Review by Snow Dragon

"Three ... two ... one ... game over! Just before the finish line!"

My cousin, now 23, used to own this game, and so seeing mostly indifferent reviews for it caused my brain to take out fragile nostalgia and fondle it until I was moved to write a review for this game. How good of my brain. It will suffer later.

Rad Racer was made by Square back in the 80's, which today would be the equivalent of Hershey's going into the granola business. There were only eight tracks and a choice of two cars (a Ferrari and a drag racer), each about equal in performance and speed, but none of that really matters because they're both the same! Wow! Two cars with no identifiable performance differences whatsoever!

You are given a very short time to complete each circuit, and if you do not, dots pop up on a map of the track showing how far you got, which is often right before the finish line. This lack of seconds (there are no minutes, just a set amount of seconds, like 80 or 50) requires you to make such precise movements in your car and pull them off with such finesse that you will more often than not hear the music fading away in failure as the checkered line appears just over the horizon and you slow to a halt about three feet in front of it. You may have thought you had everything down on a track and then BAM! the time is gone. Seconds are added to the clock once you cross the finish line for a particular segment of the race, but the addition is still usually too scant to get to the end of the next sector. Cars that want to ram you into a ditch are often a problem as well. It is a shame that there was no button that allowed you to honk your horn at a guy who cut you off and caused you to slow to a halt about three feet in front of the checkered line. Over-the-top flips also hamper your recovery from a spill, so if you want to finish a race, don't crash into anything. Easier said than done.

Rad Racer did have some neat in-game switcheroos that you could execute at the push of a button. The game had two songs that were quite fun to race to, and you could go back and forth between them with a flick of the Down button on the D-pad. Similarly, the locale could be instantly changed from day to night at will. At night, though, the clouds would look like visions from a psychedelic hallucination and garnered much more of your attention than the road, which needs your eyes on it at all times if you want to complete even the first race.

Speaking of those groovy clouds, graphics were a definite problem with this game. The simplicity of them is probably what allowed them to move so fast, which meant that in the blink of an eye, a guy in a VW Beetle could ram you into a ditch and before you knew it, you were slowing to a halt about three feet in front of the checkered line. The engine in the back of the drag racer looks like someone's innards became discombobulated and were upchucked onto the back of the car. One nice touch, however, was being able to see your driver's silhouette through the back windshield. Palm trees and billboards line the sides of the road throughout the various (okay, eight) locales and often are the reason that you came slowing to a halt about three feet in front of the checkered line.

To buy or to rent, huh? Well, since many joints don't deal in NES rentals in this day and age, I'd recommend tracking down a friend who still has it or downloading the ROM, which probably won't take that long at all considering this is a short game. As far as racing experiences on the old Nintendo go, this one is ..... well, let's just say that at least Square tried.

Score: 5

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 01/25/02, Updated 01/25/02

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