The open road awaits you. It’s unforgiving, yet oh so pretty
Racing games have been around since the dawn of the electronic video game. From their roots as simple top down arcade games, they’ve brought heated competition whether the player races against other people or the game’s AI. As a result they’re simple, inoffensive concepts that draw the attention of any age group.
Some notable titles found in the arcade of the 80’s and 90’s include Namco’s Pole Position, Sega’s Hang-On and Taito’s Continental Circus. All three games presented the player with a third person format, coupled with a fairly responsive control system. Personally I prefers classics, such as Taito’s Special Criminal Investigation but that’s another story.
Over the course of the years the graphical quality would come on in leaps and bound, as would the hardware surrounding the game. Hard Drivin’ was one of the first driving games to be fleshed out in three dimensional polygons. Others like Atari’s RoadBlasters and Sega’s OutRun employed the use of cabinets, increasing the player’s immersion within the game.
And after all these years, games still come out that defy the more complex and extravagant of their peers. Sometimes we don’t want a plethora of vehicle management screens. Maybe we tire of the ultra-realistic graphics. Or perhaps we just want something for that ‘pick up and play’ itch that only arcade games can scratch.
Super Night Riders is a motorcycle racing game developed and published by neko.works. On first impression it feels like a love letter dedicated to simpler times, where time itself was the opponent. You are a lone rider racing towards the next checkpoint, while dodging rival bikes along the way. You’ll be riding within a course made up of multiple stages that consist of varying environments. These include places such as a typical urban location, to a serene Japanese-inspired stage complete with cherry blossoms in the wind. Your entire race can be either drawn in the classic mode, which presents both racer and course in retro angular polygons, or you can choose the more rounded Super mode that gives everything a modern next-gen appearance. To accompany your race, you can choose from six different music tracks.
Playing the game
Super Night Riders handles like a typical no-frills arcade racer. You’re only armed with a simple accelerator and brake to manoeuvre through each stage; there is no gear changing here. For each stage, the game gives you around thirty seconds to get from one end to the other. However the game gives you a rather generous extra seven seconds if you play the game on easy mode.
Difficulty ramps up fairly quickly, as stages become twistier and fill up with even more opponents. Colliding with rival drivers doesn’t cause you to crash but merely throws your current speed to naught. Compared to aforementioned arcade racing games, this might seem to be a blessing as dying/respawning used to eat up more time.
During the race, the game will give you points on the distance covered; you’ll earn more points the faster you race, plus you can try and beat the previous ‘lap time’ of each stage. The thirty second time lmit is rather strict throughout, affording you only one collision in between checkpoints. No matter how close you are to the finish, the game is instantly over if you’re even a tenth of a second away from the line i.e there is no momentum to carry you.
Each of the courses consist of six stages that each have their own day and night setting. Most consist of the same layout, though larger corners are more prevalent in the valley and desert, while there are sharper turns in the Japanese inspired “Hanami” stage. Personally I found it easier to navigate the larger sweeping roads of the desert than the more narrow city stages.
For a simple pick up and play racer it’s certainly enjoyable, even more so if you wish to relieve those arcade memories. The minor aesthetic options of enabling scan lines, along with the classic mode give it a nostalgic presentation. The music works well for this setting too, giving you the freedom to choose whichever of the six tracks from the main menu. I do like the option of either racing one particular stage or trying to do all six in one course. However, you’ll have to complete more courses if you wish to unlock particular stages. This is a minor quibble within a largely well-made game.
The bike itself handles very well and at no point did I feel myself losing control via over or under steering. Opponents will merely act as obstacles on the way to the next checkpoint; they won’t intentionally impede your path, sticking to their own route without change. I personally found no bugs or dodgy collision detection either, so when I crashed I knew it was my own fault and not that of the game itself.
Opponent bikers are an even mix of fairly easy to avoid and challenging. Some you’ll need to give a simple wide berth, while others require quicker reactions to pass through. The stages themselves are fairly easy to navigate, each one providing its own unique ambience. Night stages are well lit and even enhance the typically grey cityscapes upon the approaching horizon.
It’s an all round solid racing game that would work well with multiplayer, but it’s still enough fun as a single player experience to stand up on its own two wheels.
4 out of 5