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150 SNES games reviewed #38: Looney Tunes: Road Runner (aka Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally)

What is in a name? I often find it funny when the name of a game gets changed from region to region. Sometimes there are legal reasons, sometimes they just think a particular name will help something sell better to a certain group of people.

Here we have a game known in Europe as Looney Tunes: Road Runner, in the US as Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally, and in Japan as Looney Tunes: Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote. The game is based on the Looney Tunes characters Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Maybe the name has something to do with the cartoons popularity or image in each region who knows. What I do know is I probably like Japan’s title the best, as Wile E. Coyote is the star of the show in my mind. Sure we are supposed to like Road Runner, but why? Because he runs away a lot and makes cheeky little meep meep noises? I cant help but relate to Wile E. the guy/animal who is just trying to do what is expected of him – trying to eat and survive, and keeps having life backfire in his face.

I walked into this expecting a mediocre game, largely because it is made by Sunsoft and its a Looney Tunes game, so I was judging it a little bit based on my thoughts on Taz-mania which I played a while ago.

The graphics are pretty decent. They have a fair degree of character in them but don’t get bogged down with too much detail. The sprites for Wile E. and the Runner are cool, and the graphics automatically remind you of the old cartoon while still managing to be clear and not get in the way of the game itself. If I have one major gripe in this area it is the backgrounds are the same throughout the entire level, this does make things seem a little more boring at times than they perhaps should but I guess its not the worst thing in the world. The sound in this game is a little hard for me to judge. Sound effects wise there is very little, there’s the typical skidding noise, a jump noise, a pecking noise, the odd meep meep and a few noises associated with things attacking you. The music for the levels sits right on the middle of the fence between being catchy and annoying to the point that I cant even come to a conclusion if I like it or hate it. All I can say is you won’t find yourself doing a Mario and humming any of this later when you have moved away from the console.

The gameplay is kind of what you’d expect. You’re the runner and you run, Wile E. is constantly after you and you are trying to escape from him. So each level has you running past obstacles, making jumps and trying to find your way until you reach the finish. Usually at the end of the level there will be some quick confrontation with Wile E. For example in the first level he chases you with a steam roller, you win and you get to see him beaten usually in the end somehow by one of his own devices in typical comic fashion. The ways that he tries to stop you may change but the strategies and weak points are always pretty easy to work out and adapt to on the fly. The largest flaw is that the gameplay is repetitive, which gives you no incentive to play the game for extended periods. The speed at which the game can move sometimes beceoms an issue as things fly past without giving you adequate time to deal with them. It was almost enough to make me wish that I was playing a PAL copy on a PAL machine to see if the usual drop in speed PAL games can experience helped. Knowing other games I have set aside to review though I know that this is an issue quite a few platformers bumped into, some of them could really have used a good long play on the Sonic the Hedgehog games to look at how they deal with this issue.

Looney Tunes: Road Runner is an average game in every single way. It just leaves you with a feeling of complete and utter averageness. It’s not good enough to remember, nor is it bad enough to laugh at or get mad at. It just exists in the middle neither good nor bad. Five out of 10 all day long.

If you want to try it a PAL cart will fetch you about £10 you might get an American for closer to £5 but strangely the Japanese copies I have seen have cost more money. Maybe people don’t realize that it’s the same game or maybe did not come out over there. Who knows? Sometimes the retro video game market is a beast with no rhyme or reason.