This game, with an incredibly long name, was one of my favourites when I was nine years old. After its release it immediately shot to the top of my list of must play machines whenever I’d spot one in an arcade. I’d drop several dollars’ worth of quarters into the machine – not exactly chump change for an adolescent in the late ‘80s.
The attraction started with the cabinet. It featured a unique design as a stand-up machine affixed with three steering wheels. Below each wheel was a single pedal for acceleration. Player’s had to stand on their right heel and step down on the pedal with their toes to propel the truck forward in the game.
I’d wander up to the machine and pick my favourite colour, blue. Not only was I fond of this shade, but it was also one of the steering wheels at the end. So, if a second player joined in, hopefully they wouldn’t be standing right beside me. No need to be bashing elbows while flailing around, spinning that wheel.
Unique, Fun, Dated
I’d drop in the first of my roll of quarters and enter my three-letter initials or, more likely, make a hilarious juvenile name like DIC or ASS.
The actual gameplay was fantastic for its. It may not have been the originator of the top-down, full-course visible racer, but it did have a unique concept. The off-road stadium truck courses included various obstacles like jumps, rocks, banked corners, puddles, rumble strips and more. In later versions of the game, there were even sneaky short cuts.
Gameplay favoured keeping the accelerator pedal pinned to the ground except for in the tightest of corners. Steering consisted of whipping the wheel around furiously from side to side, with hands-off multi-rotations helping negotiate tighter corners. There were a variety of tracks, each with specific obstacles and themes. I personally loved the figure eight track.
Some aspects of Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road hasn’t aged so well, like the excessive amount of bikini clad woman that appear on nearly every menu screen, for no real purpose other than getting horny teenage boys to play the game.
Upgrade That Truck
This was one of the first games to allow vehicles to be upgraded, with real, actual parts. After a race, a player got to upgrade aspects of their truck with their earnings like better engines, upgraded tires or improved shock absorbers. Although I am sure it made a difference, I never really benefitted from the upgrades, but that is more a reflection on my abilities than the game itself.
Besides race winnings, it was also possible to gather up cash that would appear randomly along the track during a race. Extra shots of nitrous oxide would also litter the track. Speaking of which, a button on the cabinet would engage the nitrous and give a brief shot of speed.
Now Available at Home
After a few short years, the massive success of Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road meant it was ported over to personal computers (PC) and gaming consoles. This meant I could finally play the game for excessive periods of time without emptying my piggy bank.
The PC version was a very good replication of the original arcade game, but sadly I nor any of my friends the game for the PC. Instead, we had the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version. I was never a big fan of that NES versions – it just didn’t translate from the arcade as well as I hoped. Gameplay seemed slower, the tracks less appealing and the overall gameplay felt chunkier. Maybe I missed spinning that free-from-resistance steering wheel.
Regardless, the sequels were better, but nothing ever touched the arcade original in my mind. Still to this day, if I see one of these cabinets at a retro arcade, I’ll be damn sure I’m heading over to play it.