Monday 25 November 2019

Road Rash (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: Probe Software
Publisher: U.S. Gold
Released: 1994

Road Rash is a vehicular combat racing game that was also released on the Sega Mega Drive (1991) and Sega Master System (1994).

There's five levels of difficulty that consist of five races each; the objective is to place fourth or better in each race to win cash, upgrade your bike and move on to the higher levels. The gameplay involves dodging obstacles and assaulting opponents with punches, kicks or the rare club you can steal from a would-be attacker. The racing is slower that the 16-bit original but I'm glad the developers took this approach as it means the frame-rate is relatively stable and there's a lack of choppiness to the action. What's most impressive is how authentic the gameplay is with its smooth handling and great draw distance that makes it easy to spot incoming cars and objects. Instead of adopting for simpler, flat surfaces, the developers kept in the rolling hills and it's still thrilling to catch air while trying to control your bike for a smooth landing back on the road! Similarly, the combat is enjoyable, especially when you manage to knock over a policeman or grab a club from an opponent! However, I did find myself having to press the punch button a little earlier than usual to actually make contact with a fellow rider. The track design is the weakest part of the game as they're similar to each other and don't really have any stand-out features. There's also nothing to signify how close you are to the finish line and the track distance isn't displayed before you start a race. The voice samples are missing but the music does a great job of mirroring the Mega Drive originals in 8-bit form. Compared to the Master System version, there's only minor differences such as a reduced HUD and slightly zoomed in camera to aide the smaller screen.

Road Rash on the Sega Game Gear is a faithful and compelling adaptation of the 16-bit classic and it's a credit to the developers that they managed to cram so much in without compromising the feel of the original. While the track design is average, the rest of the game is extremely polished and easy to pick up and play.

Random trivia: Unfortunately, the two Mega Drive sequels Road Rash II (1992) and Road Rash 3: Tour De Force (1995) weren't released in 8-bit form.

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