Uniracers Retro Review: One Tire To Rule Them All
Created by Nintendo of America and DMA Design in 1994, “Uniracers” was a simple game where you play as unmanned unicycles racing against the computer on a lined surface of many different colors, performing stunts to increase your speed. Today, most readers would likely know DMA Design as Rockstar North, the creators of the “Grand Theft Auto” series, well before their exploration of anarchy and chaos through crime. They were also involved in a couple other titles you may have heard of, such as the ever enjoyable “Lemmings.” Yes, these developers were the ones responsible for sending digital tribesmen all over the world to their graves.
“Uniracers” has a very simple precept whenever you’re racing, doing stunts, or doing anything else; you have to do it faster than anything else, ever. A increasingly-difficult computer continuously executes stunts such as 360 flips, horizontal twists, and reversing “z-flips” to increase its speed, so you have to do the same. Every stunt level requires a certain score in a very limited amount of time, so you once again have to haul your single-wheeled transport as fast as possible, all the while, the game zips past so quickly, the screen literally can’t keep up. In order to assist the player, the track itself is made with different-colored lines, which prepare the players for dangers ahead. This concept works in theory, but when you move so quickly, and have to navigate loops and curves, players easily forget what the markings mean and jump right into goo which slows you down, or into a trap wasting your precious time. After one mishap, you’re basically unable to catch up with your opponent without a successful string of stunt combos, which are exceptionally hard to do since you’re moving as fast as you can to catch up. It’s not very enjoyable when the game makes you keep control of the race the entire time, with no chance to sit on your laurels. With a steady increase in difficulty with added circuits and medals to collect, the game is more a frustrating challenge than an enjoyable game. Fortunetly, the two-player mode is a saving grace for the game.
One of the happy accidents of “Uniracers” going so fast that the players doesn’t see the lack of backgrounds. Gray blocks of varying degrees swirl and move at blinding speeds, and there’s hardly much of anything worth looking at, even if you could see it. There’s only color swaps for the unicycles, and the tracks themselves have any differing colors. I tend to see this as a lack of effort on the developers’ behalf for one important reason; they were working for Nintendo. Designers from the first-party giant could easily have made radical backdrops to add alongside the three-track and looping thrash music, but the gray background severely breaks the atmosphere.
“Uniracers” is really just worth a quick play at the very most-especially if it’s only through the first two circuits- unless you’re playing two-players. You could have a bunch of laughs with friends failing at stunts and jumps, or being able to beat them senseless with your incredible cycling skill. In a few words, I’m glad to say DMA moved onto greener pastures in racing and getting yourself killed, because I feel they would have faded away if their legacy was solely left to “Uniracers.”
“Uniracers” was released in 1994, published by Nintendo, and developed by DMA Design