Oh wow I wasn’t expecting to pla ythis game ever again! It’s a weird one for me, as this was the first game I ever played. I was 5 or 6 on a family holiday in Cyprus and at that tender age I could spot Super Off Road was…
If you are playing Super Off Road on the NES or in the arcade it is known as Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road as some consoles didn’t have the licence to Ivan Stewart’s name.. I’ll touch on that versions as well, but for the focus will be on the Master System Version.
Super Off Road is a top down racing game. It could potentially be seen as a fore-runner to games such as Rock N Roll Racing as there are RPG elements in that you have the ability to upgrade your car. This is limited to for many reasons which are mostly down to the fact the game is released in 1989 but you’re able to add better tyres, better shock absorbers, faster acceleration, higher speed, and more nitro boosts. But on both the NES Version and SMS version all the upgrades made next to zero difference.
Being designed for the arcade, Super Off Road was designed to use a steering wheel and this results in that awkward jittery controls on both the home ports I tried out. If you have played Micro Machines you’ll have experienced this type of controls but with those Codemaster greats, while frustrating, the controls were pretty competent. Here slightly pressing left or right will put you in a death spiral. It takes some getting used to, but do 2-3 races and the controls will probably click.
Sega Master System version
There are 4, maybe 5 races…
That is like 4 and a half minutes of gameplay. I completed the game winning every race on first attempt.
Nintendo Entertainment System version
I am so glad I chose the Master System version as that was super easy.
The Nintendo version is as close to the arcade version as possible, just with slightly worse graphics. And the aforementioned jittery controls.
Anyhow… It’s the same as the Master System version. There are 4 or 5 tracks (I totally topped paying attention despite getting to race 14 or 15 before quitting) but the levels repeat, first in reverse, then the original way round. So you go clockwise or counter clockwise around the same 4 or 5 tracks until you turn the game off in boredom. Finish a race and you get money, spend that money on the 5 upgrades.
And here, is where the worst aspects of the game comes to the fore. The main focus of the games, is upgrades and they ALL do nothing. The grey car performs the role of Bowser, so expect them to stick to the racing line like a fly on shit and on that race if the game wants him to win, he will. Each race was either me taking the lead in first corner and winning for 30 seconds in a 60 second race, or finishing second as Bowser, sorry I mean grey car speeds off in to the distance finishing 30 seconds ahead of me. I could buy whatever upgrades but it all ended the same way. Every single race.
Not to bag on an 8bit title too much, but man are the graphics choppy. The Master System version is much worse, but expect a level of sprite flicker that is almost the same as “invisibility” mode as your car disappears for 5 seconds at a time.
Even in 1990 when I first played Super Off Road i didn’t especially think much of it. Revisiting it confirms what my minds eye had created over the years. Nothing.
Super Off Road is utterly forgettable. The upgrade path is none existent. the 4 or 5 tracks all play the same and the AI is exactly what you’d expect. Ultimately it would be unfair to say Super Off Road is bad, it is just antiquated and superseded by better games.
Pros: It tries
Cons: It is just a little dated.
Back in the Day:
Super Off Road didn’t score well, in fact it scored atrociously. It got 3.75 out of 10 for the Lynx. However some special cases gave it 80%+
Also Available on: Arcade, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, Game Boy, Game Gear, Lynx, Genesis, SNES, ZX Spectrum