Monday 29 June 2015

Dirt Trax FX (SNES review)

Developer: Sculptured Software
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
Released: 1995

Dirt Trax FX is a motocross game that uses the Super FX-GSU-1 chip to render 3D polygon graphics.

There are five Grand Prix circuits with five courses each and while some layouts can be confusing they're generally well thought out. They start off as simple loops but eventually challenge you with maze-like tracks and hairpin turns. You gain points depending on your finishing position with the final winner being decided by who has the most. Before each race the contestants ride out from the tunnel and it looks awesome! The control scheme works great and I love how easy it is to hand-break turn by using the shoulder buttons. There's many ramps and if you press Down you can get some serious air and speed boosts. 50cc is insultingly easy but it plays well and gives you a chance to get accustomed to the bike physics. Playing in 125cc and 250cc increases the number of laps per track from a manageable 2-5 up to a whopping 15! It's at this point that the game starts to fall apart as there's too many laps and boredom starts to set in. Your top speed also increases and the action moves too quickly for the game engine. The races end up a hectic mess due to frame-rate dips and imprecise controls that have you manically trying to steer your bike. You can input a cheat to get 500cc but I don't need to explain how out-of-hand things get! There's also a mode called Red Tag which is a game of tag where you need to collide with the CPU rider and then avoid them for three long, boring minutes. While lacking texture detail the graphics are excellent for the time. The repetitive, upbeat music is odd and would be better suited to a quirky platformer.

Dirt Trax FX is an enjoyable game in 50cc and while it isn't challenging it does show that the Super FX chip can handle a good racer. However, it's too ambitious for its own good and completely falls on its face when you advance to higher difficulties.

Random trivia: This wasn't the only Super FX game that Sculptured Software developed. They also coded a port of the first-person shooter Doom to the SNES using the revised Super FX-GSU-2 chip which had a higher clock speed.

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