Genre: Racing Developer: Distinctive Software Publisher: Accolade Players: 1 Released: 1992
The Duel: Test Drive II is a game that has been a long time coming as far as this review goes for me. I’ve been left scratching my head several night in a row as to just what to write about this forgotten game. I’ll take anything I can get for my collection as long as it’s complete with its box and instructions, so when a friend of mine decided he’d trade me this game for my extra copy of Spider-Man I jumped on the chance just to have yet another game I didn’t have.
I knew the game wouldn’t play very well because I already had the SNES version prior getting it and didn’t like that one at all either. Once I started playing the Genesis version I was truly left scratching my head in disbelief. It’s not a horrible game by any means, but it actually pushes the Genesis less than the SNES version, and that’s a shame because in its day it was pretty well known and widely accepted as a great racer. Now when I go back to either one, this one especially, I’m just left in complete and utter boredom and tedium. It’s no wonder as to why I’m scratching my head with what to write about in this review. After finally sitting down with the game once again I was finally able to come up with enough content for this review. Finally, I am able to cover all of the reasons as to just why you gamers should leave this game in the sea of mediocrity with all of those other forgotten games.
You start off by selecting your car from a Ferrari F40, a Porsche 959, and a Lamborghini Diablo; some truly great cars indeed! You then pick your opponent, which is also one of those cars or choose to race the timer. Next, you choose one of three tracks, the top being the toughest and the bottom the easiest. I actually kind of like the menu system; it’s pretty simple but it’s laid out really nice.
Once the game play finally starts is where it really struggles off of the starting line (no pun intended)! The game only features a “driver’s seat view” and gives you a few gauges and a fuzz buster, among a few others. I’d recommend going straight for automatic transmission since manual is darn near impossible to keep control of during an entire race. Each race is broken up into six legs, with a gas station being the checkpoint for each leg. You start with five lives and every time you run out of gas, crash, fall off of a cliff, or get pulled over by the police you lose a life. You can gain extra lives by obtaining good times.
The game’s biggest fault is in the frame rate; it moves far too choppy and slowly to work right. It’s very hard to pass and avoid oncoming traffic since most times the other cars disappear once they get too close to you. Many times it’s hard to tell if a car is in the same lane as you or is in the oncoming traffic since the frame rate is just too slow, and it often left me making last second turns trying to avoid several of the cars. Many times I wasn’t sure if I was going to side-swipe a car and be left holding my breath. It becomes even more tense when you’re trying to pass a car on a ridge while making a sharp turn.
The view of the races were just something the Genesis wasn’t quite able to handle during the time this game was released. If Accolade waited to port this to the 32X then we might have had something special here, but we’re left with a very stripped-down game that’s graphically ugly and too sluggish to be enjoyable. The graphics are pretty ugly and tired in appearance. With the game’s view being from the driver’s seat, it didn’t leave much room on the cart to work on the graphics so what’s here is very washed out in appearance. Also, the backgrounds go on for far too long before they change. Throw in the choppy frame rate, and we’re left with some pretty taxing visuals that just aren’t much fun to look at.
My other big complaint with the game is that it’s sometimes hard to stop at a gas station in time, and sometimes it’s pretty easy to stop too far away from it, causing you to run out of gas. The other thing that I think was just lazy is that things don’t really transition between scenery properly. A few of the races have you driving a full leg through the mountains. Then, you stop at a gas station, and it goes to the stats screen. When you start the next leg, you’re just dropped into a desert or a field. It never really transitions, and it makes the game feel lazy and rushed.
The music in The Duel is pretty pleasant for what it is. It’s not going to grab you like it will in Jaguar XJ220 or Super Hang-On, but it sets a pretty casual mood and gets you some what geared up for the long winded races. The sound effects, on the other hand, are still pretty underwhelming at best. None of them feel like they made good usage of the sound chip, and most lack the deep and full sounds the Genesis is capable of.
I guess the thing that really killed this game for me is the length. Each race takes over fifteen minutes to complete, and the scenery never changes much. I grew pretty tired of playing before I even completed on race, and I still can’t complete the hardest track. The Duel still doesn’t like a true sequel either. It feels like a version 1.5 or something like that. You still get the same ending where your car is impounded, and you’re fined and arrested as in the Amiga original. They added two more courses in this one and gave you the opportunity to race a timer this time around too, but it still feels like an upgraded remake of the original instead of a true sequel. The audio, graphics, and gameplay feel about the same as the original as well.
The Duel lacks a multi-player option and isn’t much fun to take turns with either since my friend got pretty bored watching me play this for fifteen minutes straight. I didn’t care to watch him play when I was done either, so there’s nothing to make you want to play, and there’s no replay value whatsoever. It’s aged pretty poorly in every way that possible, and it’s even a step back from the SNES version. This may be one of the most grating and tedious games I’ve played in a long time. Just avoid this game at all costs. You’ve been warned!
SCORE: 3 out of 10