Race Mania is a fun top down racing game from 1995 that plays a lot like Micro Machines, the absolute classic that was once the cause of many a broken friendship. This Flair developed racer takes this one step further by demanding underhanded strategies if you want to get anywhere. It's slogan is "Fair Play Strictly Prohibited" after all...
Not only does it encourage the disintegration of relationships, but it also tries to help you with your loss. Billboards promoting suicide helplines are placed on some of the 20 tracks, but only serve to rub you face in it. "Feeling Lonely or Depressed?" it claims, "Call 1-800-KISS". I'm not sure if that is a real American telephone number and I'm tempted to give it ring to see where it takes me but this Brit's fear of my telephone bill outweighs my curiosity. If any of you lovely readers give it a go, tell me what you find!
The game itself is simple. Use the arrow keys to race around the tracks in an aerial view. Place first and you win. Sounds easy enough, except the AI controlled cars (and your friends) are complete bastards. They will knock you off your course like a pinball, and despite every effort, you'll remain in last place. At least that's how it was for me. This, along with flashbacks to my Ignition review are slowly destroying any ideas that I am any good at racing games.
To help you along, a roaming helicopter will randomly drop some power-ups. So far, they have only amounted to speed boosts in my game-play sessions, but the opening cinematic assures me that there are rockets to be had. It would be nice to have more of a variety in how you can fuck up your friends.
Other cars are not the only hazards in your race to the finish line. Pixellated people roaming the outside of the track find just as much glee in your misery by throwing mines and bombs at you depending on the course. Unlike your bastard of a best bud, you can take your revenge - any time they wander onto the track, you have free reign to run them over with a satisfying scream. Sure you can murder your mates in real life, but I don't think the repercussions are quite the same.
You can choose to share the experience with friends in a two-player split-screen mode. Nothing quite beats rubbing your face in the loser when he's sitting right next to you and it is far more enjoyable with someone closer to your skill level. Just don't say I didn't warn you. There is also an eight-player online and LAN option, but I have not tried this with DOSBox. I'm not entirely sure if the emulator supports such options, but I'm pretty sure the 20 year old community is not there anymore to make it worthwhile.
Race Mania is a frustrating as it is fun. It relies on track memorisation and a keen knowledge of your vehicles handling if you want to try and beat your opponents. The two-player split-screen is very welcome and the whole experience is far more enjoyable with "friends". Or former friends I should say.
I think I'm ready to call that self-help number now.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Tested on Windows 7.
Race Mania is © Flair Software
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me