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Stuart Campbell has trouble keeping his car on the road at the best of times, so who better to review a game where you're actually SUPPOSED to slew wildly across big fields?

Roads - who needs 'em? Off-road racing is a very big deal in the USA, where massive pick-ups with ridiculously-inflated tyres career at highly dangerous speeds around dirt courses reminiscent of a BMX track gone wild. Huge ramps, ravines and gratuitous piles of earth litter the courses, but it's no bother at all to these insane vehicles - they just bounce right on over the top.

The Big Star of off-road racing in the states is Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart, and he's lent his name to one of the arcades' most enduring overhead-view racers. Where other Super Sprint clones have come and gone, you'll still find a Super Off-Road Racer in most big city and seaside amusement arcades, and the game's enduring popularity is going to be extended even further by this Game Gear version.

Virgin have converted Super Off-Road better than I would have believed possible - everything about it reeks of the real thing, but the graphics especially take the Game Gear state-of-the-art to new heights. Not that they're really awe-inspiring to look at in themselves, but the accuracy, crispness, detail and animation is just stunning, albeit in a sly, subtle kind of way. To cope with the tiny scale of the graphics, Virgin have changed the game from a single-screen affair to a scrolling one, but you see so much of the screen at a time and the scrolling is so smooth and fast that it doesn't have any detrimental effect whatsoever - in fact, zooming in on the action just a little makes the whole thing even more atmospheric than it already was, which was pretty damn atmospheric in the first place.

The only downer about the game is the slightly random difficulty level. To continue playing, you have to finish each four-lap race ahead of the Ironman himself. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way of knowing how good he's going to be in any given race. One time he'll be completely useless and lag a lap-and-a-half behind you all the way round, then on the very next course he'll catapult round the place like his engine's been injected with napalm and you'll be out before you can say 'wow!'. If you can forgive this funny little quirk, though (or survive long enough to win enough cash to buy so many power-ups for your truck that you don't have to worry about it anymore), you'll be in for a real treat with this completely stonking little game.

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Coin-op graphics

Dazzling colour

Smooth scrolling

Lovely control

Very fast

Takes ages to beat

Practically unputdownable

Even more fun with a chum

Thrills and spills aplenty


Computer skill level is a bit uneven


A perfect conversion of the great coin-op - if it's overhead-view racing thrills you're after, you'll probably never do better than this. A corker!