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Written by Layden   
Sunday, 26 September 2010 11:24

Super Hang-On

Developer: Electric Dreams
Release date: 1987
Review machine: Commodore 64



Super Hang-on is a conversion of a classic 1986 Sega coin-op machine.  The player takes control of a supercharged motorcycle and competes in a series of races against the clock.

There are four stages, each of varying difficulty.  The player selects which course they wish to attempt at the start of the game.  Once this is done, the race then begins.  The game offers a fairly simplistic driving model.  There are no gears.  However, once the player reaches a certain speed, the speed indicator turns red and the player can then hold down the nitro button for extra speed.

There are other riders on the track.  The player has to negotiate their way round them, but they are not direct competitors.  This is purely a race against time.  If the timer runs out before the player reaches the next stage then it is game over.

It all sounds so good.  Indeed, the coin-op version was stunning for the time.  Unfortunately, the C64 version is not very good.  In fact, this is probably being too kind to it.  It's terrible.  My understanding of race games is that they are generally supposed to be fast.  This game runs at a snail's pace.  At the speed of 324 kph, the game feels more like 24 kph.  This, of course, ruins any chance of the game being thrilling or fun.  The game runs so slow that it is actually pretty hard to crash, which renders the game very boring also.

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Graphics and audio

Speed issues aside, the game completely lacks decent graphics.  The background graphics lack both definition and colour.  Note the grey "tree" in the above screenshot.  The bikes are better however.  There is so little variation in the graphics that any desire to see more of the game vanishes after a couple of stages.

The actual road routine works well.  Hills and perspective are convincing enough.  It's a shame that it all runs so slowly.  The lack of speed and the fact that the graphics run in a window 256 pixels wide (C64 display is 320 pixels wide) suggest that the road generating routines were ported from code belonging to a different computer.

The game feature a number of pleasant tunes, but they are completely different to the coin-op tunes.  Strange.  Sound effects are very basic, but work well enough.

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It's probably not much a surprise that Super Hang-On had something of a low-profile release on the C64.  Despite heavy advertising, magazines struggled to get hold of a review copy before its release.  Eventually the game was shovelled onto compilation releases, where even more unsuspecting gamers had it forced into their collections.

Due to its low CPU speed, the C64 always struggled to provide decent racing titles.  However, with the right sort of compromises or clever programming, it was certainly possible to make decent racing games.  If you want a bike game on the C64, give Super Hang-On a miss.  Try Epyx's Super Cycle instead.  Super Hang-On boasts the special status of being one of the worst commercial C64 games of all time.


Other formats

Obviously the coin-op is the one to play if you can.  After that the Megadrive/Genesis version is very good.  The Gameboy Advance version found on Sega Arcade Collection is rather stunning.  The Amiga/Atari ST versions are OK, featuring nice mouse controls but naff sound.  On the 8-Bits, the ZX Spectrum version is very impressive.  The Amstrad CPC version, less so.  Needless to say, all versions are better than the C64 version.

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