To The House of Pac-Man: Are You Sure This Isn't A Demo?
Once upon a time, there were arcade racers that were uglier than the worst 'Yo Momma' joke. Usually, these games would have players following a straight path -- only taking the occasional bend. This is what players called "thrilling" in the '80s, but the '90s were a different game.
During the mid to late '90s, gamers desired polygons and realistic race tracks with cars that actually followed them, instead of remaining stationary. Fortunately, their wish was granted when the wonderful genie known as Kazaam (don't tell me you haven't seen Shaq's best flick) granted them speedy titles such as Daytona USA, Cruis'n USA, and Ridge Racer USA (actually, it's just Ridge Racer).
These racers were all created using real polygons that put Star Fox's Ugly Betty Super FX polygons to shame. The least exciting of these arcade racers was Ridge Racer, and it was soon brought to the PlayStation.
Back when I was a polygon-obsessed youngster, I noticed Ridge Racer on display in nearly every game store. Whenever I went to the local Blockbuster to play Super Mario 64, I observed a Ridge Racer kiosk adjacent to what was then my favorite game console.
Blockbuster wasn't the only store with Ridge Racer demos -- it was everywhere. Ridge Racer was hot, or at least that's what Sony and Namco wanted us to believe.
Two years later, I finally purchased a PlayStation, and I eventually succumbed to buying Ridge Racer at a "bargain" price. Of course I took my refurbished copy of Ridge Racer home and immediately fired it up, but unlike most games, I quit after a few minutes.
I was itching to play an original PlayStation title the other day, so I inserted my sparkly Ridge Racer disc into my PS3. This vampire locked away in its dungeon had not seen the light of day for over a decade -- and for good reason: it's uglier than a mixture of the ten most hideous player-created characters in Oblivion.
Okay, Ridge Racer didn't look that bad, but its rudimentary polygons, pixelated visuals, unimpressive backgrounds, and plentiful pop-up didn't make for a visually pleasing experience. Clearly, its visuals were typical for a first-generation Playstation title, but was its gameplay anything special?
Not really. Ridge Racer's poor controls, simplistic gameplay, and paltry track offerings make it feel like a Kia Rio -- with bald tires instead of a sports car. This early PSOne title can't be completely faulted for its poor controls, because it came out prior to the release of the Dual Shock controller, but the controls could have been tightened up -- at least to the degree of Nintendo's F-Zero. The addition of power slides or better breaking might have made turning feel less like hitting an oil slick.
Even if you master Ridge Racer's loose controls relatively quickly, you'll only find a game that is about half as long as your average game demo. You think I'm joking? Wait until you see Ridge Racer's single track offering that only has one alteration. Since that's the game's only course, you'd think it'd be a damn good one. Well, it's not -- unless you enjoy two minutes of driving through a mundane city and beach (or if you have a thing for pixelated babes in one-piece swimsuits).
Unfortunately, the game's four automobiles and six forgettable music tracks don't save the experience either. Instead of testing these options, you'll want to hit the power button.
Even though Ridge Racer somehow managed to become a Greatest Hit for the PlayStation, it really hasn't aged well. It's a bit moldy like that cheese you've kept in the bottom right corner of your fridge for three years. The concept of the game in itself isn't terrible, but it's the poor execution, dated visuals, and limited gameplay options that make Ridge Racer a poor purchase -- even for a dollar. If you want a real arcade racer, try something like San Francisco Rush or Burnout. They'll give you better mileage than this used Kia.
Best Feature: It gave EGM a hilarious job interview storyWorst Feature: You call one track with a single, tiny alteration a game?