Monday, 2 September 2013

Retro Review - Banishing Racer (Gameboy)

I like driving in my car!

Anyone who enjoys retro videogames (and I assume you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't) knows that the weirdest and wackiest games usually come from Japan – this is just considered a fact of life. You can always rely on the Japanese to produce a game with a bizarre storyline, strange characters and settings, and crazy game mechanics that will have you looking vacantly at the screen and thinking, WTF? ('text speak' purely used there to appeal to the 'youth market')

Banishing Racer isn't as far out as many titles, though it will still have you giving your Gameboy strange looks and raised eyebrows. The premise of a 2D platforming game staring a car as the main character may seem like another wacky idea but, by the time of Banishing Racer's release, it had already been done before – most notably in the 1981 coin-op title Jump Bug, and later on in titles such as City Connection (1985) and Core's 1990 Amiga title Carvup. While these last two involved colouring in platforms by driving over them - with the aim being to colour the entire level - Banishing Racer simply tasks you with getting from A to B – the standard platform game drill i'm sure you are all familiar with.

Starting off in the wheels of a tubby little car (I am unsure what model he is based on, but seeing as he looks as though he was drawn by a child and seems incapable of moving at a decent speed, I am going to guess Smart car or a Fiat Panda) you must simply move right, avoiding the other vehicular enemies in order to reach the exit sign. He moves fairly slowly but can, thankfully, boost with the tap of the A button. This can be done both on the ground and in the air, meaning you have some degree of control over your jumps. Enemies are destroyed with the age old head stomp manoeuvre, with large foes such as lorries taking a few more bounces to destroy. Bouncing off 4 enemies in a row awards players with a 1up, as well as a sense of minor satisfaction. After completing the simple first stage, the game switches to a Balloon Kid style level, in which you must repeatedly tap the jump button to stay airborne, avoiding parrots. Quite why your car sprouts wings for this stage, or why he has angered a flock of colourful birds, is unclear – it's just another one of those eyebrow-raising moments provided by this oddball title.

Starting in San Francisco, and moving on to Las Vegas, it would appear Banishing Racer is opting to treat us to a classic American Road trip. Not that the game sticks to any logic as the first boss battle in San Fran is with a dinosaur. More suitable, although no less ridiculous, are the enemies on the Las Vegas stage, which include coin spitting slot machines. Upon completing a level, the hero starts wiping his head while a fairy stands next to him clapping, but by this stage you are used to weirdness and don't even bother to question why the main character has suddenly become 3 times his original size (the same happens when you die).

OK, so Banishing Racer is actually a bit rubbish - it slugs along at a snail's pace, is extremely basic and will only hold your attention for one or two goes at the most, but it's a quirky that has a lot of curiosity value in its weirder moments and will provide a few minutes entertainment.

Title : Banishing Racer
Developer : Jaleco Entertainment
Year : 1991
System : Gameboy

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