As much as we love the NES, the one thing it did lack was the ability to play multiplayer games where both players were on the screen at the same time. The likes of Super Mario Bros had a two player option however this was one player at a time, where the next player plays when the first player died. Of course there were the exceptions, things like Battletoads and dare we say Anticipation (which isn’t said lightly…) which yields mixed results in terms of how good they are. Another game to add to the list is this game, which promises right on the box 4 player simultaneous action so how could you go wrong? Grab some pizzas, some beer and get your leather driving gloves on, we’re going Off Road racing!
Super Off Road Racing, or Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off-Road in its entirety (but is too late to write fully) is a racing game in which you take control of what looks like a miniature off-road car and you race with three other drivers in order to win the race. Unlike R.C Pro AM where you get weapons, this is all about racing – just you, your finger on the A button and the ability to drive like Nigel Mansell. Or The Stig. There are certain similarities with R.C Pro AM such as the miniature vehicle and the ease in which you drive your car, but as we’ll see later, there are some subtle differences.
Turning on the game you get the blue-eyed red helmet wearing Ivan Stewart grinning back at you and the ability to play with up to 4 players. That is a big selling point, the fact you can have three other friends with you to race in your vehicles and see who comes out on top. However, due to the NES console having two controller ports you do require a NES Four Score or NES Satellite in order to play with four controllers, however for some additional hardware, it’s good you can have four racers rather than 4 player Super Mario Bros where you have to wait for the first three players to die before you can take your turn. You choose your nationality though there doesn’t seem to be any difference in which nationality you pick, it’s more for nationalistic pride to which you then start racing.
A good point with the game is that after each race, depending on where you finish you can customise your vehicle in terms of upgrading parts of your vehicle such as the tyres, the acceleration, the top speed – up to 6 categories. This is done by the money you win depending on where in the race you finish. It is a flat rate for each upgrade which is always good as modern games seem to increase the value of an upgrade with each upgrade you complete. It does seem sometimes that you upgrade the acceleration and top speed but in the next race the computer race past and you cannot catch them up which can be frustrating, as you may rely more on turbos which quickly run out. It’s not often that it happens, but the inconsistencies can be gruelling.
The view of the race is different to R.C Pro AM, in that you have an overhead view of the whole track where you see all four racers competing – R.C Pro AM the track is bigger than the screen so the camera is focussed on your vehicle. It’s good that you can see the whole track so you can see your competitors and see how far in front you are or how behind you are. The graphics are bold and defined, with the four vehicles in all differing colours and the brown dirt on the road with the red and white walls surrounding the track. On the ground you can pick up extra cash or turbos which increase that aspect but as some retailer once said, every little helps (all rights reserved). On the screen it shows in the top left the name of the nap, the top right how long it has taken you to complete the race and also at the top it shows how many turbos you have left. You start with 25 which do go down quickly if you panic in order to try and win the race, but turbos are something you can buy for £10k each at a time. Although pricey and not something you would focus when you first upgrade your vehicle, by the 10th or 11th race where you’ve upgraded everything else, the only thing you can buy are turbos so you do get the chance to replenish them. The controls in the game are fairly straight forward, you use the A button to accelerate, B butto nto use your turbo and the d pad left and right to turn your vehicle. Nothing more complicated then that, but why would you when the gameplay is good? Sometimes games are ruined when the gameplay and graphics are good, but the controls are overly complicated and unncessary. Fortunately, Ivan Stewart asked for simple controls, and the game is effective because of it*. (* please note Ivan may not have requested this in his game but for artistic licence the presumption is that this was the first thing requested when designing an NES game)
Overall, although the game is similar to R.C Pro Am, there are are differences which enhance the game and make it one worthy to have in your collection. The most obvious appeal is having 4 player simultaneous action so one guy isn’t left waiting 20 minutes for the remaining three to lose their lives so that they can take their turn. The controls are simple yet responsive, and it is always intriguing to see what aspect of your vehicle gets upgraded first in order to win the matches. Although in the end if you’re that good then all parts will be upgraded fully towards the end, but especially with three other people it could make all the difference between winning and losing if one of you upgrades acceleration first for example rather than tyres. Sometimes it does feel like you go from flat out winning a race to being perilously last due to the other cars being significantly faster for no apparent reason but the only time you notice this is if you’re playing the game by yourself. The game is cheap to pick up from your local online retailers or retro game shops, so grab a horse riding helmet, spray it red, strap it on and get set for driving fun because tell me, wouldn’t you rather be placing this than Anticipation?
Rating – 4 out of 5