There are not many games like Uniracers. There aren’t many side-scrolling racers out there to begin with, but when you add stunts which boost your speed and, oh yeah, the fact that you race unmanned unicycles, you’ve really got something special.
Uniracers came out in 1994 on the Super Nintendo, where it found itself in the company of many good racers, and even a few kind of quirky ones. Games like F-Zero and Super Mario Kart definitely broke the mold, but Uniracers stands out even among such droll company.
Perhaps consumers were a little confused about the game, because it failed to really take off, and it didn’t spawn any sequels.
Or, perhaps people knew exactly what it was, and they decided — probably correctly — that it was more of a rental. Though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
When I grow up I want to be a Unicycle
You play Uniracers as a unicycle (and I do hope I’m not blowing any minds here). You can choose a name and a color for a bit of customization, but all of the bikes (or ukes?) perform in exactly the same way.
At its core, the gameplay is as simple as holding down the direction you want to go, which is either left or right. Your direction of travel changes more often than you might think, however, and the tracks end up looking something like two-dimensional roller coasters.
You can gain boosts of speed by pulling off tricks. There are simple flips and twists, which can be performed even while on level ground, but more elaborate combos become possible when you get a bit of air. None of the stunts are particularly nifty or too challenging, but knowing when to go for them adds some risk-vs-reward strategy to the game.
Uniracers is more aptly compared to Sonic the Hedgehog than other racing games. The feeling is very similar, not only because of the perspective, but due also to the reflexive actions you have to be able to perform while moving very quickly. The jump button sees no shortage of use.
It could also have been called Candy Cane Raceland
Learning the tracks is always a big part of any racing game, and the stunt mechanic would seem to require perfect track memorization in order to perform very well, but this isn’t strictly the case.
There are indications baked into every track in the colors and patterns, which explicitly spell out what is coming up next. If you prefer, you can learn the language of the tracks and simply respond to the prompts as they come up, turning the game into an experience more akin to Guitar Hero or Rock Band.
Though, this won’t necessarily be a faster path to Uniracers mastery than just learning each of the 45 tracks, short as they are.
While there are a lot of courses to conquer, they are not hugely different from one another. The only things that change from one track to the next tend to be the colors, with no themed stages that take you away from the striped and checkered norm.
My little brother beat me and I want my money back
The single-player game has three difficulty settings for every race, and some of the tracks are preeettty brutally hard on the Gold setting.
One thing you will probably notice straight away, especially if you’re playing with a friend, is that Uniracers silently activates handicaps to ensure that the losing racer has a chance to catch up. This isn’t all that uncommon in racing games, and depending on your perspective (read: whether or not you suck) it can be either the worst or the best feature ever. Still, a more skilled player should win more often than not.
It’s a lot of fun to play, but ultimately a game without a ton of depth. You can have a great time with it, especially playing with a friend, but this game was definitely a rental back in the day. With that option kind of off the table these days, it may only be a purchase for serious collectors.