me some Rock 'n Roll; I love me some racing. Well whoo boy, wouldn't you know
that Blizzard (yep THAT Blizzard, the WarCraft one) has combined the two
in a wildly entertaining game that was originally released in 1994 for the ol'
SNES and Sega Genesis systems under the guise of their Classic Arcade line (a
line that also includes The Lost Vikings -- neither game ever came out
in the arcade...weird). Here we are some 9 years later, and the game has earned
itself a port to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. And you know what? It's still great.
In case you weren't around or conscious of
your surroundings in 1994, let me give you a quick synopsis of Rock 'N Roll
Racing. Well in the year 2833, humans finally get around to exploring the
far reaches of space. Turns out, some aliens from the planet Bogmire really like
to race while listening to classic Rock 'n Roll (I think these aliens attended
my high school). A couple decades after in 2911, human racer Flip upset the Bogmire
favorite Dangbar and won the first Indianapolis Super Cup. After the race, Dangbar
threatened to eat Flip, causing Flip to subsequently retire and open a Rock
'N Roll racing school. You, the player, are a recent graduate from Flip's
school and ready to take on the Rock 'N Roll Racing circuit.
is a mixed affair of accelerating, steering, and violently killing your opponents
using an arsenal of weapons, cars, and power-ups available through a simple, yet
surprisingly deep upgrade system. Once the game starts, the player must choose
from 3 difficulties: Rookie, Veteran, and Warrior. In the old school game fashion,
Rookie mode only allows racing on 3 planets, Veteran on 5, and the uber-hard Warrior
the full 6 worlds. Once the difficulty is chosen, players must choose a character
with options ranging from the standard blond, Aryan human Snake Sanders to some
odd Wookie-dog looking guy named Ivanzypher, each having unique stats that help
them excel in categories like cornering, acceleration, top speed, and jumping.
Once a difficulty and character is chosen,
then a car must be purchased from an initial sum of $20,000 space dollars. Cars
in Rock 'N Roll racing are customizable -- not to the extent of, say, Gran
Turismo but moreso than Mario Kart. Engines, armor, tires, and shocks
each have their own upgrade options as well as the cars themselves (5 available
models in 6 available colors) to provide users with a surprising amount of upgrade
In order to upgrade cars,
you need money. And in order to get money, you have to win races. Racing is handled
by planet. Each planet has a set number of races depending on difficulty. Place
in the top 3 in a race and you will be rewarded with points for advancement to
the next planet and money for upgrading your totally bitchin' car. All the races
on a planet don't need to be finished in order to get the requisite amount of
points for planet advancement, but most players will find themselves racing all
of the races in order to get the maximum amount of money. Planets are unique in
their obstacles and environments -- ice patches, lava pits, and slime pools dot
the racetracks, each helping you to crash and burn with equal ability.
if the obstacles aren't enough to keep you from crashing (and you WILL crash...a
lot), then the enemies will certainly help pick up the slack. In addition to being
tough and aggressive, they are also outfitted with enough weapons to shock and
awe. Each planet has one featured racer that will either beat you, or come in
a close second on every race. In true Blizzard fashion, the rival racers are all
unique and memorable, ranging from the morbid eskimo Butcher Icebone to the always
lovable Grinder X19 and the game's boss, J.B. Slash.
your own car can be fitted with weapons of it's own, and through the upgrade system,
can even up the amount of ammunition available to blow up funny colored aliens
(ammunition that refills upon completing a lap of a race). Each car has two types
of ammo, the front range weapon like missles and such, and the rear fired obstacle
weapon like mines that also allow you to conveniently blow yourself up if you're
With all these weapons flying
around, racing is a very frantic and hectic situation that is often decided in
the last stretch of the race. Combine that with a Game Boy-tossing difficulty,
and you have one heck of an all-around fun fest.
