“ Manufacturer: Playstation Tour / Type: Digital Download „
If you were of a cynical frame of mind, you could accuse Sega of making money for old rope, releasing a glut of old arcade games for download on the PSN without changing or updating them. After all, charging (in this case) £3.49 to download a game that is 25 years old is a bit of cheek, isn't it?
On the other hand, there is still a pretty big market for retro games and Sega is one of the few companies that has fully realised this. People are crying out to re-play the games they remember fondly from their youth on new platforms and Sega have obliged by releasing a whole series of older games on the Playstation Network for under a fiver each. OK, so some of them are rubbish, but some - like Super Hang On - are real gems.
Super Hang On was originally released in 1987 and was a simple arcade racer. Riding a motorbike, your task was simply to race along the tracks, reaching the checkpoint before the clock reached zero. Make it and you carry on to the next checkpoint; fail and you are out of the race.
Super Hang On impressed arcade gamers 25 years ago thanks to its impressive speed (and sit-on motorbike in the deluxe version!), challenging gameplay and fun nature Amazingly, given the advances in computer processing power over the last two decades, it still manages to impress. Super Hang On is blisteringly fast and even puts some modern racers to shame. Everything races by at an incredible pace and racing along at over 200mph is a genuinely exhilarating experience. This is EXACTLY what I imagine riding a motorcycle is like- a mixture between high excitement and outright terror.
It's true that in order to get the game running at this speed, compromises have had to be made elsewhere. By modern standards, the graphics in Super Hang On are minimalist. You essentially have the track, some other bikers and a few bits of scenery (rocks, signs etc.), with not much else by way of graphical variety. The graphics also have a slightly cartoony, colourful look (at least by modern photorealistic standards) but this actually works in the game's favour. The graphics scream that this is a title which is all about fun, not realism and so complement the simple but addictive gameplay perfectly.
Sound, too, is excellent. Like the graphics it's relatively simple by today's standards, but nonetheless effective. In-game music can be selected from a choice of four high octane tunes. Everyone will have their favourite, but they are all great and add a lot to the atmosphere. Sound effects are also fairly sparse, but the roar of your bike's engine is particularly good and will help get you in the mood for some serious racing!
The simple controls have also been well adapted for the PS3 controller, with the stick being used for steering and the shoulder buttons for accelerating and braking. These feel very natural and your fingers automatically fall into the right position, so there is no danger of accidentally pressing the wrong button. Controls are also incredibly responsive and, with a bit of practice, you will soon find you are able to weave your bike through the smallest of gaps to avoid rival riders or other hazards. This is crucial as the high speeds and increasing number of hazards mean that precision driving soon becomes essential if you are to make that checkpoint.
It's a shame then, that there are a couple of blemishes which mar the overall game. Some of these are weaknesses in the original arcade version; others are down to the way the game has been ported to the PSN.
First of all, Super Hang On is incredibly tough. It always had a high difficulty level, since it was designed to offer short bursts of gameplay that would see gamers regularly pumping 50 pences into the machine to have another go. As such, it has incredibly tight time limits (particularly on the later levels) so that just one or two small mistakes can leave you with no chance of reaching the next checkpoint in time. Initially, this is not a problem as the game is so much fun that you will simply shrug your shoulders and try again. However, after several failures on the same level (you can't progress to the next until you have beaten the current one) it starts to become a little irritating.
It's also frustrating that when time runs out, your bike stops dead. The joy of some racers is that when the clock reaches zero, your bike decelerates gradually so that if you are close enough, you can crawl your way to the finish line as you are slowing down and qualify for the next stage by the skin of your teeth. Coming to a dead stop just inches away from the checkpoint is incredibly frustrating and not particularly fair.
Whilst in-game controls are generally very responsive, they are sometimes a little too twitchy. This is most noticeable on the menu screens or (particularly) the high score table. It's all too easy to select the wrong thing because the controls here are incredibly sensitive so that even the slightest touch causes the game to spring into action. I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to enter my three letter acronym on the high score table only to completely select the wrong letter. Add in the fact that you only have 30 seconds to enter your name (a feature of many arcade games of the 80s) and this can be frustrating. In fact, I've now given up even trying to stick my letters in and just randomly select any three.
Finally, as with most of these Sega ports, the game doesn't run at full screen, but instead sits inside a box that sits in the middle of the screen. This is obviously due to technical restrictions and the fact that the ratio of the arcade originals doesn't work with today's bigger and more modern screens. Whilst this doesn't have too drastic an impact on the game, it would have been nice to see it running at full screen on one of today's massive TVs!
Despite these weaknesses, Super Hang On proves that a good game is a good game no matter how old it is. Twenty five years on and the simple, fast-paced nature of the game is just as much fun as it ever was. If you enjoy straightforward racing games with a great sensation of speed, then £3.49 is a small price to pay for this arcade classic.
© Copyright SWSt 2012