Not long ago I found myself disappointed by Sega's port of OutRun. I felt that even though it did a good job of bringing the arcade classic to the 8-bit arena, it just wasn't that much fun to go back and play again. The 3D aspects were especially hard to look at and the game's handling just wasn't right. Simply put, OutRun is a mess.
But while OutRun failed to provide the action-packed racing experience you'd hope for, Hang On manages it quite well. Although Hang On was released well before OutRun, it does almost everything better and is a much better racing game. It's not a perfect racing game, but it's a whole lot better than OutRun.
Hang On is actually quite a bit like OutRun, it's not lap-based and you're always racing large flat land with different painted backgrounds. The big difference is that you are on a motorcycle, but that's not the only thing that Hang On has going for it. Take for example the implementation of a gear system, requiring you to push up and down on the control to transfer between Low, Medium, and High. This seems a little hard to handle at first, but once you get used to shifting between gears you'll see that it adds a lot of depth to the over all game experience.
Another way you can tell it apart from OutRun is in the competition. For some strange reason the Master System port of OutRun failed to include other racers. Oh okay, it DID actually feature other cars on the screen, but since you rarely saw any they might as well not even bothered. Hang On, on the other hand, has something of the opposite problem. There are simply too many other racers on the course, which leads you to a lot of unfortunate crashes (one tap and you blow up in a ball of flames ... how dramatic). Still, I'd rather have the challenge of a lot of bikes than no bikes at all.
Of course, you aren't really racing against these other bikes. If anything they are merely there to get in the way and make you crash (which they do a darn good job of). Hang On is the type of game that gives you a timer and expects you to get to the finish line in time, if you don't you run out of gas and it's game over. If you do, well it's off to the next exotic locale - which includes deserts, cities, and other wide open stretches of nothingness. Like OutRun, this style of game play has some serious disadvantages. For one thing, the game is pretty unforgiving, making it difficult for you to win even on the easier levels. The game isn't long; it just tries to make up for that by being way too difficult.
On the other hand, Hang On does manage to get a lot right. The game is easy to control and good looking (for a first generation Master System game). It's a little tough, but after you get the hang of it you'll be zipping through the levels in no time. It doesn't offer much more than the original arcade experience - no extra modes, no multiplayer modes - but that should be enough to warrant some of your time. It's not the best motorcycle game on the market, but you'll be hard pressed to do much better on the Master System.