Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Sega Super Scaler Games #1

Hang-On (1985)
By: Sega Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 6,955,190
Also Available For: Master System, SG-1000, MSX

The strange choice of isometric lettering for the title...
Amusement arcades were once wonderful places, especially in the 80's, and among the most intriguing machines were always those games with the giant moving hydraulic things. I'm not sure who created the first but Sega were certainly responsible for some of the most impressive examples which usually placed you on (or in) a wibbly plastic interpretation of the in-game vehicle in question. One of their earlier efforts was Hang-On which I didn't first encounter until after the more famous Super Scaler trio of Space Harrier, Out Run, and of course the hyper-tastic After Burner but, upon viewing the large red motorcycle that sat it front of its screen, my enthusiasm was far from dampened and I hastily sat astride the device in question. Unfortunately, this quickly proved to be the first of these 'simulator' machines that I didn't get on with, thanks mainly to the need to actually lean all the way in one direction or the other to steer the bike. Realistic perhaps, but difficult for a young pipsqueak like me to get to grips with!

Yep, they all zoom into the distance when you start...
Despite these unique steering difficulties, however, Hang-On was soon revealed to be a basic checkpoint racer consisting of five stages. Progression from one to the next is achieved simply by reaching the end-of-stage checkpoint within the time limit. The stages consist of a two-lane road throughout which is filled with millions of other bikers but there are no positions at stake - they're just there to make things more interesting (and to get in the way as you would expect). The racing is about as uncomplicated as it gets; there are no gears or turbos or anything like that, and there are no bonuses, things to collect, or even tarmac-based obstacles - you just accelerate and steer (or 'lean'). Colliding with another bike merely shunts you to the side a bit but the roadsides do of course feature billboards, rocks, lamp posts, and things of that nature which will knock you from your bike (which then explodes), and most of the times this happens it's a result of bike-to-bike contact so a measured approach is advisable.

Not a harsh chicane but still tricky with other bikes...
Even with the absence of gears, Hang-On is a pretty nippy game with a decent sensation of speed and, as you would expect from a Super Scaler game, the other riders and various roadside objects scale rather splendidly, and the detail is quite good too. Aside from that the graphics are pretty average though. The courses are all completely flat and the roadsides are quite bare much of the time. The only difference between stages are the colours of the roadside and sky, and the small strip of scenery on the horizon. Still, it's not bad for its day and features pretty catchy (though rather quiet) music which suits the fast-paced action well. The time limit is quite strict insofar as if you crash once (a proper explodey crash, that is), it's very unlikely you'll be able to finish the race, which can be quite frustrating, but at the same time it's not a massively difficult game either, and it shouldn't take too much practise to complete.

Running low on time on the desert stage...
If you can handle the giant red plastic bike, that is. Fortunately, there is a stand-up version of Hang-On for cretinous oafs like me and it's eminently emulatable as well which means that the aforementioned practise should be easy to... ummm, practise. The five courses, which run seamlessly from one to the next, by the way, aren't too taxing. They feature a few really sharp corners and left-right-left-right-etc chicanes, but mostly the corners are very manageable. The main challenge comes from avoiding the other riders who don't actually try to block you but they still move around a fair bit. If you get hit or crash, millions of them will fly straight past you too, meaning even more to avoid when/if you catch up! It's not a long game either - a flawless run should take around five or six minutes - so motivation for repeated play is pretty much restricted to improving your stage times and therefore score, but it's usually pretty enjoyable anyway. It could do with a greater variety in the courses, as well as more of them of course, but I guess that's what Super Hang-On is for. It has aged but there aren't too many motorcyle racing games around so it doesn't have too much competition.

RKS Score: 6/10

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