it's not all drum solos and hairspray for Rock 'N Roll Racing. First of
all, being a game from 1994, there aren't exactly a lot of modes to explore. You
can race single player, or you can race in the versus mode. And while the single
player is quite a bit of fun to take a romp through, the versus mode is a bit
disappointing. In order to race 2 player races using the GBA link cable, 2 cartridges
are required -- I hate that. If a link cable isn't readily available, then versus
mode can be used to go mano a alien with a bad guy of your choice (sans J.B. Slash)
using a fully outfitted car -- useful for learning tracks and getting a taste
of how a fully equipped hovercraft handles.
the game is hard. I always had an inkling that games were harder back in the day,
and this game proves it. Beating the game on Warrior is an accomplishment that
rivals the creation of Mount Rushmore. Successful, and there will be songs written
about you. It's insane. To compound that difficulty is the somewhat spotty physics
(I know, it's a game about cars that shoot missiles, but still...). No matter
how much I played the game, I just couldn't quite figure out how to take a corner
with 3 cars trailing me, and come out in first. Every time I'd get railed against
the side as every single car passed me. Sure, it added to the overall zaniness,
but it's frustrating all the same.
Rock 'N Roll Racing uses the top-down Isometric
3d perspective that will be familiar to gamers who enjoyed another big name company's
foray into racing, Square's (now Square-Enix) RC Pro Am. I was never a
huge fan of this perspective, it makes anticipating corners tricky in clutch situations,
even with the on-screen map of the track, forcing players to memorize the tracks
(nothing new to racing game fans). Additionally, judging the varying widths of
the racetracks is also difficult, often causing me to misjudge how to take a turn.
Maybe I'm retarded, maybe the perspective is faulty. I don't know--something's
But perhaps I'm being too
tough. The game was made by Blizzard, the company of artists. Even with 16-bit
sprites, it's quite obvious that love went into the cars, avatars, icons, and
tracks. At its time, the game style was a welcome change from F-Zero's
Mode 7 quirkiness, and even now, the heavily stylized look is unique and refreshing.
God, I love Blizzard. Still, the GBA has seen some very surprising graphical advancements,
and it's a bit disappointing that Rock 'N Roll Racing didn't get an upgrade.
doesn't get better for cartridges. Not only are there MIDI reproductions of many
classical rock tunes including Paranoid and Bad to the Bone, but the announcer,
Larry "Supermouth" Huffman keeps the game rockin' (geez, I'm sorry)
with great commentary. There's nothing quite like getting frustratingly slammed
into the wall and blowing up, only to have "Supermouth" add salt to
the injury with a "Holy Toledo." And you know when you're really losing
when the announcer has to tell you, "Snake looks lost out there!" Thanks
Supermouth. I hate you (but in a loving kind of way).
Another reason I don't exactly love isometric 3D games is because they
always have that loony character relative control scheme (like RC Pro Am
or Resident Evil) that demands a complete readjustment from every other
game out there. But it works, and it works fine. The d-pad, of course, handles
steering with down as brake, but as the manual states, "who ever brakes in
a Rock N' Roll race?" Ahhh, my kind of racer. The A button handles gas while
the B button fires the forward, range weapons. The L Button lays down the mines,
and the R buttons handles two purposes -- hold it down for a sliding turn and
tap it for the turbo boosts. I was skeptical of the whole R-button-serving-two-purposes
thing, but not once did it ever screw up for me. Steering is a bit tricky at first,
and demands several hours of practice before you can bob, weave, and slide through
the corners with ease.
Rock 'N Roll Racing provides a challenging, but enjoyable arcade
style blow-em-up racing frenzy that is sure to entertain racing fans that suffer
from A.D.D. Not only can you race in a variety of tracks across a multitude of
planets, but you can also upgrade your car and blow away the opposition -- all
while listening to a brilliant reproduction of Black Sabbath. And while the game
does feel a bit dated having been originally released some 9 years prior, that
doesn't keep it from being a great game. Only the anemic mode options and dated
gameplay keep Rock 'N Roll Racing from being as great now as it was in
1994. Driving and shooting aliens together at last -- rock on.