Where slightly lacking in technical abilities, Stunt Race FX sure has character. And cars with eyeballs.

User Rating: 8.1 | Wild Trax SNES
Way back in the middle of the SNES days Nintendo introduced the FX chip in a number of its cartridges. As per the usual naming conventions started with the Super Nintendo and putting 'Super' in front of half the game titles and later continued with the Nintendo 64 and putting '64' after half the game titles, FX games were denoted with the FX. Star Fox FX was the first of its kind, sporting flat-shaded polygonal graphics roughly on par with what Sega's 32X would later produce. They certainly weren't impressive by any measure, but had the good fortune of being the only real 3D graphics produced on the console. A handful of other games used the chip, but to more subtle effect (as in Yoshi's Island, which used the FX chip for scaling and rotating sprites). The other big 3D FX game that very closely resembled Star Fox was Stunt Race FX, a purely 3D racing game featuring vehicles with eyeballs. Stunt Race FX is organized in typical racing fashion, featuring a number of circuits - including one locked one - and your usual assortment of time trials. The stunt courses differ slightly, but we'll get to them later. The vehicle roster includes three standard vehicles that sacrifice one thing for another - on the low end is a sturdy monster truck with massive tires, featuring high acceleration and low top speed and the ability to drive straight through patches of water without losing speed. In the middle, a little yellow coupe with average abilities all around; and on the end, a misshapen and flimsy red formula one style car with mediocre acceration but frightening top speed. Each car is affixed with eyeballs planted roughly where the headlights would be - and we're not just talking static eyebally fixed in the grille of the vehicle, but large floating eyeballs that blink and look around while the car is driving and periodically engage in a disturbing 360 rotation as if to make sure you're still paying attention. In all honesty, those eyeballs are kind of cute and help establish the silly sort of feel that Stunt Race FX has. Also present is one unlockable super-vehicle (hey, it might as well be, as it's vastly superior to every other vehicle, albeit a bit too fast for its own good) and one particularly unwieldly one that's driven in a bonus level in the middle of championships. The unlockable vehicle is a motorcycle - it features great acceleration, high top speed, and has massive tires just like the monster truck. It outclasses all the other cars to an almost ridiculous degree, although it can become difficult to drive as a result. The bonus vehicle is a huge semi-trailer that's driven from a fixed 3/4 perspective. It's as slow and clunky as you'd expect, which is fine given its purpose - all you have to do is finish a lap or two in order to increase the number of restarts you have for a given championship. The three championships are broken up into four races with a bonus level inserted between the second and third. These function in typical fashion although instead of points being distributed the best accumulated time wins. The courses are divided up into a number of areas - there is the sunny meadow setting, a mountaneous area, marine backdrop, snow level, and cityscape. They are filled with elevation changes and the occasional hazard (such as falling rocks or crossing deer on the mountain levels). The more devious segments of the tracks involve halfpipes, which are more than willing to send your car sailing over the edge of the course if you lose control. A few of the more evil halfpipes have pieces cut out of them, requiring you to ride the side for fear of falling to your doom. Boost and damage meters are your only gauges of interest during a race. Boost functions as you'd expect, and can be refilled by running over blue crystals that appear at intervals of the track. Damage fills up by ramming into walls and other cars and course hazards, and can be reduced by running over appropriately coloured red crystals. Damage isn't without penalty, either, as your car can only take so much damage before exploding into little pieces and eyeballs, forcing you to restart the level. The controls are simple enough - you have your gas, brake, and d-pad for steering. The shoulder buttons act as an analog facsimile, engaging a tighter turn. The 90 degree corners require careful use of this. There is also a boost button and a bizarre horn/jump button. This sounds your horn and pops the chassis of your car up in the air for a couple of seconds. It sounds useless, but on tight segments of courses where you want to pass the opposition, launching your car up will let you drive right over them. Sounds good enough? It gets better. One of the most amusing parts of Stunt Race FX involves the stunt tracks. There are four of them, each starting you in the back of a semi and requiring you to run through each segment of the arena collecting stars. They are placed on a whole host of obstacles, from simple mounds poking up from the ground to long jumps and elevated platforms. You have to collect them all in each segment of the course to unlock the door to the next, and all of this also has to be completed before the timer counts down. Some of the courses can be quite tricky, as portions almost require you to be traveling at a certain speed in order to make a jump onto an otherwise unreachable platform. The cream of the stunt tracks is a little RC arena where the goal is to ram into the other three cars and blow them to pieces, with the fastest time being recorded. These take place from the same sort of fixed view as the truck bonus levels and add a remote-control feeling to the proceedings. Skidding your vehicle around while chasing down the erratically driving opposition is a lot of fun, and makes the explosions that much more satisfying. Where the game has few faults in the gameplay, the same can't be said about the presentation. Hobbled in a way by the FX chip itself, the game is unable to produce its 3D graphics at anything more than roughly 15 frames per second. You get used to it, but given the somewhat sparse nature of simple shaded polygons, the game can seem a bit bare at times. It also has a side effect of making turns a bit hard to judge, as you have to adjust a bit to compensate for the crude framerate. Also dragging it down is the actual viewing area, which is roughly half of the full TV screen. Two-player mode is present, but the viewing areas are even smaller and the already atrocious framerate drops further. Sound is decent enough. It and the music aren't particularly offensive, which is probably the best thing that can be said about them. They don't excel, but they don't ruin the experience either. Overall, Stunt Race FX is a blast. The very nature of its format can provide the occasional headache, but the game itself is so full of wacky fun that once you've completed a handful of races, the small viewing area and low framerate won't really bother you. And the image of eyeball-endowed cars won't soon leave your mind.