Review by TheRallyBuster
An overlooked, yet enjoyable, SNES racing experience
I used to rent games weekly (or almost weekly) as a young'un. It was a Friday (or Saturday) ritual to go to the video rental place and rent a game that would be mine for a glorious weekend. One of the games that I rented was Michael Andretti's Indy Car Challenge. It amazed me when I was younger, because it had good sound, graphics, and control. Because of that game I eschewed homework and got into trouble over it. How does it stand up today? It's not as good as I once thought it was, but it deserves a place in your SNES collection.
Gameplay is simple. Accelerate, brake, turn, and if you're manually inclined, upshift/downshift. The only problem with gameplay is that the tracks are too narrow, not giving you enough room to pass, and if you bump computer cars in the rear, you slow down while they speed up, making passing a challenge. The car is responsive and the controls won't cheat you out of an enjoyable experience. Races are long enough to make pit strategy crucial, but short enough to make you bored. The game boasts a 12 car field, although I'd rather have an 8 or 10 car field for the amount of laps races are (4 to 8), 12 is very impressive. There are also car settings, but since the developers chose an optimal one for each track, and they don't do anything noticeable, players usually won't mess with it. One issue with racing strategy is that you can't blow out or have tire damage, fuel is the only parameter for making pit stops, which takes a step backward from games such as Newman-Haas Indy Car Racing.
The graphics are very crisp, nothing to complain about. The only pop-up issue in this game is that computer cars sometimes appear and suddenly disappear due to draw distance. Pit lane is clearly marked so you know where to go. Cars ranked ahead of you are marked so you know which cars you have to pass and which are lapped. This game also has a Gran Turismo-style replay feature, while it doesn't look as good as Gran Turismo (obviously), you can see where Polyphony might have taken inspiration for their awesome replays. The backgrounds are inoffensive, which is all I can say, since I don't pay attention to backgrounds when I'm playing a racing game.
This game has such amazing music for an underrated gem. The soundtrack is all rock, all the better to drive around to. The songs are catchy, and you'll find yourself playing this game more to hear them. Some songs are recycled though. One of my favorite songs in this game is the song at the screen where you change your car's settings, it's very bass-y and low key, a nice complement to the pulsating title screen and gameplay songs. There are voices in the game, and not only are they recognizable, they aren't that bad either, which is amazing for a SNES game.
Replay Value 6/10
The only sore point of this game. You'll want to do races until you beat the game in both normal and pro mode, but after that, you'll be likely to put it away after a while. If you have a friend, this is a good change-of-pace to bust out.
Rent or Buy? Buy on the cheap
Rental would be the obvious choice, since I don't think it has enough juice to be a good buy, but since you can't rent SNES games anymore, I'd say buy it if you can find it for 4 to 7 dollars.
Total (not an average) 7/10
This is a challenging game, but once you beat it there isn't enough juice for another go. While it lasts though, it's a very underrated and overlooked experience.
Product Release: Michael Andretti's Indy Car Challenge (US, 09/30/94)
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