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Uniracers Package Art
DMA Design

Way back in 1994, not too long after Super Mario Kart became (and, in new versions, continues to be) every household's favorite outlandish racer, a little dose of 2D mayhem called Uniracers hit the SNES. Most racing generally fell under two categories. They would either by quasi-3D, as in the Mario Kart series, or an isometric style like in Rock n Roll Racing. But here comes a side-scrolling game based on Unicycles. Of course, no one is actually riding the unicycles; they just work all by themselves. Oh, and you need to do tricks the whole time. Yeah, it's a little weird, but it's still a lot of fun.


It's not too complex, but it gets the job done well. The cycles have a bit of a 2.5D feel much like Donkey Kong Country. The main attraction is the color; Uniracers is one of the most vibrant games the SNES ever saw. If not for the bright and vivid palette, it would look boring since there are no exciting backgrounds or varied racers. What the game does manage to do is maintain an incredibly fast pace. Uniracers is all about speed. Regardless of how the track or your cycle twists in the air, it maintains it's rapid pace.


Uniracers shows how sometimes simplicity is best. There are basically three sound effects: a bad sound when players scuff a trick, a good sound when players complete a trick and a really good sound when players land a major combination trick. They keep things clear and are as energetic as the loud, frantic soundtrack. The music compliments the fast action well and maintains the games overall feel. Without the ultra-hyper music, the game would not maintain the same adrenaline level that lets it thrive.


Uniracers is the only racing game I can think of that does not use an acceleration button. With the game being played in sidescrolling fashion, the control pad directs the cycle. Push left to go left and right to go right. Every cycle's speed is the same (the only difference in the various cycles is color). Performing tricks is the only way to increase the speed of the cycle. Considering the vehicles of choice have only one wheel, tricks are limited to various twists and flips (and a head bounce!). But the more you play, the more you'll discover the huge number of combinations that can be pulled off. The game loves dropping little comments giving you a pat on the back or a kick in the butt, and it actually helps make the major stunts feel like a major accomplishment.

The skill in driving comes mainly from track memorization and timing. Players have to land their tricks on their wheel, not on their seat. Knowing how much air you have left before hitting the ground, and therefore how much time you have to pull off major combos, is the difference between a nitrous-like "Twister City" and a full-stop "Wipeout." This may seem daunting, but different track colors give indications as to what is ahead, such as a trap, a loop or a major ramp. This lets the speed stay high without sacrificing playability.

And there's a lot to play--32 different tracks spread over eight circuits, plus eight stunt tracks keeps the single player experience fresh. It's amazing how much variety the tracks create. There are plenty of hazards, alternate paths and big drops to cater to novices and experts, and the elements combine to create plenty of close finishes. Later in the game, tracks can play tricks on players, like blurring the screen or reversing the controls.


This is what Uniracers is all about. The two player split screen is even crazier than the single player game. The unicycles have a lot of personality and watching each look back or lean forward to gain the edge on your opponent is a nice touch. Also, because of the amazing amount of stat collection (even by today's standards), players can compare their best times, win percentages, stunt totals and more for up to 16 unique users. The game will even keep track of group stats, like an online clan.


I played three racing games extensively on my SNES--Super Mario Kart, F-Zero and Uniracers. That's pretty good company. Maybe Uniracers is the forgotten one, the overlooked one, the never-saw-a-sequel-like-the-others-did one, but it's one of the most original games I've ever played and a great example of how much fun video games were when they didn't take themselves so seriously. There's plenty of personality in those little unicycles. I actually grew quite fond of mine. I like the green one.

final score 9.0/10

Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
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"Tiger uppercut!!"

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