Approximate Release Date: December 1, 1992
Developer: Distinctive Software
The Duel: Test Drive II is Race Drivin’ done … well, not right, but much better.
The premise of Test Drive II is simple: this is a checkpoint-based racing game where you try to get to the next gas station before your opponent does. If you crash into traffic or run over signs willy-nilly, you get penalized. And it’s all done in a first-person perspective!
First-person anything doesn’t often work on the Super Nintendo for the same reason that 3D, in general, doesn’t: the Super Nintendo just isn’t powerful enough to render everything in a way that is conducive to an entertaining gaming experience. Would Test Drive II be better if there could be more than two other vehicles on-screen at the same time? Would Test Drive II be better if you could see more than a few yards in front of you? Would Test Drive II be better if the courses weren’t so overwhelmingly featureless, flat, and straight?
The answer to all of those is “duh.” Yet Test Drive II is playable, which is something that other envelope-pushing games on the SNES struggle with. And the back-handed compliments don’t end there! The game runs much smoother than it has any right to be and the controls are stiff but not terrible.
There are some legitimately impressive aspects of the game. I don’t like how there are only three cars to drive, but it’s awesome that the cars are real models licensed from Porsche, Lamborghini, and Ferrari. Each car has a different dashboard, too! Another nice touch is the weather effects that affect how the cars handle a bit and add some much-needed variety to the four sets of races.
I wish everything came together in a better way. The Duel: Test Drive II is ambitious and impressive in many ways. But I wonder how much of my enjoyment of it was based on it being categorically better in every way to the abysmal Race Drivin’. That is a weird question to have lingering in my mind. I think the game is okay.