by Mark Esposito
It is obvious that everyone will compare this little gem to Nintendo’s Diddy Kong Racing, and rightfully so. Merlin Racing, by Miracle Designs, is their follow-up to Atari Karts on the Jaguar. In fact it seems Merlin Racing was originally made for Atari’s Jaguar 2 that never was released. As we all know the Atari Jaguar 2 became “Project X” by VMLabs, (consisting of ex- Atari employees ) and that Project X became Nuon. Miracle Design’s Atari Karts was a direct copy of Nintendo’s Mario Racing on SuperNES and featured one of Atari’s early characters, Bentley Bear. Can any of you guess what Atari game featured Bentley Bear? Remember Crystal Castles? It was one of my personal favorites and a fantastic game that should be up-dated to Nuon.
Overall, Merlin Racing is a fun game. There are several modes of play. Arcade Mode, which allows you to sample any level of which there are 24 in all. Each level will get increasingly more difficult as you progress through them. Adventure Mode is set in a huge castle. Each race is hidden behind giant doors which you enter with keys that are won after you beat a race. (We’ve seen that before.) After a few races you will be pit against Bosses that have a story unto themselves. Tournament Mode allows you go head-to-head with another player. The racing vehicles wary from dirt carts to boats and flying hovercrafts. The settings are equally as varied, from deep woods, dirt roads, caves, tunnels to futuristic cities, moats and underwater tunnels. I found the A.I. to be “right on” and challenging enough to feel rewarding after a victory.
The frame rate is good enough and the textures and colors are outstanding. The resolution is also acceptable, that is, when played on Toshiba’s SD-2300 DVD Nuon enhanced player. I have also played this game on Samsung’s N501 Nuon enhanced DVD player and the textures and resolution is not as sharp and to my taste unacceptable..
At first glance you might look at the level maps and think they are way too simple, but upon playing the courses, you will find them to be well designed and visually inventive. A blast to play. I found the control to be excellent (I’m using the Logic Tech control that everyone hates) and the sound fitting. Whimsical music and effects which match the game-play..
The bottom line is I give this game an 8 out of 10. If you are a Nuon owner, don’t pass it up and do take the time to get into it. There is a lot of fun, challenging gaming here and well worth the price of admission.
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