SNES A Day 193: Taz-Mania

Taz-Mania US SNES box art

Approximate Release Month: May 1993
Genre: Racing
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: Sunsoft

The Tasmanian Devil is known for being fast, so making Taz-Mania into a racing game is a decent idea.

Well, Taz-Mania is only kind of a racing game. Taz careens down a series of Aussie highways to catch and eat speedy kiwi birds while dodging various road hazards. You advance to the next level by catching enough kiwis before time runs out, not by reaching the end of the track. You don’t compete with other devils to catch the kiwis. Conceptually it’s not a racing game, but you hold up to accelerate, you have a boost on the X button, and the A button brakes. Taz handles like a car and, moment to moment, Taz-Mania isn’t much different from Road Rash. Instead of whipping bikers with a chain, you’re eating cute birds. Which I feel bad about.

The level of detail in the character sprites and animation is notable. I can see it being very impressive in 1993. When Taz runs into a tree or gets run over by a truck there’s a very cute Looney Tunesy animation. There’s a unique animation for most things, but the repetitive nature of Taz-Mania means you’ll be seeing them a lot. Later levels introduce new bad guys and require catching more kiwis before the timer ticks down. There’s not much here, and even what few powerups there are feel inconsequential.

A bigger issue than the lack of content is the camera. Taz runs away from the screen with the camera behind him, and the draw distance is mostly fine. I sometimes felt like I didn’t have quite enough time to react to a sharp turn or obstacle, but I feel that way with games that play similarly like OutRun or Rad Racer, too. It’s a natural consequence of having a large, detailed main sprite with this perspective. Taz-Mania falters whenever there’s a hill, where those other games were fine. Every hill is disorienting and unpleasant and triggered some light motion sickness in me. You’ll lose track of the kiwi you are chasing and probably run smack-dab into the grill of a sports car.

Taz-Mania is a sparse experience that would feel more at home as a mini-game in a larger, different game. It is exceptionally shallow despite having a concept that is more interesting than it just being a platformer. Trying to figure out whether Taz-Mania is a racing game or not was more fun than playing it.

Next week: As a child, I learned how to play blackjack from Vegas Stakes.

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