ESPN Speedworld

ESPN’s Speedworld is a strange world, where fishbowl lenses rule and perspective has no rules; where insignificant specks in the distance become large blobs then cars in the blink of an eye.  It is a world where cars are sardine tins with wheels, clanging together at 179 miles per hour.

WARNING: Objects on screen may be closer than they appear.
WARNING: Objects on screen may be closer than they appear.

Can you see that speck in the distance?  No joke, that car is like 5 metres away from me.

I'm not even kidding, all of these cars are within 4 seconds of each other.
I'm not even kidding, all of these cars are within 4 seconds of each other.

But this makes the game sound more surreal than bad, and that’s not what I’m aiming for.  That’s not Responsible Journalism(TM). Speedworld is no Salvador Dali, replete with melting clocks and flaming giraffes; it’s just a NASCAR racing sim that’s not particularly good.

In fact, Speedworld could benefit from more than a few flaming giraffes, because it’s just so goddamn plain.  This is not some journey through the European countryside with your hot blonde babe in tow, this is ten to fifty laps of the same oval course with nothing to see but Sony stadium, a smaller ESPN grandstand, and a whole lot of grass.  And I don’t mean grass of the reality-bending, flaming-giraffe-inducing kind.  Just plain grass.

To be honest, I think a majority of Sony Imagesoft’s development time was expended capturing voice and video samples of the commentator, Jerry Punch (apparently I’m supposed to recognise this man).  The video seems impressive for its time – unless reviewing for this illustrious publication has drastically lowered my expectations of the 16-bit generation of games – but it ultimately adds nothing to the game itself.  In fact, it has ultimately taken away from the game, because this time would have been better spent, I don’t know, adding in a few more frames, putting something on the grass, or say, redo-ing the entire game.

The best part of the game is also non-playable.
The best part of the game is also non-playable.

If you had shown me this game back in 1993, then proceeded to tell me that not only would Sony – the creators of this game – release a videogame console the following year, but would become industry leaders for the next two hardware generations; not only would I have laughed in your face, I probably would have bludgeoned you to death in my disgust.

The instrument of your destruction?  A copy of Yu Suzuki’s lovingly crafted Outrun.

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