We’ve seen the recent release of Moto GP and its good to see the biking genre is still being supported but for some reason, two wheels never seem to appear as popular to the games playing public as four-wheel racers? Of course, things haven’t always been like that and from time to time a title comes along that really breaks the mould and takes the genre forward. A title that appeals to all fans of motorsport, an excellent all round product which proves that made properly the 2 wheel genre really can appeal to all.
Hang On was one of these titles; released in the arcade in the mid 1980’s Hang On was the definitive bike racing experience. The arcade version also came in deluxe guise with a full size motorbike which you had to physically move from side to side using your bodyweight. I remember seeing these at the sea side and was unable to play it properly because my feet couldn’t reach the pedal grips either side, so I did my best to steer while my dad held the back of the bike to give me a bit more help, call it a stabilizer if you will.
Though we don’t all have dads or stabilizers to help us in the real world this experience was unlike anything at the time. The graphics were big, bold and state of the art and the execution was daring, though it helped if you were taller. Of course, later we saw an accurate conversion of Super Hang On to the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) and this was to give the title a second run at the games buying public.
The game itself was basic; choose a location to ride in from a world map, each location being a different difficulty with the tougher difficulties having longer routes. You then ride as fast as you can with a form of turbo boost when you reach 200mph, the boost continues to charge as you maintain clean sections. So basic but very addictive, you see way back then we didn’t have all of the games coverage you see today. Beyond the first level or two most games were never covered in that much detail so reaching the next checkpoint was always a massive achievement if only to see what colour the level would change. It sounds ridiculous today but seeing the next level was the core action offered by most titles and despite the obvious limitation in hardware and visuals, this was always just as compelling so it really kept you coming back for more.
Presentation was almost non existent and graphics where functional but the bikes were given a cool futuristic visual style, backgrounds were colourful and gave every section a clear identity this was most effective when changing the time of day. But again as with many titles of this period, a suspension of disbelief was always helpful in maintaining that atmosphere, both when it came to the background and when you were overtaking the never ending convoy of green and brown bikes.
Alas, technology moves on and as Hang On became more dated it was left in the wake of newer more popular racers such as Outrun. Though many biking games have been released since none have truly captured the entire racing community but it is possible and has been done before, maybe one day we’ll see that again for now I look on this game with fond memories and despite it being shamefully missed out on the forthcoming Mega Drive Ultimate Collection it’s recommended to those of you dipping a toe into retro biking waters.