Year released: 1987
Even in the early days, racing games ruled the Earth. Ever since Pole Position struck a chord with video gamers, programmers everywhere have attempted to recreate the same magic. In some cases, they succeed (by most accounts, Gran Turismo is a winner), while in others, they fail miserably (Mach Rider, anyone?). RC Pro Am falls somewhere in the middle between the triumphs and the catastrophes. It's an enjoyable game, as long as you give the game a little leway at the start.
The field of play in this racing game is the paved tracks of radio-controlled model cars. Starting with your clunky old red truck, you must negotiate yourself through a grand total of 24 races riddled with obstacles that range from standard puddles and oil slicks to walls that pop up in the middle of the track. In each race, winning is fine and dandy, but under no circumstances should you finish behind your three opponents. If you're caught in the back of the pack when the leader crosses the finish line, it's Game Over.
I would've liked a little more fanfare when you clear all 24 tracks - something along the lines of a one-screen pat on the back applauding your RC league championship or something. But then again, this game is exempt from a plot rating, so the lack of an outright ending (once you get through track 24, you start at the beginning again, though you keep your new car) doesn't injure its score at all. The game does employ a nice device, though - after each race, you enter a "trophy room" of sorts, where you get to see your latest prize along with all the ones you've won up to that point. It's a little underdeveloped, but it does give the player a brief rest between races instead of immediately throwing you into the next competition.
The graphics are the kind of thing you'd expect from a game this age: nothing fancy, nothing too detailed, just enough to show what everything is. To tell you the truth, the spartan visuals actually serves to the game's benefit, as you'll be whooshing by most of the scenery anyway. There's a neat effect when you crash, and your car is reduced to a pile of scrap metal. There isn't a whole lot of music, but what tunes the game has are light and up-tempo. The opening theme when you turn on the deck never ceases to get my blood going. During the race, you'll mostly hear your engine revving up, along with any competitors onscreen. It's a decent enough effect, but does get kind of annoying after a while.
Seeing as no steering wheels had yet been created for the NES, the programmers had to come up with some way to control your vehicle by the use of an NES control pad. For the most part, they do a pretty good job. The only notable deficiency is the lack of a braking system (Down, perhaps?), but letting up on the gas does the same thing (and I do that more than I brake anyway). Turning takes a little bit of getting used to, especially since in the early going you'll be skidding all over the place, but once you get the second-level car it's not that big a deal.
When most people talk about this game, they always bring up one thorn in their side. Beat up on the yellow car too much, and he'll Hulk out (if you'll excuse the term), and suddenly become super-turbo-charged, so much so that not even the fastest car with all the upgrades can keep up with him. Yeah, that is a bit frustrating, especially if it happens in the early going and your only hope is to come in second. But the fact that you actually have the ability to beat up on any car with the use of Missiles and Bombs tends to cancel that problem out, don't you think? You've got two continues to work with, so you do have a little bit of wiggle room to deal with as far as making a late mistake that sends you from second to "OUT".
If you're good enough at the game, though, you're rewarded at the end. Not so much by a congratulatory ending - we've already covered that - but in the final track. Nine laps of a huge track, unadulterated by obstacles, and replete with hairpin turns and one big honkin' straightaway that you can use to leave your opponents in the dust if you've powered up your car enough. That alone is worth the time spent getting that far. If you can't get to that track, this game might give you some frustrations, but it's nothing a little bit of practice can't take care of.
I used to recommend that you "achieve a state of tranquility before trying this one." However, RC Pro-Am doesn't really need you to practice Zen. It's a decent racing game, and can definitely be very enjoyable if you know what to expect.
|Play Control: ||
|Technical Score: 13
|Aesthetic Score: 13
|Overall Score: 72%|