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150 SNES games reviewed #18: ESPN Speed World

“EA Sports – It’s in the game,” as some of the old games used to say. I never quite got this. I didn’t quite know what it really meant. I presumed it meant that EA Sports games had great playability, a certain je ne sais quoi (a special quality which defies explanation).

I never got this myself though. Sure from time-to-time I would enjoy a EA Sports title but most of the time I saw them as being a celebration of style over substance. It was less about what was really ‘in the game’ and what they could put around the gameplay. What they could add to the presentation which would make there game seem like the A* football game or A* american football experience.

This might have seemed a slightly strange start to this review when I tell you that the game I have been playing is ESPN Speed World and that the game was made by a company called Park Place Productions and was published by Sony Imagesoft, you’ll see what I mean with the rest of this review though. The game was released in 1994 exclusively in North America as it was based on a TV series of the same name that was shown over there. The game has an official ESPN license but despite being about racing, Sony didn’t gain a NASCAR license, so you’re racing NASCAR Winston Cup stock cars but the real-life drivers’ names and likenesses are not here. At the start of the race though your met with some digitised footage of ESPN sports broadcaster Dr Jerry Punch which I am sure back in the day looked and sounded amazing but to my eyes now it looks rather poor.

Everything seems to be there – the tracks, the cars, the commentary – it’s only when you start driving that you realise something is really wrong. You don’t feel like you’re in control of the car at all. You feel like your in control of a skidding line. With some practice you can start to score wins but it never feels fun, it feels like a chore from start to end. I have literally have had more fun on racing games on the ZX Spectrum than on this game. This is when you start to realise that people would have realised this game was a pile of trash much quicker if it wasn’t for the licence and the fancy digitised speech and graphics glued on to this basic mess. It is a real lesson in how video game companies tried to polish a turd with licences and a bit of fancy presentation.

I spent £5 on this game including postage. I basically bought it because I was looking for cheap games I hadn’t played or really heard of before. I figured that I would take a shot at this game, and in honesty I regret it. If you want to try this game either because you don’t believe me or you like bad games there are a few important things to consider. The first is it was only released in the US so you’ll need either an NTSC machine, a modified machine or an import converter,  and the second is that you’re more than likely going to have to import it from the US (buy it from an eBay seller over there). This means even if you can get it cheap there’s going to be a fair bit of postage, a pain in the butt weight and a larger risk of it getting lost in transit, or the post services trying to charge you some kind of import tax on it. I strongly recommend you don’t bother as I rate this game as a three out of 10 at best, its certainly one of the worst ones I have played for this series so far.