Blog post by Gemma @ Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24 (originally written by Gemma and published on Retro Collect)
Something wonderful happened on the Super Nintendo back in the mid-nineties. In fact a lot of amazing moments derived from that 16bit King Console. Long before the days of Grand Theft Auto on the Playstation 1, DMA Designs were hard at work designing a Super Nintendo game that I deem was one of a kind...
Unirally as it is known here in the PAL regions (Uniracers in North America) boasts some of the most eccentric ideas I can recall alongside Earthworm Jim. You take the role of a single Unicycle and your mission is to race your opponent to the finish line. What's eccentric about that? First off, the Unicycle's are completely riderless. It would seem that DMA Designs created each Unicycle with his/her own mind and personality not so much in unicycle's being to ride riderless but in the flamboyant celebrations after winning a race. I specifically recall my yellow Unicycle mimic a form of bow; a form of Chivalry I wouldn't expect to see from a Unicycle?! Nonetheless, this captures the essence of Unirally so well and it would seem that the fun never ended.
Unirally takes place on colour popping 2D tracks (another ingredient to the loud and bashful nature of Unirally) and operates over a split screen when in 2-player mode and single screen when played against AI. With just about every twist, turn and loop you can imagine it's up to us to gain as much momentum as possible to reach the finish line in first place. Executing stunts is a crucial part of the core gameplay mechanics as you're rewarded with a speed bonus. Speed can be both an advantage and disadvantage and herein lays the challenge of Unirally for even the most seasoned of players.
#1: High Speed can kill
It sounds like a TV advert: High speed can kill but in Unirally there has never been a truer point to discuss. As we gain momentum by landing tricks and stunts the speed seems to increase ten-fold. I often got a little too confident at these points by trying to pull off the most elaborate tricks and landing smack on my seat! What does this mean? That's when you lose all of your speed and the other unicycle flies ahead.
At times it feels like you're moving in slow motion to try and re-gain that momentum again. Adding insult to injury there's a really neat feature that shows you how many seconds behind your opponent you are. By making one mistake you can easily fall five to ten seconds behind which seems almost impossible to re-gain.
#2: Practice doesn't always mean perfect
The first track on Unirally is incredibly simple to win and win comfortably. It's a straight line which means you can pull off simple jump tricks to gather the all important speed. That's right! There's no need to fear the punishing twists, turns, loops and drops, that litter the proceeding tracks.
It seems no matter how much I play Unirally I never seem to master the tracks. Being able to anticipate the next turn or loop is crucial in planning what tricks to pull out. At times the tracks seem very tight which make plenty of room for error. Have you ever won a race (aside from the first straight track) on the first go? Perhaps you have but I would imagine that it would be a small number of people. DMA Designs must have had a heap of fun designing the levels in Unirally but it's very difficult to dislike.
Perhaps it's one of those games that was created with a deliberate attempt to just be difficult!?
#3: "I've never heard of Unirally"
I recently spoke with someone who had never heard of this game which shocked me as I'd become overly familiar with the craziness that lay beyond the wheel of those darn unicycle's. At first I wondered "where have you been?" but then I realised that there was more to this?
Pixar sued DMA Designs for Plagiarism based off the designs of the unicycles in Unirally. Pixar's 1987 short CGI film Red Dream involved a red unicycle and herein lay the dispute that Pixar eventually won in court. Mike Dailly, one of the Unirally developers said: "We modelled the unicycle exactly, based on a real life unicycle. The problem with Pixar was that they seemed to think that any computer generated unicycle was owned by them".
As a result on 300K carts were made and sold by Nintendo. Mike Dailly said: "The deal was that Nintendo wouldn't make any more carts so Unirally only sold the 300k initial run". When I read about this I felt rather upset as I felt that the series had a long shelf life.
What does this have to do with Unirally being a difficult Super Nintendo Game? As I got older I started to appreciate at just how difficult it can be for developers to bring games to market. Unirally is a prime example of how Politics can break a game's true potential over minor details.
Whilst this doesn't have anything to do with the gameplay or overall enjoyment itself; the twists and turns of the tracks and the difficulty of landing tricks, for me, represents what DMA Designs must have been going through to try and keep Unirally's production alive. Unfortunately, DMA failed. In this instance the track beat the unicycle with Pixar being track and DMA being the unicycle. What a shame.
Ending on a high...There's no doubt in my mind that Unirally is one of the Super Nintendo's finest racers. Packed full of colour, fun and challenges Unirally is well worth a look in if you haven't already. Whilst Unirally was plagued post production; what we know is clear: there are 300K carts out there! Go and make one of them yours!
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