Super Sprint (NES) review
"A typical race is going to involve flooring the accelerator, dashing to the first corner, then swinging wildly about it like a drunken ballerina and hopefully aligning with the rails on the next turn so as to avoid smashing into a barrier and exploding (if going at high speeds) or becoming stuck for a few seconds while your opponents take the lead by about half a track and you curse at the television screen."
I suck at this game. As it gets tougher, I get more and more irritated, and I'm more prone to thinking profanity is required to describe the experience. And how long does it take for the game to get tougher? About three minutes. What this means for a gamer like me, then, is that there are three minutes of rather enjoyable gameplay, followed by a lifetime of irritation.
Perhaps I should explain. Super Sprint is one of the many games released by Tengen on their fancy black carts (which are a pain in the butt to remove from your system if your hands are wet) because Nintendo had decided the company was Satan's spawn. Like most Tengen games, Super Sprint comes from its arcade big brother, and is the sort of game that you might have paid quarters to play while waiting in the pizza parlor.
In my case, that's exactly what happened. The local pizza parlor for a time featured this game, which I believe had a steering wheel attached. Appropriate, of course, because Super Sprint is a racing game. The steering wheel is an odd choice in another sense, though, because this isn't one of those games where the viewpoint is from behind the car. It's a lot like R.C. Pro-Am, only everything fits on one screen. Successors to this game (which took the idea and made it much, much better) include Super Off-Road and a few other titles I can't quite recall.
The goal, as you might imagine, is to get around the race track. The requirement is that you do so in pretty good shape, and that on the fifth lap, the first person to cross the finish line is yourself. If for some reason, it is not, you lose a continue. Lose three continues and you're done for. Sound simple? It's not.
As you steer, 'left' moves the nose of the car left, while 'right' moves it right. This can take some time to adjust to if you're not yet used to this classic control scheme. Once the controls are out of the way, though, there are the tracks themselves. Since an entire track fits on one screen, your car is the size of a pea. It looks about like one, too, with color variations. So as a race starts, there are four colored peas sitting at the starting line, and then the lights switch and it's time to go.
A typical race is going to involve flooring the accelerator, dashing to the first corner, then swinging wildly about it like a drunken ballerina and hopefully aligning with the rails on the next turn so as to avoid smashing into a barrier and exploding (if going at high speeds) or becoming stuck for a few seconds while your opponents take the lead by about half a track and you curse at the television screen. With time, of course, you will become more accustomed to the way the car handles, and you'll be able to 'sprint' around the laps with a bit more finesse. However, you're not out of the woods yet!
See, the other cars have this annoying tendency to bump into you. This sends you spinning, and you hit the barrier yet again. In the early tracks, it's not that big of a deal. Everyone is going slowly, and it's not hard to lap your opponents, even the guy who finishes second. The real challenge in those early stages is to collect the wrenches that litter the raceway, as these allow you to power up your car between stages (you get to adjust traction, acceleration, and top speed, or if you're particularly stupid, give yourself a boost to your score). So the whole time, you're racing around like a madman, collecting wrenches and points. Then the new hazards start to set in. Hurricanes blow over the race track, and these also will send you spinning. Cones appear, which will burst and slow you down when struck. Oil slicks lie in corners, exactly where your car is most inclined to pass, as do icy spots. Add to this narrower tracks and tighter turns and you have the recipe for disaster.
Score junkies, naturally, will keep playing. But they're the only ones. And eventually, the game does itself in. Your car becomes so powered up and moves so insanely fast that your reflexes (and ability to adjust to the touchy controls) must be honed to perfection if you wish to proceed. The tracks just keep repeating themselves (there are only around 6 unique tracks) but with more hazards.
About all that saves this game from total obscurity is the fact that it inspired some good games to follow, and it has a two-player mode. That's right: if you have a friend who is also a masochist, the two of you can enjoy hours of frantic racing fun. As long as one of you finishes in first place, it's all good and the two of you can race indefinitely. Of course, then you'll be racing each other for wrenches and such, and the narrow nature of the tracks means this isn't nearly as fun as it could have been otherwise.
In short, don't seek out this game. Don't spend a lot of money buying it if you happen to stumble upon it by accident. If you find it for a buck in some used game bargain bin, though, go ahead and give it a try. There are worse games, and it will likely keep you entertained for a few minutes. Between a candy bar and Super Sprint, the candy bar is only going to win in cases of extreme hunger.
Staff review by Jason Venter (November 01, 2003)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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