I went digging into my video game crates to find my Super Nintendo and one of the coolest games ever made, Uniracers. At its core, Uniracers is a simple racing game. Your goal is to beat your opponent. However, it isn’t as simple as point a to point b. There are tricks, stunts, and obstacles that you either need to master or learn how to avoid. Uniracers is a fast paced thrill ride that is as fun to watch, as it is to play.
Let’s flashback to 1994. Super Nintendo (SNES) was the top console and Nintendo was racking up exclusives. Uniracers, a brand new franchise was being developed by DMA Design. That name may not be familiar today, but DMA Design didn’t disappear. They became what’s now known as Rockstar North. Yes, that’s the same Rockstar North that created the GTA series and Lemmings. DMA Design put together a game that is so simple, although if you dive into it, there is a lot to do.
For starters, you add your name to any unicycle in the game. The customization mode doesn’t let you pick the type of pedals or tire your unicycle uses, but this was 1994. You just pick your favorite color, set your name to that unicycle and away you go. After picking your unicycle, you can create a league of up to eight other unicycles. There are leaderboards and detailed records for every track, and we haven’t gotten to gameplay yet, but replay value is through the roof.
Uniracers features eight tours. Each tour has five tracks each. The first track is always a drag race (point a to point b), the second is a lapped race, third is a stunt track, fourth is drag race, and fifth is a lapped race. Multiplying out the eight tours by five tracks, we’d get a total of 40 tracks. Although, there is a hidden tour. If you get gold in all of the eight stock tours, a ninth tour will unlock with five more tracks. So the game has a total of 45 tracks. Each track can be played hundreds, if not thousands of times. I can’t even count how many hours my friends and I poured into Uniracers back in the mid ’90’s. We would repeat stunt tracks, battle each other in races, try to beat the computer to get all gold medals, the game will be playable for as long as you want it to be. Also the music adds to the replay value. All of the music tracks and sound effects are awesome! The Uniracers intro song is ingrained in my mind, and sits right next to the Mario Bros. theme. Hearing the sound effects when landing a Twister City, Z Flip, Tabletop, or some insane combo is always as satisfying as it was the first time I heard them.
If you haven’t already, take a couple minutes to watch the video above. Words and pictures can’t do the game any justice. After watching the video, you may feel the game moves too fast and you’ll never know what’s coming next. Thankfully DMA Design had a really simple solution, change the color of the track. There’s four different color combinations, Blue & Green, Red & Blue, Blue & Yellow, lastly Red & Yellow. After a few races you’ll quickly become familiar with which color combinations are your friend. The two you want to see the most are Blue & Green and Blue & Yellow. Blue & Green means everything is normal, so pull out all of the tricks you can. Blue & Yellow means you’re approaching the finish line, so once again, perform all of the tricks you can. Coming up on Blue & Yellow is often one of the most intense moments of a race. Your opponent can catch up to you here, or you can pull away from your opponent. Even though the finish line is in sight, nothing is promised. I’ve won and lost races by 0.01 of a second. You want to watch out if you see Red & Blue or Red & Yellow. Red & Blue means the track is going to switch directions, while Red & Yellow means you’re way off the track, or some purple goo is going to appear soon.
No matter which racing game you play, you always want to be able to go faster. Most of the time you’ll mod your car or other vehicle by adding a turbo, cold air intake, headers, and swapping out the gearbox. In Uniracers, if you want to make your uni go faster, you do tricks and stunts. If there’s a straightaway, start jumping and doing rolls. If there’s a jump, land a Twister City. Your job as a racer is to find every single part of a track where you can gain extra speed. Although, trying to inch out every bit of speed carries a risk. You may run into an obstacle such as purple goo, one of those twisty things (sorry I don’t know the actual name), or wipeout at the base of a jump. Any one mistake could cost you a few seconds, or even the race.
“If the game is everything you say it is, why did they never make a sequel?”
There’s a simple answer to that question, they can’t. Pixar sued DMA Design ‘copying’ the unicycle design from a Pixar movie titled Red’s Dream. Pixar ended up winning the lawsuit. Because of the ruling, Nintendo had to halt production on the game, and have never even hinted at resurrecting it in the form of a sequel or in the Wii’s Virtual Console. Only 300,000 copies of the game were ever made.
Uniracers holds a special place in my gaming heart. As lame as that sounds, it’s true. DMA Design created something special in 1994, and I don’t think the feeling, excitement, or risk of reward can ever be duplicated in a remake or sequel. While I’m sad Uniracers is locked away because of a lawsuit, it might be for the best. The sole Uniracers title is complete enough to stand on its own for eternity.