Barely a month goes by without a new single-screen top-down racer appearing on one of the digital services. It’s a tried and tested way to stir up nostalgia for the likes of Super Sprint, Super Off-Road, and such Amiga classics as Super Skidmarks and ATR. Moto Roader MC dates back to 1992, but manages to feel far more modern, and even fresher, than some of its modern-day counterparts.
This is mostly down to its offbeat, delightfully inconsistent, nature. It may be hard to tell from screenshots and name alone, but it’s actually a futuristic affair -vehicles are a tad sleeker than typical race cars, and also pack two types of weapons: a forward-facing rocket and a rear-deployed pipe bomb.
Opponents are essentially indestructible, but every blow pushes them back, potentially off course. AI is aggressive while also being a tad clumsy – one or two rivals will stick to the optimal path but will bump into barriers when taking tight corners. Some tracks feature speed boost pads, and a select few even have Pac-Man-style exits that take you from opposite sides of the screen.
Track layouts vary from basic ovals shapes to winding courses with risky shortcuts – such as a railway line with a passing train. Trackside detailing is frequently twee, including a field with a mooing cow, and a beachside course with bystanders swimming. In addition to the standard city and circuit tracks – which could have come from any top-down racer – a dozen abstract, and far more colourful varieties feature, seemingly inspired by other PC Engine titles.
Multiplayer is undeniably the focus here – single player is limited to a handful of themed GPs against AI, and a time trial mode. Oddly, races end the moment the first car passes the finishing line, meaning it’s impossible to battle for a better position in the last few seconds. In multiplayer, up to four players can partake (five on Switch) and a two-player car football mode, known as Omaze, features three different pitch layouts.
The menu system is considerably bland – especially when compared to something like F-Zero, which launched a year prior – but there are a few telling signs that this was a CD-ROM² title originally, including a short intro with smooth animation, and CD-quality music evocative of ’90s sports games.
This re-release comes from Ratalaika Games and Shinyuden and is presented in the same fashion as their re-releases of Gleylancer and Gynoug. There’s the usual choice of screen sizes, CRT filter options, and save states. The ability to rewind is present and, wisely, unbind by default to prevent multiplayer sessions from descending into chaos. That’s to say, the rewind option must be manually activated. A thoughtful touch.
Weirdly, it seems there’s no means of returning to the in-game menu or restarting once a race is underway. Pausing simply pauses the action with no additional options. Our workaround was to create a save state of the main menu and reload it instead of restarting entirely.
While not particularly nuanced, the wide track selection and slightly daft tone make Moto Roader MC a fun diversion. It’s easy to imagine the Switch version being entertaining to play in tabletop mode with a few friends huddled together. On other formats, it’s a slightly harder sell, especially when every achievement can be unlocked in around 20 minutes. Still, it’s a good reminder that a little bit of silliness can go a long way.
Moto Roader MC is out 25th Feb on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One and Switch.