Monday 6 July 2015

Al Unser Jr.'s Turbo Racing (NES review)

Developer: Data East
Publisher: Data East
Released: 1990

Al Unser Jr.'s Turbo Racing (or Turbo Racing in Europe) is a reworking of the 1989 Famicom game World Grand Prix - Pole to Finish.

It features 16 circuits including Brazil and Monaco and each location is represented with famous landmarks. The A button accelerates, B brakes and you can shift gears by using Up and Down on the d-pad. You can also turbo boost by holding Up when you're in third gear but this is only available in limited amounts. Time Trial Mode A allows you to compete against other drivers in a single race on any of the circuits. Time Trial Mode B is exactly the same except you drive solo with no other competitors. World Grand-Prix Series is the main attraction and it challenges you to complete ten laps across all 16 circuits with the eventual winner being the one with the most points. First you must take part in a qualifying lap and it's worth using up all of your turbo here. The start of each main race is brutal as cars litter the narrow tracks making it difficult to overtake without crashing or bumping into them. CPU drivers are overly aggressive and always seem to move into your direct line or try to knock you off the track. There's tons of sprite flicker and sometimes opponent cars disappear completely! There's also some odd artefacts (i.e. white lines) on the side of the screen that look very strange. The most annoying part is when you're low on fuel as the screen continually flashes pink until you pit and refuel! Also, your current lap number is only displayed occasionally which doesn't help with pit strategy. The more I played the more I realised that the game is very little fun; it takes itself way too seriously and the gameplay is an exercise in frustration.

Al Unser Jr.'s Turbo Racing aims to be a realistic take on the sport and if you're a very patient gamer you might get some enjoyment out of it. It's certainly not an awful game but for me the gameplay is too rigid and doesn't have that pick-up-and-play nature that the best driving titles seem to have.

Random trivia: The reason the game was retitled in Europe is because Unser Jr. wasn't well known outside of North America and neither was Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART).

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