Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NES Month: Rollerblade Racer

Rollerblade Racer
  • Publisher: Hi-Tech Expressions
  • Developer: Radiance
  • Platforms/Release: NES:February 1993
  • Genre: Sports, Action
  • Players: 1
  • Rarity/Cost: NES: Common (US$3-15)
I'm going to be upfront with you: this is one of the worst video games I have ever played in my life. I mean, I know about some of the other worst games on the NES: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Friday the 13th, Back to the Future, etc., but I haven't played them myself. Out of all the famously bad games, the only one I know of that I've played was Superman on the Nintendo 64, and even I enjoyed it at the time -- yes, I know about the whole ring course thing. And if I were to play it again today, I would certainly have to acknowledge that game's horrendous controls. But at least you get to use lots of Superman's powers in the action stages in between. With Rollerblade Racer on the NES, there are no such redeeming qualities. It's so bad, I couldn't even find a high-quality image of the box art. Hint hint.

In Rollerblade Racer, which is in fact a port of a PC game of the same name, you play as Kirk, a boy who just purchased new skating gear and wants to compete in a championship. You have to help him get there, by scoring at least 5,000 points across four levels. However, this is one of the most pointless requirements in all of gaming, since you score points every time you jump - and you'll be doing a lot of it to survive the levels. The four worlds are a neighbourhood, city, beach, and park, plus a bonus level in between. Get this: you can breeze through the second and third levels by finding the right line and going straight forward, not maneuvering at all except for jumping, and lots of it to build up points. And that championship you've been psyched up for? It's just the three bonus courses smashed into one.
If you ever thought you enjoyed this game, you were thinking of Paperboy instead. [1]
This game is displayed in an isometric viewpoint, which combined with other things, gives you a very short range of visibility. For the two stages that actually test your skills, you are ill-prepared to survive everything being thrown at you, be it trash cans, open manholes, or even cracks in the pavement. Cracks are the worst; not only are they *everywhere* on all but the city and bonus levels, but you think you'd be able to roll over them. No dice. Even the hit detection is tipped a little against your favor. There are no continues in this game, either: you can only take four hits times three lives before the game kicks you back to the neighborhood level without so much as a title screen. Oddly, the injuries counter goes up while the lives counter goes down. Umm, consistency please?

As if it wasn't enough for the levels to gang-bang you, you have to wrestle with the controls at the same time. You hold Up to accelerate forward, but it takes so long to get up to speed that there had better be nothing in your way. Even worse, if your thumb accidentally slips to the Left or Right, you'll stop going forward as you unintentionally move to the side. Pressing A makes you jump, which as we discussed gives you points, and holding B makes you crouch down, which maintains your forward momentum. However, if you jump while crouching, you'll perform a spinning jump trick. In theory, this should net you even more points, but if you can believe it, this is impossible to pull off before landing, and you'll just take an injury for your efforts.

The graphics are poorly drawn, and the isometric camera angle is awkward compared to other games that use the technique. Even the music, which would sound natural on a pre-Atari 2600 game console, is well below the call of duty. Don't expect the story to give you any memorable moments either -- in a good way, at least. After finishing a level, the game gives you a safety tip for rollerskating in the real world. I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on a video game that encourages physical exercise outside of playing it, but I have been so far, and I'm not done yet. It turns out you have to score 20,000 points to get the best ending, so if you finish with anything less than that, the game just kicked you one more time after having beaten you half to death. And get this -- the best ending even has a typo in it! I'll spoil it so you have no reason whatsoever to play this game:
And I can't wait wait to stop playing this piece. [2]
Since Rollerblade Racer was released in 1993, when the Super NES and Sega Genesis were battling it out for people's money attention, not many people were exposed to its hazards. It was a low-profile disaster made by six people (two producers, two programmers, and two artists) who got way more credit than they deserve for the product of their figurative loins. I mean, this is so bad, I can't even bear to profane this day, the 25-year anniversary of the Nintendo Entertainment System's debut in North America, by posting this review today, but I did anyway because I'm a sucker like that. When we look back on all the games that proved to be a waste of cartridge or disk space, I urge you to mention Rollerblade Racer in the same breath of all those infamous duds we know and loathe. And it is with that request that I give this game the lowest rating I have ever given, and will give for the immediate future, on this blog.

Control: 1 set of skates out of 5
Design: 1 set of skates out of 5
Graphics: 1 set of skates out of 5
Audio: 1 set of skates out of 5
Value: 1 set of skates out of 5
The Call: 15% (F)

[1] "Rollerblade Racer - NES Screenshots". MobyGames.

[2] "Rollerblade Racer". GameFAQs.

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