North American cover art by David Harto
Nintendo of America
Uniracers, released as Unirally in PAL territories, is a video game created by DMA Design and Nintendo of America for the SNES in North America in December 1994 and in the PAL territories on April 27, 1995. The game focuses on fast moving action, and was released to show that the SNES could handle games similar to SEGA's popular Sonic games.
The gameplay of Uniracers involves racing riderless unicycles around a 2D track. Heavy emphasis is placed on performing stunts. Performing stunts causes the unicycle to go faster on race or circuit tracks and earn points on stunt tracks. The stunts that can be performed are relatively simple, mostly only involving jumping in the air and rotating about a given axis in 3D space. The idea is to be able to perform these stunts quickly in tight situations while landing the unicycle on its wheel to avoid wiping out, which results in the loss of accumulated speed.
The game features nine tours of five tracks each (two race, two circuit, one stunt) for a total of 45. Beating each of the first eight tours requires defeating computer-controlled opponents for each of bronze, silver, and gold ranks. The last circuit features the Anti-Uni as the computer-controlled opponent. During that tour, touching the Anti-Uni causes several odd effects, such as the track becoming invisible, the controls reversing, and the background no longer moving in sync with the actions.
Split-screen two-player modes are available as well, including a league mode that allows up to eight players to compete in one-on-one races. There are 16 different colored unicycles to choose from, each with a save file and customizable name.
The track is made of bars with patterns on them which correspond to the track's properties at or near that point. For example, a solid yellow bar indicates a shortcut and orange/yellow bars indicates an upcoming hazard. There are also various obstacles like speed-ups, corkscrews, loops, twists, and of course, jumps.
Uniracers was known by the working title "1x1" during development. Shortly after the game's release, DMA Design was sued by Pixar for allegedly copying the unicycle design and concept from their 1987 short film Red's Dream. Mike Dailly, one of the developers at DMA Design, commented, "The problem with Pixar was that they seemed to think that any computer generated unicycle was owned by them." DMA Design lost the lawsuit, and as a result, Nintendo had to terminate production of further Unirally cartridges. According to Dailly, "The deal was that Nintendo wouldn't make any more carts so Unirally only sold the 300k initial run".
GamePro gave the game a mixed review. They praised the fast pace and "hard-drivin' unicycle music", but criticized the sound effects and graphics, remarking that the backgrounds are clean but boring, and the unicycles "all look identical." They concluded that players should "try this addictive game." A reviewer for Next Generation similarly said that Uniracers is innovative and oddly compelling despite its surface dullness, but that the excitement and novelty of the game wear out before long. Ed Semrad of Electronic Gaming Monthly remarked that "While it lacks the charm of most ... Nintendo titles, there is bound to be a cult following." However, the other three members of the magazine's review crew all gave Uniracers a negative assessment, saying that while the graphics and controls are good, the game simply lacks excitement.
Entertainment Weekly gave the game a B- and wrote that "The first unicycle racing game is both maximalist and minimalist — maximalist because it was programmed with the same Silicon Graphics workstations that contributed those stunning 3-D effects to Donkey Kong Country, minimalist because its small, riderless wheels execute high-speed ips and loop-de-loops against abstract backgrounds. Uniracers has its unique charms, I suppose, and I'm sure some younger players will nd it absorbing, but the whole concept seems excessively twee — which, come to think of it, is my reaction whenever I see anyone riding a unicycle."
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- Uniracers Instruction Manual. Redmond, WA: Nintendo. 1994. SNS-4L-USA.