Super Speed Machines (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
Super Speed Machines has possibly been in publishing hell for longer than any other DS title and the game first came to our attention some years ago as Temco's Top Gear: Downforce. Since then the game has not only changed publisher but also it's name although the game itself remains unaltered. There's a huge appetite, amongst gamers, for top down racers and with the last decent effort being Prargon 5's Karnaaj Rally, on the GBA, surely it's time to start up those engines once again.
As with most racers, Super Speed Machines allows you to indulge in a 'quick dip' or a more engaging (and longer) experience. We'll deal with the latter first which here is the Championship Mode. This puts your driving skills to the test in eight various competitions all of which consist of three tracks. The object here is to come first in each race (or certainly within the top three) so you'll have a chance at grabbing those all-important points which is essential to move through to the next round. All of this isn't nearly as simple as it sounds though with each stage becoming progressively more difficult with the odd track requiring considerable practice before you can even begin to master the various twists, turns and short cuts. Even before you enter any of these competitions though, you'll be forced to place a choice of hazards at a variety of points on the track. This could be floods, debris or even whirlwinds although why this is even an option is a complete mystery and rather adding to the overall challenge it does instead simply slow things down.
Outside of this you can also indulge in a Quick Race or try one of the may Time Trials. Multiplayer fans have also been catered for and not only will you be able to battle it out with some friends but the developers have also included a single cart play, something which is absent on far to many occasions from even the simplest of titles.
The developers have clearly spent some time on the control system and considering this is an arcade racer, your cars have a considerable amount of varying weight attached to them. Hills, for example, cause your car to loose power and struggle to get to the top whilst water and oil will see you to losing control for a moment. It's these little additions, which help to make this game a lot more challenging and satisfying that you'd first expect. One problem we did have is with the ever-changing direction of the track and because you control the car as if you were behind the wheel, it can get very confusing after multiple turns especially when you are under real pressure to cross the finish line first.
Visually, this game is very pleasing indeed and the developer could easily have gone the 2D route or at least a flat game with 3D elements. Instead, the whole thing has been carefully constructed in 3D and the tracts themselves are imaginative and well designed. All this is, of course, very small (even on the DS XL) but you do still get the full impact when browsing though the cars which have an incredible level of detail as they rotate in front of you.
The music throughout is suitably 'racey' with the soundtrack altering to reflect the current tracks theme. The sound effects aren't bad either with the cars sounding incredibly powerful even considering their miniature appearance. You can also use the engine sounds to your advantage and you'll often be warned that a competitor is closing in on your position as their engine become louder as they approach. This works even better if you are playing the game with headphones and for that reason alone, we'd recommend digging a set out.
Other than selecting the odd menu option and your chosen 'hazard' absolutely nothing.
What will make Super Speed Machines a must have for gamers is the fact that it's challenging from the very beginning and you don't get the impression (as with most racers) that you are simply going through the motions until you get to the final levels. It also helps that it looks and sounds great although we're still not entirely sure why Tantalus felt the need to add the pointless 'hazard' option, which slows down an otherwise perfectly entertaining game. As we mentioned earlier, the top-down racer is not a genre that has been visited a great deal, on the DS, but SSM shows just how it should be done.
Pro: Great Arcade Racing, Nice Visuals, Single Cart Multiplayer.
Con: Unnecessary 'Hazard' Feature.
Final score: 7.3