Back before Blizzard was known as a creator of fantastic PC real-time strategy games and action RPGs, the company developed console games for Interplay. Blizzard actually put out some great 16-bit games, including The Lost Vikings, Blackthorne, and the most recent entry in the long list of Super Nintendo games that have made their way to the Game Boy Advance, Rock 'N Roll Racing. Blizzard's racing game essentially picked up the torch carried by RC Pro-Am and ran with it, delivering a game that improved upon Rare's original isometric racing game in several ways. The Game Boy Advance version of the game is a great port of a 16-bit classic.
Like any good racing game, Rock 'N Roll Racing has a long single-player mode. In this mode, you'll start out with a base-level vehicle with a relatively small engine and weak defensive capabilities. As you win races, though, you'll earn money that can be used to either enhance your existing vehicle or save up for a new, more-powerful mode of transportation. You'll start with jacked-up cars and dune buggies, but by the end of the game you'll be doing battle in futuristic tanks and hovercraft.
Battle is a big part of Rock 'N Roll Racing. Each vehicle has three different items that are activated by different button presses. Each has a forward-firing weapon, a droppable rear weapon, and a support move, which is either a jump or a turbo boost. The lower cars start with simple gun blasts and oil slicks, but eventually you'll be "unleashing hot fury" to the tune of homing shots and different types of mines.
The game's versus mode lets you pick any vehicle and circuit and just race. This is also the game's two-player mode, which works via link cable. This matches the SNES game's two-player mode, but it would have been nice to have seen the game's multiplayer support expanded to four human players.
The action in the game is fairly straightforward. You must complete a certain number of laps around a track before your opponents do. The game is seen from an isometric diagonal perspective, like in RC Pro-Am or Zaxxon. The tracks aren't that tough, but once you get into the higher levels, the AI racers are really good at taking care of business, and they'll destroy you in the blink of an eye if you don't take them out first. Being blown up doesn't end the race, though. It merely slows you down while you respawn on the track. The track design, the great handling of the vehicles, and the excitement that the game's weapons bring to the table add up to some really fun racing.
Graphically, Rock 'N Roll Racing matches its SNES counterpart, though it doesn't look quite as crisp as the original. The motion becomes slightly jumpy at higher speeds, and overall the game just doesn't look quite as clean. It still looks pretty good, though, and the cars have a nice metallic sheen to them.
Rock 'N Roll Racing had one of those sleeper-hit soundtracks that, when the game was originally released, you simply didn't expect. MIDI renditions of popular rock songs are available here, and you'll catch tracks like "Highway Star," "Born to Be Wild," the Peter Gunn theme, and more. The game also had a pretty impressive announcer when it was originally released. Larry's voice is intact here on the Game Boy Advance, right down to shouting "Olaf unleashes hot fury!" whenever you unleash a wide attack with the game's hidden racer.
Blizzard's fast-moving racing game is at its most fun when you're playing it with someone else. But even though the game's AI can be a little passive in certain race conditions and quite rubber-banded in others, Rock 'N Roll Racing is still a great game. Fans of the original will still have fun with this game, and fans of arcade-style combat racing in general will easily have a great time.