Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Blade Interactive
Release Date: 01/27/2003
Remember the golden times when you and your friends went to a theme park to ride on those super fast roller coasters? Well I do - the twists the turns, the intense pressure, the girls, and, even better, the parents screaming. After going through one ride, we would rush to another, a different set of turns and spins. While I loved those carefree days, I absolutely hated the long lines for the rides, having to wait upwards of two hours for a ride that went by in an instant. Wouldn’t it be nice to not require the wait? A possible solution to those problems lies in Majesco's third PS2 game, HSX, a fast-paced roller coaster ride.
This game imitates the famous 2d racing game F-Zero, where the object of the game is to outspeed the other competitors. The game consists of two different types of racing: cup or time trial. In cup, you race in a series of races against nine other competitors, and depending on how well you finish, you will receive more points. There are two options for cup, arcade and slalom. Arcade consists of three excruciating laps, taking about 3.5 minutes to finish a race. Slalom is just a straightforward race, going from one place to the other. If you believe these courses are too easy, you can always change the difficulty levels, from I (easy) to III (hard). These difficulty levels just give the AI more brain power to burn you to a crisp. In time trial mode, all you do is race on one track, trying to beat your own course record.
Unlike other racing games, HSX lacks variety and game modes. As previously mentioned, HSX consists of only two game modes, giving the game little replay value, which is a big minus for this type of game. One game that rings in my mind with great replay is Wipeout Fusion (PS2), which mixes the features of Mario Kart and F-Zero to make an enjoyable game. Fusion had several types of weapons available to use to create a new feel to the game, while HSX only has boosters and healing items. However, one advantage that HSX has over Fusion is the lack of slowdowns. HSX runs the game so smoothly that at times you lose track of the course. If you’ve played Fusion, you will understand what I mean. Fusion lags so madly that it even puts playing UT2k3 on a voodoo 3 to shame.
The graphics in HSX are rather nice looking, with very smooth and crisp textures which greatly contributed to the game's aethetics but unfortunately, not to its gameplay. Compared to other futuristic racing games that are out on the PS2, this game has one of the most superb graphics, being able to render the entire race course neatly and fluidly. The only downside is that we go through the course so fast that you have almost zero time to enjoy the scenery. Another feature that gives this game an advantage is the weather effects: the snow and rain drops hit the screen, yielding a more realistic feel, but these effects also serve as a distraction to the player.
However, the weather isn’t the only distraction that you will encounter; the track itself is quite tricky with its blind turns, blind jumps, and, at times, the track itself just mysteriously disappears, making it extreme hard to stay focused on the game. There are two methods to die in this game: the instant death method, where you drive off the course, or the regular method, when you overheat the car. When the vehicle is in critical condition and about to overheat, you will witness flames coming from the portion(s) of the vehicle that you damaged. The only way to put out the fire is to run through the puddles of water on the ground. Unlike F-Zero, where you can wait in the repair zone to re-heal, HSX only allows the vehicle a matter of seconds to cool down as much as it can. At this point, keeping control of the car and staying alive is almost impossible but still manageable. With the game's poor controls, a sudden hard right or left will cause the ship to turn oddly, probably due to its limited 45-degree turning radius, utilized to prevent the player from going the wrong way (or at least that’s what I believe is the reason behind such a weak turning radius). You will notice that it’s nearly impossible to go the wrong way; it’s almost a skill to pull it off. Each ship has its own statistics, making it easier for some to get the booster items while making it harder for some others. These boosters are important to increase your speed on the course and should be used wisely.
The course itself also adds its own difficulty to the game, with its sharp turns, loops, incredible fast speeds, and one-way course. These loops prove to be obstacles which can throw you off course if you’re not careful. The course also has random blind jumps that can be the instant death of you if you’re not paying close attention. These instant deaths are not like F-Zero, where you do not make it across the jumps, but are rather a result of missed landings. It’s very rare for the player to land short of the track; my instant deaths were usually because of the blind jumps making me lose sight of the next section of the course. It would have been nice if they had included a map rather than just having players rely on pure instinct.
Even with all of these flaws, there is one option that rings out the most compared to the other racing games: the ability to create your own track. The method used to create the track is similar to Roller Coaster Tycoon, without the advanced options. You are allowed to make it as crazy as you can get, with the only downside being if you make it crazily messy like my tracks, you’ll lose all sense of direction and control. Not only can you edit the track layout, but you can also edit the weather conditions. These edited tracks can then be used for the cup races for either single- or 2-player enjoyment.
A maximum of two players can play this game simultaneously, and compared to other games, the multiplayer value of this game is extremely low. The tracks are so similar that you will most definitely get bored of it within a few races. Additionally, each race takes a good portion of your time, and the game could have benefited from truncated tracks in multiplayer mode. Having played this game with a friend, we were already sick of it within four races.
- Cup :
- Load Track
- Split Screen vertical
- 2 player max
Overall, I would say that this game is not really worth picking up. It lacks several features that you can find on Wipeout Fusion. Even though the game is selling at a whopping $9.99, Majesco just didn’t think this one through well enough. The only bright spots for this game were the graphics and the track editor, but they do not make up for all of the other faults in the game. If you are looking for a cheap game, I suggest picking up Seek and Destroy by Takara (a tank fighting game with several mini games and good replay value). If only HSX's graphics and rendering and were fused together with Fusion's superb gameplay, this game would have been one of sweetest games out there.
Score : 5.5/10