Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ultra Review Roundtable: Uniracers (1994)

Ed.: Once again, the Ultra Review Roundtable convenes, this time to take on Uniracers for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System!


Uniracers, also known as Unirally in PAL territories, is a video game created by DMA Design, now known as Rockstar North, for Nintendo of America. Uniracers was called 1x1 during development and was released for the SNES in North America in 1994 with a PAL release in 1995. The game focuses on fast moving racing action and shows that the SNES could handle games similar to the popular Sonic games on the competitor’s Genesis without the need for "Blast Processing."

An interesting Uniracers history lesson is that shortly after the game's release, DMA Design was sued by Pixar for allegedly copying the unicycle design and concept from their 1987 short film Red's Dream. Mike Dailly, one of the developers at DMA Design, commented, "The problem with Pixar was that they seemed to think that any computer generated unicycle was owned by them." DMA Design lost the lawsuit, and as a result, Nintendo had to terminate production of further Uniracers cartridges. According to Mike Dailly, "The deal was that Nintendo wouldn't make any more carts so Uniracers only sold the 300k initial run." Many reviewers and players believe the game would have been quite successful, given its critical praise, had it not been limited to its 300,000 production run.

The gameplay of Uniracers involves racing riderless unicycles around a 2D track. Heavy emphasis is placed on performing stunts which causes the unicycle to go faster on race or circuit tracks and earn points on stunt tracks. The stunts that can be performed are relatively simple, mostly only involving jumping in the air and rotating about a given axis in 3D space. The idea is to be able to perform these stunts quickly in tight situations while landing the unicycle on its wheel to avoid wiping out, which results in the loss of accumulated speed. If a long series of stunts are completed before landing, you receive a message saying,"Dude!", "Whoa!", or something similar.

Uniracers features nine tours of five tracks each (two race, two circuit, one stunt) for a total of 45. Beating each of the first eight tours requires defeating computer-controlled opponents for each of bronze, silver, and gold ranks. The last circuit features the Anti-Uni as the computer controlled opponent. During that tour, touching the Anti-Uni causes several odd effects, such as the track becoming invisible, the controls reversing, and the background no longer moving in sync with the actions. Split-screen two-player modes are available as well, including a league mode that allows up to eight players to compete in one-on-one races. There are 16 different colored unicycles to choose from, each with a save file and customizable name.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics are vibrant and colorful. The levels are multicolored bars that display patterns according to the tracks layout, these bars correspond to maneuvers you should or shouldn't perform at that time in the track, for example a solid yellow bar indicates a shortcut and orange/yellow bars indicates an upcoming hazard. The unicycle animations are expertly done and show off a great deal of personality which is surprising considering what they are.

Musically, Uniracers has some very catchy tunes that will pump you up and really give the game a sense of speed. The only issue here is that the tracks are too few in number and due to the short nature of the levels, you will be hearing songs repeated quite frequently. The sound effects have a great feel to them. From peeling out to the crazy effects that play when you properly execute a trick, every one feels like they are perfectly in place.


“Not only is it so unique and crazy but it truly works so well and is a blast to play.” --

“Fast reflexes and quick thinking go hand in hand and are the true keys to the palace in
terms of complete Uniracers mastery.”

Uniracers feels like a throwback to the pre-NES era, with several dozen short, 2-D
tracks that can be sampled quickly, but take time and experimentation to master.”

Developed by: DMA Design
Published by: Nintendo
Released: 1994
Platform: Super Nintendo
Genre: Racing
Perspective: Side-Scrolling

HagenDragmire from
Current SNES Favorites: BS Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Stone Tablets, Mega Man X, Zombies Ate My Neighbors
SNES Dislikes: Mortal Kombat (No Blood!), Double Dragon V, Doom (Modified Garbage)

Uniracers is a game that I can always play for a short stint or two. This time around we pulled it out on a retro drinking Friday and did a little head to head competition. I immediately remembered the level tune that sounds like Redneck Punk by the band Jackyl which was always hilariously classic to me. It only took a couple of races before the Uniracers virgins became proficient enough to compete with the veterans. That says a lot about the versatility and great learning curve of the game. Uniracers is all about memorization and perfection of each and every track. The key is knowing where every paint spot is and the twisting loop trap is before it comes up and figuring out each spot where you can maximize your trick potential.

These twisting loops always caused frustration.

The other great thing about Uniracers was the being able to replay each level in single player versus a progressively more difficult opponent. Oh that evil Goldwyn, how I hate thee! The trick levels were a thing of beauty and perfectly broke up the racing levels which made things constantly fresh. Having some single races and others with laps was also a nice bonus. Overall this is a must have for all SNES owners. You don’t have to be a fan of racing games to get enjoyment out of Uniracers.

5 Uniracers out of 5

Sushi-Xpired from
Current SNES Favorites: Super Castlevania IV, Final Fantasy II/IV, Actraiser
SNES Dislikes: Captain Novolin, Dream TV

"Eunuch racers? What? I'd have done my racing before they got a hold of me, boys. Is that
what they do to you at them crazy unisex hair salon barber shop places with the pizza and the
Space Man game?"

