It's well established Saturn mythology that an early version of Scorcher was shown to developers as a display of what the Saturn can do, and I'm sure they were very impressed, and for the first thirty minutes of playing I thought Scorcher was the best game I'd ever seen. Seamless presentation, gorgeous hi-res graphics, and an absolutely fantastic soundtrack make Scorcher one of the most polished Saturn games yet, and I started to wonder if, just maybe, the mighty Sega Rally could be knocked down to the position of 'second best' Saturn racer.

But then it started to go a bit wrong.

For starters, you only race against 3 other opponents, the strange 'bikes' you ride bounce very unpredictably around the track and scenery, and the biggest downer of all is the lack of any sort of speedometer. That may seem like a tiny complaint, but think about how often you've carefully negotiated corners in other games, trying desperately not to drop a precious one or two miles per hour, and your lap record attempt has been ended because you dropped to 125mph instead of 128mph round that crucial second corner. And when you crash right into a solid wall at high speed, you stop. You don't fly through the air, you don't spin out of control, you just stop. Annoying to say the least, and the tracks seem to be strewn with corners and holes just to frustrate you.

Talking of the tracks (cool link, eh readers?), they all balance precariously on the fence between 'clever' and 'unfair' with some devious and almost impossible sections that can drive you insane when you fall off the track for the tenth time in a row. The tracks are very pretty though, the game has a very well designed futuristic feel, and there's no doubt that these are some of the finest visuals that the Saturn has produced - But there is some noticable slowdown when you're racing alongside one of your opponents. Although, this is the first racing game I've played where it's actually easier and more fun to play from the driver's perspective, and this also conveniently helps to get rid of most of the slowdown, and you get the cool Manx TT style rolling screen that actually makes the game play quite a bit better than it does in the 'chase' views.

When you get up to some serious speed thanks to the icons you pick up as you race, the smooth hi-res graphics can be astounding as you whoosh through moody industrial landscapes. But.........compared (inevitably) to Sega Rally, Scorcher just doesn't have the frantic gameplay and delicate tactics needed to hold your interest, and to get you chipping away at those lap times. Even the 'saving grace' of many games, two player mode, isn't in Scorcher. Surely they had enough time.

As a Playstation game, Scorcher would probably be given around 96% by most magazines, Playstation reviewers would be easily stunned by the ace visuals, and fooled into raving about this fairly shallow experience. But us discerning Saturn owners expect greater things, and as has become customary in reviews of Saturn racing games, I must now once again mention the fact that (insert name of game here) isn't anywhere near as good as the legendary Sega Rally, however, Scorcher is a great advert for the 'hidden' power of the Saturn, and it's still a fairly decent game in its own right, worth buying if you like tough (very very very tough) racing games.


bottom button articles links reviews main page