Exertainment Mountain Bike Rally
At a Glance: Since the release of the world's first video game, widely known to be Final Fantasy 7, developers have been experimenting with ways to trick gamers into getting off their jelly-filled asses and working out. As if the Power Pad back in the NES days wasn't bad enough, our nation's arcades are currently suffering from a severe Dance Dance Revolution epidemic, infecting hordes of overweight teenagers who are in denial about their non-Japanese heritage by allowing them to clumsily hop around and stomp on arrows while an animated asian girl dances to a grating cacophony of computer-generated pop music. But thanks to Exertainment Mountain Bike Rally, I now know that not all games have gone this route. While most exercise-based games attempt to combine the fun of playing a game with the exercise of, uh, exercising, Mountain Bike Rally instead chooses to combine the fun of exercising with the exercise you get playing a game. And I'm not talking about playing a sport or any fun kind of exercise - they literally made a game about riding a mountain bike around a little track over and over so that your little Nintendo racer gets in better shape. The fact that no one bought this game is proof that there is at least some justice in this world, and the only thing that would make me happier is if the mastermind behind this game was convicted of crimes against the mountain bike industry and sentenced to death by falling piano.
Platform: SNES (Download Emulator here - 395k)
Download: Download ROM here - 1.02M
Game Plot: After spending years tipping the scales at 130 pounds, I decided that melting away the fat with a mountain biking game sounded like a totally swell idea. Sadly this idea, much like my idea earlier today when I told my comic-book-reading friend that Juggernaut could wear two helmets at the same time to become even unstoppabler, was doomed from the outset. As it turns out, Mountain Bike Rally is simply a way for you to enjoy the tedium of brief monotonous exercising, the kind a middle-aged man does when he realizes he's been a lazy bloatbag his whole life and he tries to make up for it in one day by hopping on the exercise bike and frantically pedalling until his heart splits open and dies like Pac-Man.
On the surface, this appears to be a standard racing game, albeit an incredibly ugly one where pixels on the road deform and swell until they look like evil asphalt-dwelling cube monsters trying to swallow your rider whole. However, you will soon discover (mostly because you're about to read it) that the goal is not to finish first, or to finish within a certain amount of time, but simply to complete a certain number of laps. It doesn't matter how long you take, how many people finish ahead of you or how many fat little arab men you run over on your way to the finish line - all you need to do is complete a certain number of laps and you're free to move on to the next circuit of giant pixel farms. This doesn't sound so bad until you look at how many laps you need to complete - 100 in the qualifying track to unlock the first circuit, 500 to unlock the second circuit and 1,000 laps in the second circuit to unlock the final track. Multiply that by my wild guess of one minute per lap, and you can see that unlocking everything takes well over a year.
There are eight characters to choose from, but they don't affect your bike's performance at all. Hell, they don't even look that different once the game starts - even Mystery, who could best be described as a Protoss snowman, magically turns into a normal-looking guy once his profile picture disappears and the game begins. But don't worry, he still intimidates the opposition with his arsenal of awesome quotes, which includes zingers like "Mystery rules!" and "Winning is no mystery." You can also pick different bikes that are rated in a few categories, but the only category that affects the game at all is speed. Since you aren't penalized at all for going off the road, and the game will instantly point your bike in the right direction again, you're pretty much guaranteed to win if you simply pick the bike with the best speed rating and tape down the A button.
Enemies: There are other racers that litter the track, but they pose almost no threat to you so you're free to ignore them. The same goes for the obstacles that feel the need to jump out in front of your bike every three seconds on certain tracks, even though it's impossible to tell what most of those moving obstacles are due to the fact that they're composed of three pixels each. The moving obstacles in the qualifying track look like short, fat little arab men, and later on they change to leprechauns and then some kind of brown animal that looks like a dog or a bear or a kangaroo or something. But don't worry, hitting these enemies won't make you fall or even slow you down; you'll just make a grunting noise and keep on truckin'. There are some other nonmoving obstacles that have very bizarre effects - there's a light blue splotch that appears to be a puddle of water, but running over it launches you ten feet in the air and makes you do a trick. There's a green square splotch that looks like someone dropped a moldy sandwich on the track, and for some reason riding over it gives you bonus points and makes your bike wobble. It's all very fucked up, but I'm sure I could make more sense of these mystery objects if they didn't jump around the screen at five frames a second and they weren't made of waffle-sized pixels.
Weapons: Your single lonely weapon (if you enable it in the options menu) is the punch. For a brief moment I thought the inclusion of Road Rash-style violence could partially redeem this game, but then I discovered that punching an enemy doesn't affect them at all. It just makes them emit the same grunt that you make when you run over Mini-Mohammed and his pet kangaroo.
Number of Levels: There are eight total tracks, including the qualifier and the final race. They go through the usual environments you'll find in a racing game - a few city tracks, a jungle track, a lava track (?), an ice track, a mud track and a futuristic city track that looks like it was supposed to go into F-Zero until the Grand Prix Commission nixed it after its chairman visited the track and was tragically crushed by a pixel the size of a houseboat.
Number of Bosses: None, which is a very good thing, both because I don't see how bosses could fit into a game like this and because there's no way the SNES could handle another moving sprite on screen without pushing the seconds per frame into the double digits. I wrote this entire article in the time it took the game to render my bike turning sideways.
Defining Moment: Despite the game's impressive resumé of flaws, I still think the defining moment was when I realized I was playing a "health and fitness" game that requires you to sit motionless in one spot for hours on end to finish. Was the game originally bundled with an exercise bike peripheral that you had to use? Does the instruction book tell you to play it by doing pushups and hitting the A button with your nose? Sadly, with no one around to provide the answers, the mystery of how this game was supposed to get people in shape will remain forever unsolved. (or maybe it won't, now that some readers have informed me that the game was indeed meant to be played with a horrendously expensive bike peripheral at any fitness centers that happened to have Super Nintendos, which is an even dumber idea than using a controller.) But I do know that the next time I ride a bike, the memories of this terrible game will come flooding back, and that'll mean it's time to head downhill and aim for a tree.
Each category in the rating system is based out of a possible -10 score (-10 being the worst). The overall score is based out of a possible -50 score (-50 being the worst).