A quick tangent on Soviet Strike before I dive into Manx TT. This feature was originally going to be about ‘Strike before I decided on Manx instead. After struggling and I mean STRUGGLING, with Soviet Strike for an hour or so, I decided to drop it and move onto another game.
I actually got ‘Strike with the console itself. It was one of the three games bundled with it alongside FIFA 96’ and Actua Golf. Due to that Saturn originally conking out, I couldn’t actually play ‘Strike until purchasing the replacement Saturn console recently. This may have been a blessing in disguise. Now, I know there are fans of this game out there and to some it’s really cool to fly a helicopter and shoot stuff but I really don’t think I’m this games target audience. This game is really more for the sort of person who has fond memories of the Cold War and wears camouflage recreationally as opposed to as a way to avoid detection from angry hordes of Viet Cong.
I tried with this one guys, I really did, but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t really know what I was doing and after suffering for 60 minutes, 59 minutes of which were me knowing the game wasn’t for me but soldiering on (pun not intended) regardless in hope that a light bulb would go off in my head and I’d suddenly love the game, I gave up and returned it to the cupboard with a heavy heart. There were elements of the game that were good, such as the music for instance, but I just couldn’t get into the experience at all and decided that discretion was the better part of valour and moved on to a different game. For all you Soviet Strike fans out there, I apologise for not loving your baby the same way you do, but it was sick on my christening trousers and that just won’t do.
So this left me needing a game to talk about and Manx TT Super Bike was kind enough to fill the void.
Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia
Bikes, bikes, bikes!
Manx TT is an arcade motorbike racer based around the Isle of Man TT tournament. The Isle of Man is an island to the west of Great Britain and is known mostly for the aforementioned motorbike event and also the fact that it was nearly nagged to death in 1971 by the Isle of Woman for leaving the toilet seat up. I jest of course. It was actually 1972 when that happened and it was due to the island making a terrible hash of an IKEA cabinet. Thank you, thank you, I’m here all week, try the veal. In all seriousness, I’ve actually wanted to visit the island for a while as it’s renowned for its excellent scenery which the game has a good stab at recreating.
Manx TT originally saw its arcade release in 1995 and was ported to both the Saturn and PC in 1997. With it being 20 years since its original release, the graphics are hardly on par with what you’d expect today, but I still found them pleasing on the eye. The best thing about the graphics for me is how bright and colourful they are. The game includes two tracks, one which the game designers made themselves based on actual Isle of Man scenery and the other track is a direct recreation of one of the official TT courses. Both courses look good and the Saturn version also tightens them up with a better draw distance and shadowing. The game looked great for the time and is still pleasant to look at even today in my opinion.
Picture Courtesy of www.sakatore.com
Out of my way, I’m a motorist!
Not only does the game look good, but it is also very enjoyable to play. As with most arcade racers from the timeframe, you can choose between automatic and manual transmission. The bikes themselves handle well and the game has a reasonable learning curve. It is possible for you to be knocked off your bike but usually if you hit the sides of the course the worst it will do will slow you down. However, when you’re in the heat of an important race losing a precious second to the barricades will be something you learn to dread. I had a lot of fun playing this game and I felt that it rewarded me for putting the minutes in. When I first started playing I couldn’t even finish a course before the timer ran down. After some practice I was winning races with the best of them. The most important thing for me was that even when I was struggling at the start, I never gave up due to frustration and was happy to continue onward. That’s how you know a games difficulty is appropriately weighted, or at least that’s my personal view on the matter. A game can be difficult but never too difficult that you can’t be bothered sticking with it. I’m happy to say that Manx TT is a game on the right side of that divide.
There is a distinct lack of game on offer though, one of the many pratfalls involved with porting an arcade hit for home consumption. The game comes with a grand total of two tracks and you can finish arcade mode in roughly 10 minutes if you know what you’re doing. The Saturn release does include a special “Saturn Mode” as well as “Time Trial”, which adds some longevity to the experience. In the Saturn and Time Trial modes you can choose from a selection of bikes that have been modified with different speed, acceleration and handling stats. This does add some variety to the pot, but you’ll still probably see everything the game has to offer within an hour at most. That being said, you can pick this up for £5 (A mere 1 Bison Dollar!) if you’re prepared to seek out a bargain, and the game provides more than enough bang for that particular buck. Also, if, unlike me, you have actual human friends you can race each other in two player mode, so that certainly adds some extra lifespan to the game.
Picture Courtesy of Gamefaqs
Lost in translation?
Despite the game being set in the Isle of Man, it has a distinct Japanese feel to it. “Manxer TT Supu Bikeru!!!” yells an excited Japanese man on the start screen. Should the timer run out in Arcade Mode a stern Japanese man accosts you by exclaiming “Racer over, you did not finish!”. I was half expecting him to add “you have shamed your family” before the game committed seppuku and the CD broke itself in half to avoid me ever playing it again. It’s a strange culture clash but I found it to be a humorous one. There’s clearly an appreciation from the makers of the game for both the sport itself and also the Isle of Man as a destination. More than anything else, you can feel that this game was made with a lot of love and that comes across when you play it. There’s even a special mode where you can turn all the bikes into sheep, showing that the makers definitely had a sense of humour about what they were doing. There’s a tangible joviality throughout the whole experience and I’d certainly recommend this game should you be able to find it on the cheap.
So what started out as a struggle with one game ended up as a pleasant journey with another. Manx TT was there in my moment of need. Thanks Manx. Thanx
As always, I’ll post some game footage below.
Thanks for reading
YouTube footage of the game from Retro Gaming Network is available here