The Reader Request series has been a lot of fun. I’ve gotten to see what games have been stuck in your memory all of these years. This week’s request comes from Graeme Ellis. Graeme requested the unicycle racing game Uniracers. Although racing games do seem to be the most common on the list of Super Nintendo games I have reviewed after playing them for the first time 2 decades late, this seemed unique enough to capture my interest. Then I studied up a bit on the lore of the game. It is most interesting.
As it would turn out, DMA Design was actually sued by Pixar. They claimed that the unicycles bore to striking a resemblance to unicycles in a short film they had produced. Well, Pixar won as they do and the result was that Nintendo, who published it, was not able to make any more cartridges. Still, the initial run was 300K carts so there are plenty to be had. Controversy! This intrigues me. Let’s see if the game was worth it.
The idea of the game is simple. You are controlling a somehow sentient unicycle and racing against another sentient unicycle. The track is made for sweet momma speed and because you are a unicycle, you can also do tricks. Doing the tricks makes you go even faster which is good news because that other sentient unicycle I mentioned? He/she/it is also doing tricks to try and be faster than you. As the game progresses, that happens more often than not.
The tracks themselves are pretty cool. They are color coded so you can have at least a little warning of what is coming. For example, if you see red, it’s time to jump because there is something ahead you do not want to ride over. The track will do things like twist and suddenly change direction, launch you on huge jumps, or slow you down with goo. It’s a nice departure from everything you would have had available racing wise at this point.
The controls are very tight and intuitive. Pulling off stunts is pretty easy using both shoulder buttons, X, and A. That danger is that the ease of pulling off the stunts gives you a hubris about it and you wind up getting greedy. That leads you to not stick the landings which completely kills your speed off. To me, this is just good design. They knew exactly what they were doing here. Not only is the game moving so fast that it’s hard to focus on the track, now you have to make smart split second decisions that can win or lose you a race.
The single player mode is made up of nine circuits that each have five races. One of those races is a stunt challenge where you earn points for your stunts and must reach a certain point threshold before time expires. This was my favorite part personally. It was not unlike a Tony Hawk game. No real pressure, just have fun and see how crazy you can get with your tricks. It also gives your brain a much needed break from the races which can really start to frustrate you after you get past the bronze medal difficulty. In addition to the single player campaign, there is also a split screen multiplayer to see who among your acquaintances truly knows their way around a unicycle.
Visually, this game is stunning. Everything is so colorful and pretty. It does an amazing job of conveying the speed and the unicycles have very neat animations. It makes them seem more like independent beings and less like something you are controlling with a remote somewhere off screen. If there is anything to be said against the presentation, it would be two things. First, the backgrounds are very bland and it’s kind of a shame. You’d want a game like this to have something more fun in the background than a single color with some odd shapes in it. Secondly, the camera is too close to the track. I know they tried to remedy this with the color coding of the track but I want to see what is coming. That is just how my brain works.
Overall, Uniracers is fantastic. There isn’t really any other racer like it (thank you, Pixar). Great design, great controls, and great visuals combine to make another SNES gem that I am glad to have uncovered. This is most definitely the type of game I would have spent countless summer hours on trying to beat into oblivion and improve my race times. Even though production was cut short on this, you can still grab a loose cart for under $10 and I highly recommend you do so. Thank you again, Graeme Ellis for the suggestion. Do YOU have a request? I’m all… eyes I guess. Email it to me and I will add it to the list as the Reader Request series will continue until I run out of requests.