SNES A Day 199: Rock N’ Roll Racing

Approximate Release Date: June 4, 1993
Genre: Racing
Developer: Silicon & Synapse
Publisher: Interplay Entertainment

Rock N’ Roll Racing might be the pinnacle of the isometric racing game genre, even without any radical changes over its predecessor.

RPM Racing was Silicon & Synapse’s first game, and it wasn’t very good. Rock N’ Roll Racing improves on it in every way just like any good sequel should. The basic gameplay loop is still the same: you work your way through a series of races, utilizing the money you earn to upgrade your car to make competing in harder races more manageable. There are some differences, like the cars being outfitted with offensive and defensive weaponry, but they are minor compared to the gameplay refinements that have been made. The distracting ghosting and split-screen display are jettisoned for smooth and colorful full-screen sci-fi graphics with lots of detail and control fluidity. It is a remarkable improvement in a short amount of time between game releases.

The only problem I have with Rock N’ Roll Racing is how the career mode is designed. Each set of races take place on a particular planet. With enough wins, you can travel to the next planet’s set of more challenging races. You might need to race as many as 20 times on a given planet before moving on, and the tracks will start to repeat. I don’t know how many tracks are in the game, but there aren’t enough. Besides, since all the races take place on one planet at a time, there’s not a lot of visual variety until you move on to the next planet. Mixing it up would have been nice and less fatiguing to play through.

I have to touch on the music, because the game is called Rock N’ Roll Racing. It was probably very impressive at the time, and the renditions of the five famous songs are genuinely impressive for the Super Nintendo. Having said that, there are only five songs. I don’t know how many times I heard the beginning riff of “Bad to the Bone”, yet it was enough. But the biggest bummer is that the rock-n-rollness doesn’t extend out to the rest of the game. If you mute the game, you’re racing against generic aliens in space. I’m not saying I want to race Ozzy, but… no, wait. In a game called Rock N’ Roll Racing, I actually do want to race Ozzy.

Rock N’ Roll Racing is a lot of fun, though, despite not innovating much over its predecessor. This highlights how important execution is in game development. It also provides an interesting bookend for Silicon & Synapse: RPM Racing was the company’s first game, and Rock N’ Roll Racing is its last. Silicon & Synapse became Blizzard Entertainment in 1994.

Next week: Let’s celebrate the big 200 on SNES A Day by checking out The Blues Brothers!

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