STAFF REVIEW of Super Night Riders (Xbox One)

Thursday, May 26, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Super Night Riders Box art I generally know not to judge a book, or game, by its cover, but sometimes it’s hard not to. Sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised, as the gameplay is much better than its projected visuals, and other times, well, your initial judgments are right. Super Night riders fell into this trap for me, as it’s simply not a pretty game to look at, which is forgivable if the gameplay more than makes up for it, but is that the case here? Let’s find out.

Sega AM2 was the undeniable king of racers in the mid 80’s, bringing us such classics as OutRun and Hang-On that still hold up to this day. Instead of a traditional style of racer these games didn't focus on coming in first place as your goal was to reach the end before the time ran out instead, which was a completely different type of challenge.

Playing games from this genre brings back a flood of memories of going to the arcade as a kid and dumping a handful of quarters into OutRun until I was completely out of money. If you’re a fan of the genre like myself, you’ll feel right at home with Super Night Riders, but just know that this title is nowhere near the classics in terms of quality or gameplay.

The genre isn’t known for having any sophisticated stories to tell, in fact, they usually don’t have any sort of story at all. Super Night Riders is no different, so it’s hard to fault it for that. The only issue I found was that the official description of the game states that “You are Alice, a beautiful and talented motorcyclist known as the red rider”, but it does absolutely nothing to further this notion and make it intriguing.

Just like the classics, Super Night Riders utilizes an art style that looks like it could have released back in the 90’s, and while that’s fine for what it is, it looks very basic in many ways. Alice, for example, looks like a Mii character gone wrong and the animations are extremely basic at best. I understand that it’s not trying to be more, but it simply doesn’t have any of the charm that the classics possess. Given the repetitive nature of the genre, somehow Super Night Riders has managed to design itself to the point of dull with its predictable AI layout (which I’ll delve into shortly).

There are two modes within, Course and Stage. Course is where you race through 6 different areas successively while Stage is locked to a single area, but you race the sections at different times of day. With a total of 36 stages (6 areas x 6 times of day) you’ll see all of the backdrops in just a few playthroughs, though they don’t differ at all aside from the difficulty of night racing. Your only goal is to beat the clock and make it to the finish line of the 6th leg.

The only hazards Alice needs to watch for are veering off course and other riders on the road. There’s no animations for crashing, so all that happens when you rear-end an opponent is you simply come to a complete stop and lose precious time. You’ll learn very quickly that if you crash more than two times it’s virtually impossible to make it to the finish, as you’re given very little extra time even if you have a perfect run.

As mentioned above, the AI is predictable to the point that there’s actually a pattern instead of a true AI. While you can steer anywhere on the road, there’s essentially only 5 lanes that the AI stick to: the outer left, left, middle, right, and outer right. For the first hour I was simply guessing at where the bikers would appear on the road, relying on my reflexes to avoid them, but I eventually learned the pattern that is used, making it completely predictable and nullifying any skill needed to avoid them aside from the sloppy controls.

Opponents always come in the same repeated pattern, and there’s only three groups of these bikers, so needless to say it’s a shame that it’s not randomized or at least has more patterns. Regardless of stage or area, it’s always the same: Two in the left lanes, one in the middle, two on the right, repeat. That’s it. So while it’s anticipated, the loose controls make it more difficult than it should be to avoid them (or go off the track), especially when you know where the bikers will be.

Because you’re given just the right amount of time to reach the checkpoints, save for maybe a crash or two, you need virtually flawless runs if you want to progress to all 6 stages, but this is very difficult with the loose controls. If you lean into a turn slightly before you instinctively want to, your motorcycle’s wheels will grip as if they were made out of glue, allowing you to lightly feather off the throttle to adjust and avoid rear-ending opponents. Other times though, and more often than not, you’ll constantly be skidding, making it near impossible to stay on the track and avoid other bikers without slowing down too much to correct your turning. This leads to a lost stage because you’ve wasted too much time trying to correct your steering.

It simply feels as though that you have to worry about concentrating on the controls rather than relying on your skill. You’re also going to have to use all of your concentration when it comes to the absolutely terrible night stages. The street lights emit light that is so bright and flashing (since you’re constantly speeding at 315 km/h) that it’s near impossible to not only see the oncoming bikers (even though you know the pattern), but the curve of the road to prepare to pre-lean into the corner.

For some reason, there is also random framerate issues that occur which cause you to crash almost without fail. This tends to happen when you cross from one stage leg into another, causing a prolonged stutter when the game tries to transition from one setting to the next. Given that you’re constantly steering and avoiding adversaries, you’re almost guaranteed to crash when this happens. If this only happened once or twice I would have written it off as a random glitch, but it’s happened enough times to worth mentioning.

If you’ve somehow managed to survive and make it through all 6 sets of stages, you’ll be challenged with a final challenge, completing all 36 stages in one single race, complete with the same and painful time restrictions. This is simply for people that have a glutton for punishment and achievement hunting.

I love that Super Night Riders is a homage to a dead genre and that it tries to replicate what others have done before, but for a new generation, unfortunately it just doesn’t have the same charm that the classics possess. If it was only a few bucks I would say it would be a decent way to pass some time, but the asking price is $9.99 CAD which I feel is a bit too much for what is offered. If you’re an old school fan of the genre, like myself, pick it up when it’s on sale for about half price, otherwise I would hold off, as there’s simply not enough content or refinement to justify the current asking price.

Overall: 3.0 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 3.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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