Super Hang On is one of those games that instantly evokes memories of a specific time and place. It was released by Sega in 1987, the year I also went on a week-long school trip to the Netherlands (though I don’t think the two were connected). The hotel we were staying in had a Super Hang On Machine (sadly not the sit on motorcycle version) in the lobby and myself and my friends spent every spare minute and Guilder we had playing it. It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had!
Nearly thirty years on my fondness for the title has never diminished. I love racing games anyway and this one is a cracker (possibly second only to Outrun in my affection, although Roadblasters runs it close). As soon as I found it was available from Playstation Network, I had to have it. And the good news is that it’s as good as ever.
From this… to this. Progress?
By today’s standards, Super Hang On might look a little basic. It’s a simple checkpoint based racer with fairly minimalist graphics. Even after all these years, though, it is still blisteringly fast, even putting some modern racers to shame. It is EXACTLY what I imagine riding a motorcycle to be like – a mixture between high excitement and outright terror.
Graphics might be minimalist, but there are some great, fun looking sprites. Not that you’ll have time to admire them, as you will be whizzing past them (or crashing into them!) Whilst both graphics and colour schemes might be limited, the game still looks great and delivers on the racing thrills.
No time to admire the scenery –
I’ve got a race to win!
Like the graphics sound is relatively simple but highly effective. As was common with racers from this era, there’s a choice of four in-game tunes – all perfectly suited to the game (although undoubtedly everyone will have their own particular favourite). Sound effects are fairly sparse, but the roar of your bike’s engine is great and really gets you in the mood for some serious racing!
Whilst (inevitably) the PSN version doesn’t have the fun element of the original’s motorbike controls, it has been adapted well for the PS controller, using a fairly well established pattern the stick for steering and shoulder buttons for accelerating/braking. These feel very natural and your fingers automatically fall into the right position, so there is no danger of accidentally pressing the wrong button. Controls (particularly steering) are also incredibly responsive and, with a bit of practice, you are soon able to weave your bike through the smallest of gaps to avoid rival riders or other hazards – an essential skill if you are going to make any progress.
It’s a shame then, that a couple of blemishes slightly mar things – although in fairness most of these were weaknesses of the original game that are replicated there (this is a straightforward port rather than an updated version).
Super Hang On is incredibly tough. In the arcades, this was a deliberate tactic used to make you keep feeding the machine with more money. On home consoles, it becomes a little annoying. Some of the time limits are so tight that one tiny mistake means you have no chance of reaching the next checkpoint. Sometimes this isn’t a problem – you just sigh, hit restart and try again. After several such failures it can become an irritant.
It’s also frustrating that when time runs out, your bike stops dead. On some racers, you slowly decelerate, so that if you are close enough, you can crawl your way to the finish line and qualify by the skin of your teeth. Coming to a dead stop just inches away from the checkpoint is highly unrealistic, not particularly fair and incredibly frustrating.
Whilst in-game controls are generally very responsive, they are sometimes a little too twitchy. This is most noticeable on the menu screens (particularly the high score table). It’s all too easy to select the wrong thing because the controls are so sensitive so that the slightest touch causes the game to spring into action. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to enter my personal three letter acronym on the high score table only to completely select the wrong letter. Add in the fact that you only have 30 seconds to do this and you start to wonder whether it’s worth bothering.
Minor flaws aside, Super Hang On proves that a good game is a good game no matter how old it is. Coming up for 30 years on this simple, but blisteringly fast racer is still massive fun to play. It’s not quite the same as the full arcade experience but if, like me, you hold fond memories of the game, then £3.49 is a small price to pay for a cracking burst of arcade nostalgia.