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Off Road Challenge (N64) Review

Background Info

If you couldn't tell just by the numbers, this game is not even worth a rental, let alone a purchase. If sarcasm is beyond you, I don't recommend reading the rest of this review. From Super Nintendo type graphics to irritating, repetitive sounds, Off Road Challenge delivers a sub-par racing experience.

Presentation/Graphics : 40
The basic visuals strongly resemble Cruisin' USA; however, despite being released well after Cruisin' USA, Off Road Challenge does nothing to improve the graphics in any way. Usually when a game has weak graphics, it has an exceptional framerate. Games with great graphics like WWF Warzone run at a constant 30 frames per second, while fast games like F-Zero X run at 60 frames per second. With graphics like Off Road Challenge, you would expect at least 60 fps. However, Off Road Challenge delivers an astonishing 20 frames per second. This causes the game to run so slowly that you can't help but laugh out loud when the speedometer reads 130 miles per hour beacause it feels like the go-karts in Mario Kart 64 would burn past the trucks as if they were standing still. The trucks and buggies themselves are blurry, with hideous colors which really fail to bring out the desired atmosphere. Not only are the vehicles poorly done, the backgrounds are also a repulsive color and extremely blurry. Off Road Challenge does nothing to demonstrate the sharp, lush colors gamers have come to expect from the N64.

Presentation/Audio : 75
I have no idea where to begin describing this boring, repetitive sound. I have seldom heard worse generic music and mono sound. Each truck has its own engine sounds as well as braking sounds. For the first time, the sound deters players from winning as they are treated to some type of screeching sound for their troubles. It is pretty obvious that no recent technology was used in the sound compression and this title will undoubtedly damage Midway's credibility.

Interface : 60
Nothing special in this department. The basics are all there though there is an inexcusable lack of options. There is a 2 player option, though it's not very entertaining as the game becomes even more glitchy and awkward. It is impossible to play with 3 or 4 human players which pretty much sucks. One of the few positives is the fact that due to so few options, the interface is really easy to navigate. Nothing is hidden, though this is primarily because there is nowhere to hide anything in this barren cartridge. I'm shocked the instruction manual dedicated an entire 2 pages to the options (though most of that space describes how to use a controller pak).

Gameplay : 40
Another tremendous disappointment is the gameplay. The controls, especially early on, are extremely sensitive, and the slightest tap can send your vehicle into the invisible barriers on either side of the track. If you are wondering why a game titled Off Road Challenge has invisible walls on either side of the track which prohibit the driver from really doing any kind of off-roading, don't ask me. In terms of options, this game provides the the bare minimum. It has a boring 2 player option, a single race, and the Off Road Challenge circuit. With all this variety how will gamers ever get bored of playing this potential classic (more of that sarcasm I promised)? There is a choice of 8 vehicles though many are virtually identical, and none are really innovative or fun to drive. Even the buggy appears to move slowly, though it just flies past some of the larger trucks. There are 8 tracks to chose from, and they would be actually a strong aspect if Acclaim had taken the time to render them nicely. However they are blurry and generally quite dull.

Difficulty : 72
Well, although the game is pretty lousy, it is very difficult. I'm not an expert on racing games, but I can usually hold my own. There are 5 difficulty setting ranging from very easy to very hard, and unlike quite a few titles, normal is actually challenging. Whether or not that is attributed to the brutal play control and obstacles that are so blurry they can hardly be distinguished as obstacles is beyond me, but nonetheless, it is difficult.

Overall : 49
Not a whole lot to say here I'm afraid. If you got the impression that I am someone who really despises racing games, you are mistaken. In fact, I just really despise this one. I strongly recommend against even renting this title, especially considering the number of solid racing games available for the N64.

By: Dave T. 8/23/98

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