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Super Off Road (SNES) artwork

Super Off Road (SNES) review

"Whereas playing alone gets old quickly, it’s hard to tire of the multi-player option. The true fun here comes from consistently finishing just ahead of your human opponent, then talking trash as he can barely afford any upgrades in the garage and you’re busy buying expensive boosts for your motor."

My sister and I didn’t play all that many games together when we were kids. She preferred to spend most of her time outdoors and I was more interested in role-playing games because of how long they lasted in an era where I could only afford two or three game purchases a year. There were, of course, exceptions. One of the most noteworthy of these was Super Off-Road. It’s not a visual stunner and discriminating gamers may well tire of it within a few brief hours, but that wasn’t the case at my house.

The reason we enjoyed playing the game is obvious: Super Off-Road is one of the most simplistic games the system ever saw. The goal is to streak across the finish line in a series of grueling races, all without placing worse than third. This will earn you prize money to invest in your vehicle, a rugged off-road truck with the ability to muscle its way through mud bogs and puddles that would leave any other rig spinning its wheels in frustration. There are around sixteen unique tracks, and once you’ve seen them all they start repeating themselves until you get sick of the whole ordeal and turn off the power, or until you finish in last place enough times and the game ends of its own accord.

As you can imagine, this gets old rather quickly if you’re playing alone. There simply isn’t much to see. Each track fits within a single screen and the action is viewed from far overhead. The perspective is similar to Super Sprint. Though trucks are more detailed than the racecars in that game, and though you can see finer details like the shadow-tinged sides of wind-swept dunes, there’s nothing here that strains the hardware. This game would have been possible on the NES (and in fact, I believe a version was released on that system). It’s not the lack of visual splendor that can make the single-player game grow tiresome, though. Rather, it’s a combination of various other factors.

Firstly, there are the crap controls to consider. As you drive around, you’ll wonder if your truck’s underside isn’t comprised of a series of springs. Pulling through any corner can be an ordeal as you bounce like a rabbit and very often slam into a wall to your side or directly ahead. Even after you’ve adjusted your shocks and tires with well-placed expenditures, the truck you drive falls far short of perfection. Mastering the game requires patience and the ability to adapt to awkward controls. It’s just that simple.

The artificial intelligence of your opponents only worsens things. When you first begin, they’re not all that bright. If you’re able to quickly settle in to those poor controls I mentioned, you shouldn’t have trouble placing ahead of drivers three and four on a regular basis. If you survive long enough and use enough nitrous boosts (thankfully, these items spawn on the track if you don’t have enough money to buy them between races), you’ll quickly fall into a pattern where you finish nearly every race in second place.

But why don’t you finish in first place? Well, that’s simple. Your main competitor, who drives a flashy truck of silver hue, is a machine. At least, that’s my theory. His vehicle starts with maxed out stats right from the very first race, and he often will come close to lapping you unless you’re willing to power your way around each lap while your expensive nitrous upgrades slip through your fingers like water. For awhile, you may be able to amuse yourself by seeing how many times you can beat the silver truck before turning off the power. Or perhaps you’ll make it your life’s passion to beat him without using a single nitrous boost at all. It can be done. Soon enough, though, you’ll decide other games are more worthy of your time.

For this reason, the game’s two-player mode is a gift from above. Whereas playing alone gets old quickly, it’s hard to tire of the multi-player option. The true fun here comes from consistently finishing just ahead of your human opponent, then talking trash as he can barely afford any upgrades in the garage and you’re busy buying expensive boosts for your motor. Example: “Oh, my truck is maxed out and I already have 99 nitros, so I’m not sure what to do with this $300,000 I have just sitting around.” The possibilities are endless.

Thus it is that with a willing friend on the couch beside you, Super Off-Road suddenly becomes a fantastic way to burn through a boring afternoon. It’s surprising how often a ‘quick game’ turns into two or three hours of trash talking and gnashing teeth. Of course, I didn’t trash talk my sister when I was a kid. My mom would’ve skinned me alive. But there are ways to gloat over your wins, and Super Off-Road is just the game to facilitate a friendly rivalry. Just make sure you find a comfortable seat before you start playing; you’ll be there awhile.

Rating: 7/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (May 06, 2005)

Jason Venter has been playing games for over 25 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he also writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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