Rock 'n Roll Racing
Game Boy Advance
After the unmistakable first few bars of "Bad to the Bone" strum out of the handheld's speaker, you know this is going to be a different, if not special, game. First released on Super NES in 1993, Rock 'n Roll Racing comes to Game Boy Advance as part of Blizzard Entertainment's "Classic Arcade" lineup. It is an excellent port, surging to the top of the system's best racing games and transforming the wide grins associated with playing Mario Kart Advance into curled-lip snarls. It's a racing game with an edge, and the mocking sense of humor, crisp audio, and white-knuckle action make Rock 'n Roll Racing a must-play.
For those unfamiliar with the original, the game uses a three-quarter perspective as seen in such titles as R.C. Pro-Am. While this perspective can be limiting since you cannot see far in front of your vehicle, it rarely becomes an impediment or handicap while racing. The reason the viewpoint works? First, the tracks are short, so they are easy to memorize. Second, a large arrow at the top of the screen informs players of the next turn's direction -- and since it is not sprung at the last second, there's time to adjust. Third, a transparent overhead map appears unobtrusively in the corner. Most players won't need the map, but it's nice to glance at every now and then.
Since the confusion associated with a limited viewpoint has been removed from the game's potential problem list, players are free to reap the benefits of the isometric perspective. The vehicles are large, well-animated, and the courses sport nice detail. The worlds aren't colorful, however, with browns, blacks, greens, and dark blues making up the limited color palette. Since races are supposed to be on the seedier side, a notion extended by the use of weapons to blast the competition, this is excusable to a degree. A clear grid overlay defines each track, so players know precisely how far to the left or right they can steer.
Controls are neither too tight nor too loose, so Goldilocks would approve. There is a little "floatiness" associated with taking turns, so players have to approach corners as they would in any serious racing game: by steering toward the outer lane just before the turn. Tracks initially are easy -- the game's way of breaking in new players -- but the helpful guard rails will gradually disappear as the competition becomes more savvy with weapons such as mines and laser guns. There are also jumps, intersections, and many other ways to get a thrill, from sliding to skidding to slamming.
If there are any complaints with the game, it's that it is too faithful a port. The only major difference is battery backup to replace the password system, but don't expect tracked statistics or other benefits outside of being able to save and resume progress. Players still only select from a handful of characters, and they can't create their own vehicle, course, or custom season. Two-player racing is supported and works well, but why aren't four players allowed to compete? Even though few enhancements have been made, Rock 'n Roll Racing is still a blast. From Larry Huffman's crystal clear speech that never seems to grow tiresome to the ability to purchase an assortment of upgrades, the game hasn't lost any of its playability during its ten-year hiatus. Let the carnage begin. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Though the dark and murky planets won't take your breath away, the action moves at a perfect clip without any slowdown. The isometric perspective is never a problem during the race. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The voice clips of Larry Huffman are repetitive but they don't sound repetitive, if that makes any sense. The five featured songs are instantly recognizable and lack the tinny sound of most GBA titles. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
While all of the races are structured the same, the computer opponents become increasingly challenging and the action more intense as players advance. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Two-player races are supported with a Game Link Cable, but there's no four-player support. A few enhancements would have been nice to increase replay value once the main tracks are mastered. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Colorful and informative, the manual explains how to upgrade vehicles, offers planet profiles, and more. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide