you collect them, and the left and right d-pad steers the car. When racing, especially when turning the car drifts momentarily before it turns the car, so you need to time the turning well otherwise you’ll be racing alongside the wall, slowing you down and letting your opponents pass you by. However, along the way, there are power ups to improve your vehicle, which you will need for the later levels. You can collect tyres to help grip your car to the track better, higher top speed for the car and finally turbo acceleration. There is also wads of cash to help improve your score rather than to purchase more items like Iron Man. On the track is oil slicks and water puddles as well as rainy clouds above you that will cause your car to spin and crash off so be mindful of these whilst driving. There are arrows on the track indicating which way to go, which is useful so it helps you prepare to turn without being surprised by a sharp hairpin bend.
In the game there are 24 tracks to complete, and along the way if you collect bonus letters to spell the word NINTENDO then your car gets upgraded, helping you complete the game. If alas you do get to the game over screen, you do have the opportunity to continue where you left off with 2 continues, without having lost all your upgrades and power ups, which is good rather than getting to the latter stages and then having lost everything, getting your rear handed to you on a plate in a basic car. As well, you’ve got a high enough score then you can input your initials to be stored so you can show to your friends….if they are round. Like most of the NES games that had a high score table, unfortunately as soon as the console is turned off, all your hard work and achievement is erased.
The graphics in the game are bold and well defined, there’s no need to guess what the green pixels outside the track are, or the power ups your collecting, or what hazard your driving over. It’s also a nice touch and somewhat rewarding after each race to receive a trophy for the place you finished in (gold for 1st place, silver for 2nd, bronze for 3rd). The map at the bottom is a good representative of the track your driving on, your location indicated by a dot, its not a vague graphic that doesn’t represent well like on other games. The music is fresh and upbeat, after a while they will linger on the mind after you have turned the console off, especially the music when you get to the game over screen that is still upbeat but with a wistful tone. The sound effects are typical racing effects, with the accelerating engines, the squealing tyres and firing the weapons.
When this game was released 1987, no one knew the impact that the game would have not only on the NES console, improving on existing racing games such as Mach Rider, but on the racing genre on games to come. Although not directly, it does seem like this game inspired titles such as Super Off Road and the more famous Mario Kart, with the usage of weapons to cause damage to opponents. If you have time to spare in the afternoon and looking for a game to lay that doesn’t get too involved, then RC Pro Am is certainly a title worthy of wiling that afternoon away with. It’s easy to pick up and play, it doesn’t require you to have the driving skills and reflexes of Lewis Hamilton and before you know it, an hour or two has gone in the quest to perfect your car. Although it’s disappointing that your stats and scores are not saved and that the game does not have a 2 player option, it is something that future games learnt from, where the whole map is shown on the screen rather than the car following the oversized track, but nevertheless, there’s nothing stopping you passing the controller to a friend to complete the next level. Copies of the game are plentiful so there shouldn’t be any reason not to pick up a copy from your local store, so go on, treat yourself to one of Rare’s finer retro games.
Rating – 4 out of 5