Review: Enduro Racer (Master System)

Enduro Racer was originally released by Sega in arcades in 1986. The game was created utilizing the same engine as Hang On, another popular Sega title from the arcades. The Sega Master System release was a year later, and was rebuilt from scratch with an isometric view point.

Enduro Racer is most often compared to Nintendo's classic Excitebike for the Nintendo Entertainment System. In Enduro Racer, you pilot a bike and the object of the game is to finish each track in under 60 seconds. If you finish the race with time to spare, you carry that time to the next round. There are 10 rounds total, so the game must be completed within 10 minutes.

The main gimmick in Enduro Racer is the jumping and momentum. Scattered throughout the tracks are ramps. To get the most air off the ramps, you need to press down at the beginning of the ramp (lean backwards) and the press up (lean forward) at the top. If you do it perfect, you do not lose any speed. Perfecting the jumps is crucial to success. The tracks are designed in a way that rewards jumping. On the mountain track for example, hitting the jump perfect means you avoid potholes and rocks, which would slow you down even more than miss timing jumps normally would.

I got Enduro Racer from a local used game store without a case or manual. I didn't much care for this game when I first played it. It wasn't until I discovered (via the internet) that you need to press down at the base of a ramp, and up after, that this game became fun. After learning this trick, I was able to finally beat the game on my first time through. Beating the game leads you to what "Enduro" actually means, but you will have to discover that for yourself.

While there are 10 rounds in Enduro Racer, there are really only 5 tracks, which each get repeated twice. The first track is a dirt track with a grassy background. The second track takes place in a desert with light colored sand (think Arizona). The third track is a desert with red sand (think Africa). The fourth track takes place along the water, and the final track takes place on a mountainside. The track designs themselves are actually pretty good, and each of the 5 courses has it's own look and feel as well as distinct jump ramps and obstacles.

After beating the first 5 tracks, they are repeated, only with a lot more competitors on track at once, increasing the likely hood of a crash. Crashing your bike causes damage. The damage decrease your speed, acceleration, and the amount of air you get off jumps. After each race, you are awarded a point for each competitor you overtook. Those points can then be used to upgrade your acceleration, suspension, tires, engine, handling, and item (which appears to repair  the damage on your bike). Upgrading is important, as the races get more challenging as you progress.

I really wish this game had more stuff in it. A few tracks have you racing against dune buggies. It would have been nice to be able to race as them. The 5 environments are varied enough, perhaps they could have offered some variations on those tracks for the second time through. After beating the game a few times, there really is no reason to continue. There is no save feature on the cart to save your best times. Perhaps a multi player mode would have offered some replayability.

Enduro Racer is one of the few games that I actually preferred to play with the awful Master System controller. The large flat d-pad actually works well with rapid down-to-down movements. The only other movements in Enduro Racer is left and right. The controls are responsive in that regard as well.

Graphically, Enduro Racer is strictly average. While it appears to put more colors on the screen than capable on the Nintendo, the game lacks any real detail. The trees are smaller than the racers! Each track repeats itself over and over, with the same set of rocks, trees, and ramps. The sense of speed is nice however, and the game features no flicker at all. The sound isn't that great either, with the same generic song repeating throughout the entire game. Enduro Racer doesn't push the boundaries of the Master System hardware.

Enduro Racer is often hailed as a defining title for the Master System. While the game isn't terrible by any stretch, Pshcyo Fox is a stand out Master System exclusive title, and R-Type pushes the Master System to it's limits. Enduro Racer is neither an exclusive title nor a technical achievement. It is a decent title however. After learning how to correctly jump, and some memorization of the tracks, you do get into that gamer "zone" where everything just clicks.

Overall, Enduro Racer is a decent game. The controls are intuitive and responsive; the tracks are fun to race. What the game lacks is variety. There are really only 5 courses, and one bike to play with. After completing the game a few times, there isn't anything to keep you coming back. Fans of racing games, or classic Sega arcade titles, will enjoy this, other gamers should look elsewhere.

Graphics 5/10 - Your average 8-bit affair
Sound 3/10 - See above, subtract 2
Game play 7/10 - The controls are great, so is the racing
 Overall 5/10 - Fun, but short, way too short