Friday, January 6, 2006

R.C. Pro-Am

I'll put this bluntly; anyone who grew up in the late '80s without any exposure to this game was severely impaired. Now, by impaired I don't mean handicapped, disabled or any of the other politically correct terms that might have become associated with the word in the years since... I mean they weren't given the same chance as the rest of us. They weren't given the proper boundaries within which to grow, the tools to make something of themselves. This game is that good.

Well, perhaps I'm exaggerating a tad. RC Pro-Am was the stuff of legend only days after its initial release. The formula was simple enough to understand right out of the box: race RC (radio controlled) cars around, avoiding oil slicks, puddles and the occasional roaming thunderstorm (!) and arrive at the finish line first. It was easy. Perhaps a little too easy. By the time you'd arrived at track number two, this friendly little race had thrown aside the kid gloves and assumed a much more disturbingly serious guise. Those friendly little RC cars could suddenly fire missles, they could lay bombs... if you snagged the right powerup, you could even send your opponents sailing into the walls with nothing more than a nudge. What was once a jog in the park was now a hustle through the minefield. The jolly blue and yellow computer-controlled drivers were suddenly packing heat and out for blood.

Naturally, this violent streak was the real selling point, and it called out the similarly vicious child audience in drones. If you think about it, the children of the '80s thrived on destruction. They saw GI Joe and Optimus Prime vanquishing their foes with lasers every weekday, and ran right out to attempt the same resolution to their own everyday problems. Toys were manhandled. Sisters were bruised. Army men were mutilated by the amplified rays of the sun. So, naturally, everybody seemingly jumped at the opportunity to drive these helpless computer-driven vehicles off of the road, laughing all the way to the victory lane... and I'm sure more than a handful had hoped to do the same to their friends. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be... the developers at Rare, ltd. couldn't get a worthwhile head-to-head mode off the ground and the original Pro-Am shipped as a single player-only affair. A real loss, and one of only two major downfalls I can find in this game... the other being the sound.

Now I'm sure many of you can recall the themes to Metroid, Super Mario Brothers or the Legend of Zelda on cue. Some of you are humming them right this very moment, cursing my name for even mentioning them. Such is the result of a youth spent entirely before the television. I can guarantee you, nobody in America remembers the in-game music to RC Pro-Am. That's because there was no music, only the ongoing monotonous drone of the engines. Sure, once the discovery was made that the alternate button blew the horn, a new tone was added to the cart's deep repertoire of gaming melody, but that just wasn't quite enough for me.

Otherwise, the game's stupendous. Great handling, more than enough challenge for older players but easy enough for the lil' ones (and parents, I guess) and an addictively simple premise. If it weren't for Pro-Am, it gets a little tougher to imagine developers taking a risk with future titles like Super Off-Road, Cruisin' USA and Twisted Metal. If you've still got this one laying around from your youth, count yourself lucky... if not, do what I did. Nab it at a flea market for a couple bucks. Strongly recommended.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.6

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