Letís get one thing straight - this review is academic. The only reason anyone is going to read this is to confirm that what theyíve already done was the right thing. Everyone who is interested in a review of Manx TT will already have bought the game as soon as it was released. You were always going to buy it, just like you bought Sega Rally, and just like you bought Daytona CCE even though you suspected it might be crap (and were mainly right). Like it or not, Manx TT was always destined to be a linchpin game, as it is one of those famous arcade conversions that make the Saturn SOOO superior to the Playstation, and without which weíd all be kicking ourselves for not having bought a PSX. So, onto business.
I only played the arcade version a few times, but these graphics have to be the closest thing to arcade perfect of all Segaís racers. Itís somehow not as glossy as Rally, but there is virtually no sign of the ďpop-upĒ that seems to occupy more than its fair share of a lot of peopleís minds, partly through good coding, and partly through very clever track design, which means that the horizon is nearly always over a convenient crest or round a bend, so you donít notice it being drawn. This falls over when in Mirror Mode, however, as all that clever design comes to nought, and the pop-up is evident once again, though not nearly as bad as in either of the Daytonas. In two player mode, also, the pop-up goes a bit haywire, but itís not enough to actually affect your driving, as you can always see far enough ahead. And letís face it, this game is SOOO FAST, anyone whose eyes are off the track for long enough to notice is already in the wall. Trackside detail is great, and the backgrounds are better integrated than those of Rally.
The usual drone - NEERRRR...NEERRRRR... NEERRRRR as you go up through the gears, and the music is truly dreadful (luckily you can turn it down - do so), but, out of character for a racing game, the tone of the engine really gives you a feel for how fast you are going, and along with the speed of the graphics, gives this game a real sensation of mega-speed. The sound of the bike finding a couple of thousand more revs as it crests the top of a hill and accelerates down the other side is genuinely exciting.
FACT - Manx TT is only worth having if you have the analogue controller (or possibly the steering wheel - I wouldnít know). With the standard controller, the bike just flicks from one extreme to the other, and even if you do manage to get round in time, you havenít got a hope of getting a good time. With the analogue controller, however, itís a whole different story. The steering is so sensitive, you can actually pick a line round a corner, and stick with it the whole way round, actually taking a proper racing line. Even Rally canít do that properly. This is the first console racing game Iíve played that gives you a genuine feeling of control, and completely does away with the tap-tap-tap method of steering. The bikes also have a controllable powerslide where the back wheel suddenly gives way, but can be brought back in with a twitch on the steering. Excellent.
In a word - FAST. I canít play Daytona anymore, itís like a watching a slug crawl up a drainpipe. Believe me, nothing gives a sensation of speed like this. There are two views: the chase view, where you can watch your rider's body pop around his bike as he turns corners (cute, and good for learning the tracks, but ultimately a little tame), and then thereís the riders viewpoint. A hedgehogs-eye view of the road, and one which is about as stomach churning as itís possible to get without swallowing a 9-volt battery. Thrill to the screen swinging from side to side as you powerslide through the TT course S-bend!
The difficulty level is set just right also. I always found the challenge mode in Daytona a bit of a joke, and as for all of those smartarse secrets (Just finish all courses in 1st place in Endurance mode at Hard level, and you can play as BATMAN!), well honestly. In Manx TT, you actually have a credible chance of a decent placing in challenge mode, without kissing goodbye to rest of your life, in order to get enough practice in. But donít worry all you ďhard-core gamersĒ out there, once youíve won the ordinary challenge, there comes the Superbike Challenge, with three new superbikes to chose from, and your opponents in this are so hard they eat nails on toast for breakfast.
This is everyoneís big bugbear with Manx TT, as it does, essentially, only have two tracks. The first one is easy, and wonít take long to have down pat, and while the second is a lot more tricky, thatís still only one decent track. There is however, the instantly accessible mirror mode, which some people have dismissed and said doesnít really count. I would disagree with this. Due to the undulating nature of the tracks, the mirrored versions are completely different in character, with jumps in different places and totally different speeds needed through corners. If you didnít know it was a mirrored track, I wonder how long it would be before you realised?
Then you have the two player mode. Obviously the graphics take a bit of a dive, with both a drop in detail, and also the ubiquitous clipping, but the main problem is the shape of the screen. The split is an ďover and underĒ type, which gives each player a flat wide screen. This is fine until you lean into a corner, and the screen tilts wildly, and what was a great aspect of the one player becomes a pain in the two player, as the screen rolls around so wildly, and there isnít the viewing area available to make sense of it, so it quickly becomes confusing. Still, at least it does have a two player mode, which is something to be thankful for, and can only enhance the longevity of the game.
As I said at the start, this review is academic. Anyone who was interested in Manx TT will already have bought it, but I am able to confirm for those people that this was A GOOD MOVE. It has its limitations, the lack of a full sized motorbike to sit on being one (you could always try sitting on your BMX in the living room, leaning from one side to the other, while driving with the analogue controller), and the number of tracks being another, but racing games are not like other games. It doesnít matter if you get to the end inside a week, because you can always go back and improve your times, and find a better line, or try it with a dog of a bike as a challenge. Itís not like a shoot-em-up, or an RPG, which is finished once you get to the end. Rally has only 4 tracks, that was the first game I bought over a year ago, and itís still the one I play more than all the others put together. Manx TT isnít quite as good as Rally, but itís pretty damn close, its so much faster, and itís a hell of a lot better than both Daytonas. I know Iím probably preaching to the converted here, but if by any strange quirk of life you havenít bought Manx TT yet, and are thinking that maybe youíd like to have one of the finest arcade conversions ever made ... BUY IT! What else did you buy a Saturn for?