If you're a fan of portable game systems and big on speed, then chances are you've found what you're looking for in Sony's PSP. With over a dozen racers on the system some might rightfully complain that there are too many good racing games for one portable system. But this is a brand new phenomenon, never before have we seen so many quality racers on one portable game system.
The truth is, when it comes right down to it, most portable racing games suck. In the past, portable game systems have failed to have hardware that could support 3D effects, the screens were often too small, and it was just hard to create the feeling of racing with such a limited storage medium. No matter what portable system it was for -- Lynx, Game Gear, Game Boy, Wonder Swan, Neo Geo Pocket -- if it was a racing game it probably sucked.
But not Super Off Road. For whatever reason, Super Off Road turned out to be one of the better portable racing games. It doesn't sport fancy 3D graphics and it's not the best single player game, but it's fast, exciting and manages to recreate the feeling of the popular arcade game. That's not bad for a little Game Gear game.
Super Off Road is exactly what you want from an arcade port, it looks remarkably similar (albeit with less detailed graphics) and has everything that made the arcade version so successful. You race against three other off road trucks, each trying to get to that checkered flag first. You can use nitros or just learn to take the corners better, but no matter what you do it's your job to finish first. Sure it's not original, but when the game is this fun who cares?
There are quite a few different tracks in Super Off Road, each one becoming more and more complex. Between the matches you can upgrade your truck and get it ready in hopes you might win. Nearly every level and detail from the arcade title is transplanted in this Game Gear game; this is a satisfying game for just about anybody ... even those who thought that there were no good portable games before the year 2001.
The graphics in Super Off Road are good, but certainly not great. The system is asked to display four vehicles going at top speed all at the same time, which wasn't exactly the Game Gear's strong suit. The title runs smooth, though, with no slow downs or frame rate issues. It's not going to win any awards for its presentation, but you have to sacrifice something to have great game play.
It's not that the game play is necessarily "great," it's more of a matter of them working well for the time. By today's standards Super Off Road feels archaic, it controls a lot like an RC car. But this was a problem that even the console versions had. For what it's worth, the controls work as well as can be expected, after a couple laps around you'll have the hang of it and have no need to complain.
In the fine history of racing games, Super Off Road may not be considered the best. But this is a fun portable game that plays a lot better than you might expect. It may not hit the notes that Rad Racer or Daytona USA went for, but it does enough right for me to recommend it. If you're a Game Gear owner who needs a great racing game, you can't go wrong with Super Off Road!