Sunday, 5 September 2010

Retro Monday: Rock n' Roll Racing (Snes/MegaDrive)

So my Grandad asked me to sell some of his old Super Nintendo games recently. I remember him getting it off some local kid second hand, and the kid had great taste. When I used to go round after school, there was a plethora of games he'd bagged for next-to-nothing, including Secret of Mana, Killer Instinct and his favourite, Pilotwings. All these games were ace, but one stood out for me. So much so, I actually wanted my own copy. That game was Rock n' Roll Racing.

When World of Warcraft was just a twinkle in Blizzard's eye, they were busy writing quirky, good-looking Snes games that were all over the place in terms of content and design. One of their more impressive offerings was this. A racing game that combined combat, aliens and bad attitude in one 2.5D package, Rock n' Roll Racing was a bit good.

Even back then, Blizzard were toying with the idea of stats and builds, and somehow managed to shoehorn customizing into a racing game. The depth of build-your-own-car-ness in the game was really impressive, and although it really was all about the hovercraft, the choice of weaponry and the upgrades made for an addictive game, despite the repetition. The constant money-grabbing and slowly upgrading your pimped-out deathwagon was delightful. Fuck carrot and stick, this game made the stick out of a carrot.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this game though, was style. This games never, ever took itself seriously, and much the better for it. Mind you, when you're racing on a Prison Planet called New Mojave in a yellow hovercraft, it must of been pretty hard to take the serious angle. At a time when a lot of games were just an idea and no identity, this was a game that not only had a genre and theme, but also went back on it. Playing Rock n Roll Racing felt like you were in on the joke. I always expected that after blowing Rip up with a Rocket Launcher, the commentator would turn around and wink at me, coming out of the TV to high-five me and say, "This is brilliant, isn't it?".

Finally, I reckon I could of played this game with no images at all. The sound absolutely smacked this out of the park. 16-Bit renditions of Rock classics belted out of your TV, directly into my rebellious teenage brain. 'Bad to the Bone', that song off Terminator 2 as I used to know it, is a sure-fire way to grab an impressionable youngster's attention. The commentator also made the game a rawkus affair, shouting catchphrases at every occasion. The bombasity and downright balls-out apporach of every aspect of this game made it perfect for a young chap who drank Pepsi Max and ate Monster Munch. Come to think of it, I still do.

These days, Meta games are taken completely for granted. Serious Sam. Castle Crashers. Gears of War (Without knowing it). We expect it these days, and almost question things which don't acknowledge themselves in the medium of computer games. But in the days of the Super Nintendo, it was a rare and valuable thing, and Blizzard absolutely nailed it. These days they're much more bothered about the 11.5 million people running the Gnome treadmill, but back in the day, Blizzard showed us a thing or two about Heavy Metal and futuristic space alien racing.

I played this game so much, I wanted my own copy. My Grandad gave me his.

"The Stage is Set, the Green Flag DROPS!"

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