In the era of Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct, Nintendo and DMA Design Ltd.'s Uniracers made more subtle use of pre-rendered CG sprites. Most of the 2MB cartridge memory is devoted to graphics for the titular unicycles, allowing them to rotate smoothly through their acrobatic maneuvers, which means there isn't a lot of space left for gameplay. But that's not necessarily a bad thing; if anything, Uniracers feels like a throwback to the pre-NES era, with several dozen short, 2-D tracks that can be sampled quickly, but take time and experimentation to master. There's a lot of fun to be had here, the races are fast-paced and kinetic, and mastering some of the tracks, like the cheekily named “Wario Paint”, requires memorization and precise timing. The AI opponent doesn't always put up much of a fight early on, but the solo stunt tracks with steep curves and overhead leaps of faith provide some fresh challenges.  And the presentation still looks impressive. While Uniracers doesn't do anything that couldn't be rendered in real time today, it still holds up well thanks to its sheer speed and smoothness, even in split-screen two-player mode, coupled with its quintessentially European Amiga-rock soundtrack.

3 Uniracers out of 5

Mr.Armitage from
Current SNES Favorites: Street Fighter II, Mario Kart, Super Smash TV
SNES Dislikes: Alien Vs Predator, Wayne's World, Dragons Lair/Space Ace

Uniracers! Another SNES game I did not own until we where given the assignment to write a review. How to you describe Uniracers to those that have never seen or played it? Twisted, Bizarre, Unique. It a one of those games never to be repeated. There has been nothing before and nothing after this game except for maybe Extreme-G on the N64, which comes close.  Uniracers is a racing/platform/driving game where you race unicycles. Yes all the reviewers have gone stone cold mad. Not only is it so unique and crazy but it truly works so well and is a blast to play.

While the concept is so simple, yet its not as easy as just rolling around the screen. This game adds a whole new twist on racing and is it not your typical top down or behind view that normal racing games give you, but a side scrolling view. How that works is the track is multi-directional so there are times you are changing directions from right to up or down or left. It completely mad. Think of when Sonic the Hedgehog rolls into a ball and Zooms through the maze with little to-no control quickly in one direction. Well like that but with control, changes of direction and tricks. Yes tricks! Rolls, loops, spins. There are untold multiple ways you can jump and spin your unicycle that not only looks flashy but also increases your speed. Ha it’s like a 16-bit SSX Tricky. Attempt to be too tricky and you will crash and burn. But your trick skills will be needed to increase your speed as you go up against more and more harder unicycles and courses.

Because of the simple fact of riding unicycles around on lines, you’re technically not going to need the flashy graphics to get you there. I'm actually not sure how you could bump the graphics up to make this any more enjoyable. The tunes you race to aren't half bad and aren't going to get too annoying. Let’s do some math on this game. There are 9 worlds each consisting of 5 tracks and each world has 3 levels that's like 135 tracks to beat the game but with 16 different players to choose from you have to do all 2160 to completely finish the game.  (“I’m not sure about his math, haha” -- HagenDragmire) So does that scream replay value or what? Not only is there replaying levels again and again to pull off several seconds, but also boasts a 2-player mode as well as a multiplayer competition mode which is sadly only two players at a time. A total gem and overlooked game, well worth a look if you like racing/platform/driving games.

4 Uniracers out of 5

Kylemeister from
Current SNES Favorites: The Ninja Warriors, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Space Megaforce
SNES Dislikes:

When I first saw a sealed copy of Uniracers on the store shelf upon its release, the game struck a chord with me. Unique to say the least, Uniracers really stands on its own as both a solid racer and just an overall fun game to play on your own or with a friend. While Uniracers is simplistic in design and approach, it is equally as complex in terms of gameplay and depth.  The presentation and use of color in this game is extremely well done. The racetracks and their corresponding backgrounds are bursting with vibrance and just seem to leap right out of the screen at you.

On the surface, Uniracers can be described as side-scrolling racing fare although it really is much more than that. What stands out here for me is the complete lack of unneeded fluff present in many of today's titles. It's all about the gameplay, reverting back to the arcade machines of old. You can choose a number of different unicycles to race with but they only differ in color. No matter which you decide on, this won't make things easier for you as in other racing games where certain vehicles have better attributes for specific tracks. Fast reflexes and quick thinking go hand in hand and are the true keys to the palace in terms of complete Uniracers mastery. Unlockables have become commonplace today but here, the only extras to earn are more tracks to race on. I love it.

Working your way through the circuits, each consists of five tracks that require you to either beat the opponent to the finish on a linear dragstrip type course, complete a certain amount of laps, or perform a number of stunts to meet a predetermined score required to proceed. The stunts are where Uniracers really shines. You can execute twists, rolls and even flips. Not only do they look amazing and feel great to pull off, but each combination of stunts earns you a quick burst of speed, allowing you to buzz by your opponent when necessary. The more airtime you get, the more stunts you can perform at once. This, coupled with memorizing the tracks will guarantee you utter Uniracers ownage.

4 Uniracers out of 5

Ultra Review Roundtable Overall Rating

4 Uniracers out of 5

1 comment:

  1. I loved Uniracers! It's the only game to actually give me blisters, thanks to the repetitive tricks needed for the speed boosts.