Ratalaika Games have found the back of the 3DO’s (or TurboGrafx-16’s, if you’re from those parts) vaults with this museum re-release of Moto Roader MC. Launched back in 1992, this was the third in the Moto Roader series, which – thank you Wikipedia – was notable at the time for introducing five-player gameplay, one more than the traditional four. It’s a top-down multiplayer racer in the vein of Super Off Road and Micro Machines, and it’s nowhere near as good as either of them.
First of all, hats off to the Ratalaika team for some sterling game preservation. There is nothing wrong with how Moto Roader MC is packaged. While there aren’t any supplementary materials like interviews, art books or instruction manuals, it’s well-featured. There’s full control re-mapping (absolutely necessary, thanks to the barmy default selection), limitless saving, a rewind feature and multiple display and scaling options. It also plays well, without any stuttering or audio-visual issues, and the colours absolutely sing.
Hopping into the game, it is also deceptively fully featured, with a Race mode (a Grand Prix combination of tracks), Time Attack and Omake mode (a pre–cursor to Rocket League). Picking a Race lets you invite up to four other friends to play, before you choose from five different track themes. We say ‘deceptively’ fully featured because we couldn’t get Time Attack to work properly. Times didn’t get saved or recognised on our leaderboard, and it was less a Time Attack and more of a single race from Race mode anyway. Even though there are five different track themes, we found the same tracks being served up to us over and over again via the shuffle.
Getting into a race, things are promising. I’m a big fan of Moto Roader MC’s fruit-pastille looks. Everything is supremely colourful, and there’s a touch more detail and chunkiness than the average top-down racer. What’s more, it’s got a weirdo streak: put the tracks on shuffle, and you’ll occasionally get to race around a giant cockroach, or see a robotic face sleeping in the middle of your track. It feels like someone stayed behind after hours and ported in a HR Giger Taschen portfolio. It’s all a bit odd, in a good way.
But then you press a button and things fall apart. That’s because Moto Roader MC’s cars are effectively dodgems. They’re fast enough – that’s not where our issue lies – it’s what happens when you hit anything at all. Hit a wall, and you will bounce back a couple of cars in length. Hit another car and you do the same. Get hit by a missile or a mine from another car and you spin wildly, pointing in a random direction. It’s a race in a pinball machine, and it just doesn’t feel good at all. Everything is so tightly packed that collisions are inevitable, and it’s a complete roll of the dice where you will emerge: at the front of the pack or way back, arse about tit.
Stirring this combustible cauldron is unlimited weapons. You can fire a missile forward with RT, or a barrel that acts as a kind of mine with LT. Spam them all you like – they will keep on firing. Against computer players, this means constant harassment with the only logical reply being to spam it yourself. Against human players, it becomes an utter mess. Everyone is lobbing stuff at everyone else, with the end result being that you spend most of the race backwards rather than forwards.
Things can be tweaked. You can turn off car occlusion, so you can drive straight through other players, but that won’t stop the weapons and the circuit’s walls. You can’t turn off weapons, and there are no difficulty sliders on the races or the cars themselves. The purportedly fully featured Moto Roader MC didn’t have the features we needed.
It’s a difficult game, mainly because it’s so random. You can be challenging for first place when a missile hits, and the complete disorientation will mean that you’re back with the rest of the pack. Without the dreaded rubber-banding or varied weapons, it’s also skewed in first-place’s favour. They can stay out of reach of missiles while constantly leaving explosive barrels behind, making it incredibly hard to wrestle the podium from them.
Moto Roader MC couldn’t motivate us to keep playing, either. There’s nothing in the way of online leaderboards, online multiplayer, collectibles or unlocks. This is a lean old package that believes – perhaps correctly, for some players – that the joy of multiplayer is enough. It’s certainly improved with four mates along for the ride, but, in our case, we have played so many similar games that do this job with more panache, with a lot less chaos.
If you have previous with Moto Roader MC, then Ratalaika Games have you covered. This is a fine example of a museum piece, with plenty of options to tweak the experience. But if you’re coming armed with only curiosity or a love for the genre, then we’re waving the warning flag. It has colour, it has style, but Moto Roader MC also has some of the most erratic, bumper-car racing that you’re likely to experience. There’s not much fun among the chaos, and even less replayability. There must be more glamorous gems in the 3DO vaults, Ratalaika.
You can buy Moto Roader MC from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S