Review: BC Racers (Sega 32x)

BC Racers is a kart racing game for Sega's ill-fated 32x system. It was released about a year after Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo took the world by storm. The game is a spin-off of the Chuck Rock platforming series. Developed by Core Design, who have a history of high quality titles on Sega's other Genesis add-on, the Sega CD, I had high hopes for this obscure 32x title.

BC Racers features 8 different tracks spanning various pre-historic environments including Jungle, Desert, City, Lava, Swamp, Snow, Cave, and Night. In all, there are 32 different tracks spanning each of these 8 environments. Each difficulty mode, (easy, medium, hard, and rockhard!) features a longer and more difficult version of the 8 environments.

There are 6 different selectable characters in BC Racers including Chuck and his son from the Chuck Rock series. Each duo handles the same, so there is no strategic reason to pick one pair over another. All 6 teams even have the same bike and sidecar, very uninspired. The character in the sidecar is able to attack the other characters on the track, but can only attack to the right. Additionally, this second character can be controlled by a second player if you wanted to attack the game cooperatively.

So while the varied environments, the cool prehistoric theme, and interesting cooperative play sound good on paper, BC Racers falls flat on it's face in reality. The first problem, and most important, is the controls. Pressing left and right on the directional pad does pretty much nothing. You just slide around bumping into the obstacles on the side of the track, rather than turning. Pressing down while pressing left and right allows you to turn sharper, but it's still awkward, and barely improves the problem. Worse yet, there is no brake button. Seriously.

I was most successful at BC Racers when I released the accelerator while turning, pressing down, and not pressing the accelerator again till the bike was facing the direction I wanted to go. If you get even a little trigger happy with the accelerator, you will slide off the track.

BC Racers features a life bar of sorts. As you run into things, and you will, your bike slowly breaks down. So bouncing off the items on the side of the road due to poor controls causes your bike to break... At the start finish line are some power ups that repair your bikes damage. But on more than one occasion, I wrecked my bike when trying to get back onto the race track because I was hitting so many different obstacles.

After completing a lap, you are awarded a speed boost. The speed boost gives a pretty good amount of speed and lasts for quite a while. I found saving a few of these for the last lap worked out well strategically. Other than the bike repair items at the start/finish line, and these speed boosts, there are no other power ups available. Some of the levels do feature ramps and bridged that you must hit in order to not fall off the track (into water, lava, etc) but that is about it.

It seems the game creators knew this game was unplayable, as you only have to finish in the top 6 (of 8) instead of the usual top 3, to continue to the next track. BC Racers also gives you 3 continues. As mentioned earlier, there are 4 difficulty levels. The other racers on the track act the same regardless of the difficulty, the only thing that gets harder is the track layout. As far as I can tell, there is no reward for beating the game.

The visuals in BC Racers are a mixed blessing. The game imitates Super Mario Kart with a mode-7 style play field and 2D sprites for the racers. The tracks are also littered with items like trees, fences, and houses which all utilize the 32x's sprite scaling power to smoothly make them larger as you get closer. The design style is very cartoony and works well for what it is, a prehistoric kart racer. Sadly, the game's frame rate is awful, which compound the poor controls. The jungle level in particular chugs along like a slide show more rather than a game. Considering the sprite capabilities of the 32x, the visuals are a huge disappointment.

The soundtrack in BC Racers is a very simplistic. I think the designers were trying to go with a simplistic musical track to fit the prehistoric theme, but the result is poor. Each song feels like an over simplistic jazz track consisting of a couple of horned instruments, and nothing else. All of the sound effects are acceptable, like the screeching of the tires (which changes in each level to match the terrain). More questionable is the fact when you do connect a hit on someone, a graphical "BAM!" displaying, rather than a sound.

Rounding out BC Racers is a true 2-player split screen mode that removes the track side detail to keep the frame rate playable, but you would be hard pressed to find someone else who would want to play this mess.

I can't help but think this game was released before it was complete. BC Racers doesn't even have a title screen, you just go straight to an options menu. The broken controls could have been tweaked into something truly enjoyable. A better frame rate would have helped compensate for the poor controls as you would be able to see whats up ahead a lot easier. Either of these would have resulted in a playable game. Some more inspired sound and power ups could have made for a real classic here.

Overall, BC Racers is a huge disappointment. The overall style is quite good, and even looks good in the below screen shots. But once the game starts moving, the awful frame rate and terrible controls make for a frustrating experience. BC Racer commands high prices on eBay and I would only recommend this stinker to completists.

Graphics - 4/10
Great style, terrible frame rate
Sound - 3/10 Uninspired Game play - 2/10
Almost unplayable Overall - 2/10 Avoid this mess