Monday, January 28, 2013

NES Replay: Al Unser Jr's Turbo Racing

Developer: Data East
Publisher: Data East
Released: 1990
Vroom?: Vroom.

In NES Replay, we go through each NES game from A-Z to see if they're any good. Today: Al Unser Jr's Turbo Racing.

The more I played Al Unser Jr.'s Turbo Racing, the more it came back to me: I played this game years ago.

I was a young kid and was over at someone's house. There were some kids who were much older than me, all about 16 years old, and they were really good at Turbo Racing. They didn't want to let me play because they were winning races and were afraid I would start losing. Finally their mom made them give up the controller. They left in a huff, so I played Turbo Racing and crashed my car over and over. Then I played Marble Madness and crashed over and over. I wasn't very good at video games.

Anyway, Al Unser Jr.'s Turbo Racing is really close to being a very good racing game. There's lots of customization, there's a season mode of sorts, the controls are decent and the music is good.

Vroom! Vroom! I'm a racecar!
Yet, there are three things holding it back from being great:
  1. You don't see where you are on the track. In the HUD at the bottom of the screen, you have your speed, the gear you're in and a picture of your racer. What you don't have is the outline of the track and where you are on it. That would be really good information to have, because...
  2. Turns come up really fast. Especially at faster speeds, you have almost no time to downshift and lower your speed coming into a turn. Signs will pop up that the turn is coming, and then you'll crash into said signs because the turn was right there. Haven't memorized the track yet? Too bad! Prepare to crash into a wall!
  3. Bumping your fellow racers crashes your car, but not the other one. The track isn't very wide, and there are other racers that are, of course, trying to race with you. If you so much as brush them, your vehicle crashes, while the other guy continues unscathed. It's completely unfair.
How could these problems have been fixed? Widening the track, increasing the draw distance, putting more detail in the HUD, and improving the AI. Problem is, the NES wasn't that powerful, so there was no way they could have done everything wanted to do without destroying the game's framerate and rendering it completely unplayable

I really can't fault the makers of Al Unser Jr's Turbo Racing for this, though. You can tell that they really tried to make a Formula One sim, but fell short due to the limitations of the NES. This game isn't a total failure, just lackluster.

Final Rating:

Next Week: Aladdin

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