Unirally (Super Nintendo) Review

By Adam Riley 11.02.2003

Review for Unirally on Super Nintendo

Shortly before Nintendo and Rare implemented the innovative graphical technique 'ACM' (Advanced Computer Modelling) into Donkey Kong Country, the technique was actually tested out on a little known game by the name of Unirally (or Uniracers in the US). DMA Design, the team now known as Rockstar North and most famous for its Grand Theft Auto series, was responsible for this unique side-on racing game that even rivalled Sonic in terms of speed.

A racing game – the type of genre that doesn’t exactly need a strong storyline, or even any story at all. At least that’s what the majority of people would think…But DMA decided that some justification was needed for why ‘living’ unicycles, complete with unique personalities, were racing against each other and performing kerr-aaazzzy stunts. It goes something along the lines of there’s a large battle between sentient unicycles, and the only way to claim victory is by racing…Not really ground-breaking stuff there, is it? The game would have actually got higher marks in this category if they’d left it out!

Screenshot for Unirally on Super Nintendo

This looks just like it should do – a demo run of a new graphical technique before the process is finalised and used on the big-time product (in this case the industry-shaking Donkey Kong Country). So what do I mean by this? Well, the unicycles all have a nice, chunky 3D feel to them, as do the twisting and turning pipes that you speed along. But that’s the highlight – as aspects such as the backgrounds and menu screen are ultimately bland and almost seem to have been thrown in at the end as an afterthought. The menus are slightly unforgivable in their simplicity, but the racing backgrounds can be deemed adequate considering the velocity you will quickly gain shortly after the uni-battle commences. There is, thankfully, no slowdown as you zip along the different coloured pipes due to the lacking quality of detail in the background. The race tracks themselves have various colourful patterns on them throughout each course, highlighting numerous factors (areas that are covered in oil, a run-up to a loop-the-loop, or the upcoming final stretch for example). This actually works really well considering you’d imagine nothing would be easily noticeable at such a pace. But the best addition definitely has to be the inclusion of the personalities to the unicycles – with smooth animation for each one: they throw looks over their ‘shoulders’ if they sense the opponent gaining ground on them, the victor does a merry little dance and losers either cry or simply topple over in utter disgrace. This, added to the fluid movement when spinning and twirling through the plethora of stunts, makes this game stand out from the pack.

There are two SNES title tracks that remain in my Top 5 gaming tunes today – a game called Plok! (which you will definitely see in the Retro Reviews when I get a chance), and this one. It isn’t often you hear electric guitars used (at least to good effect anyway) in computer games, but this is one of those that can be placed in the minority group. The constant rocking as you press start, progress to the menu screen and choose which unicycle and track you want encourages you further into the game – then, once the screen zooms in on the action, you can hear the screeching of yours and the opponents tyres on the track, waiting to be released from the clutches of the starter flag…3…2…1…GO! Heart-pumping stuff, it really is…

Screenshot for Unirally on Super Nintendo

There are two main aspects to the game: out-and-out racing and awesome stunt action. To achieve the best results, though, these should not be taken as two completely different entities – combining them to perfection will lead to you leaving your opponent in the dust. Whilst racing along the multi-coloured tubes that bend, curve and loop, you must find any opportunity to and fit in some variety of stunt – be it a simple forward roll or a mighty combination of rolls, twists and flips. The more impressive the trick, the faster the boost your unicycle will receive – which will be ever-so-necessary if you make a mistake when going round a loop or simply run through the sticky oil dotted around the wayside by accident. There is a dedicated ‘Stunt Mode’ as well, where you must achieve a certain points score within a time limit in order to gain an elusive Gold Medal. This may sound easy, but there is an art to obtaining the highest points totals. Not only must you try to find areas of each Stunt Arena that give you the most ‘air time’ for ‘pure stuntage’ purposes, but you must also learn to frequently attempt stunt combinations that haven’t previously been performed. For, you see, if you think you can rack up a high score by doing twist after twist then you’re sorely mistaken. Once one move has been completed, if repeated you only get half the points you first got. So your fancy 32-point move suddenly looks less attractive when the next time it only notches up 16 on the score board, then 8…and so on.

Screenshot for Unirally on Super Nintendo

Overall Unirally is a very clever game, with extremely simple, yet clever gameplay mechanics. A relatively straightforward lesson in racing for many developers that should definitely be taken on board.

The stunt mode, the various different leagues that you must gain bronze, silver and gold medals in, the two-player face offs, the tournament mode that can incorporate up to 15 friends, along with the staple Time Trial option mean that this game will undoubtedly stand the test of time...and in fact, I may just go dig out my copy once I have finished this review!

Screenshot for Unirally on Super Nintendo

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Since DMA Design is now Rockstar North, and Grand Theft Auto has become such a large franchise, it seems a follow-up to this addictive little SNES game isn't likely to make an appearance, which is a crying shame as there is definitely a place in the market for such a speed-fest that contains breath-taking stunts as well. Perhaps if enough people (politely, of course) email [email protected] about it, though, he'll realise there's a demand and make something special happen!

Also known as



DMA Design







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (6 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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