Single-screen arcade racers have always been one of the most obscure sub-genre of racing games. Sadly, many people seem to have a tendency to forget about them, unless they happen to have a personal attachment or fond memory of a particular game.
From the likes of Super Sprint, Micro Machines, BadLands and Super Off-Road, there have been a ton to choose from over the years. Never to be left out of a good thing, SEGA has had its fair share of single-screen racers, as well, releasing a four-player racer of its own, Hot-Rod, in 1988.
It didn’t stop in the arcades, though, as eventually most of these games were ported to home consoles of the time. It wasn’t long before SEGA’s own Genesis got ports of Super Off-Road and Micro Machines to cash in on the hype.
However, there was one more single-screen arcade racer that never saw the light of day on SEGA’s little black box, and that brings us to the topic of today’s Forgotten Racer.
Hot off the heels of Ivan Stewart’s Super Off-Road, Leland Corporation went straight to the drawing board for another great arcade hit using a real racing driver’s likeness. This came to the world in the form of Danny Sullivan’s Indy Heat, released in 1991.
Just as big of a hit as Super Off-Road, it was inevitable for Indy Heat to get its own ports, as well. Of course, there was the Amiga and NES versions, but oddly enough, there exists a Genesis port of the classic Indy racer, too. Although it was completed and licensed by Tradewest in 1992, Indy Heat’s Genesis outing unfortunately never saw the light of day … until the prototype was unearthed years later.
Originally having a limited run of reproductions in 2011, the ROM has been dumped online and made somewhat available to the public. Doing some digging, I have found said ROM and got myself a reproduction cartridge, just to see how it plays and if it was wrong for it to have the fate it received.
Indy Heat, for being an unreleased game, was pretty much completed, and it’s a true shame because it’s one of the best ports of the arcade I’ve played so far. Indy Heat’s premise is very simple – you race a certain amount of courses to win a circuit and then you get to do it all over again. This game is more or less the same as Super Off-Road, but radically different in certain aspects.
One key aspect to winning at Indy is the use of upgrading your crew and timing pitstops correctly. Just as in a real Indy race, pit stops are key here as your car will run out of gas at some point. An upgrade shop is available, just like Off-Road, where you can upgrade your engine, tires, brakes, buy nitros, and three new shop options not seen before.
For one, since pit stops and gas are concerns, you can upgrade your fuel efficiency, and the speed of your crew, to make your stops shorter and less frequent. Also added in Indy Heat was the “Danny’s Choices” option; this pretty much made computerized decisions of what to upgrade with your race winnings.
Gameplay here is pretty standard stuff for the genre. You have a button for gas, one for nitros and releasing the gas brakes. Steering feels pretty goo too, not perfect, but it works.
As this is an arcade game, you’re provided a limited amount of continues, with the coins here being three. This port does not mess around when it comes to its difficulty. As much as of an Indy Heat veteran I am, I have to admit, this port kicked my ass, and the AI was programmed to be every bit as tough as the original arcade game … but damn is it fun.
Speaking of which, there are not many differences between the two. The most noticeable ones are that there are only four cars on track now instead of five, and only two players can play instead of the arcade version’s three. Not a major setback, but they could have at least worked five cars into there somewhere.
As for the presentation, the Genesis version of Indy Heat looks almost as good as the arcade, maybe even better. There is a lot of detail on display, especially in the menus and courses. Games like this always have a lot of detail put on display, considering they are pretty much making a whole race course visible on a single screen. You could even say this is the definitive version, visually speaking.
Audibly, it is slightly a mixed bag. From what it seems, none of the original arcade music is here, even the awesome intro and menu music is gone, which is a bummer.
It’s not entirely bad though, as some of the music on display is really good. Going for a rock music feel, Tradewest’s soundtrack for works and is enough to prepare you for the awesomeness that is Indy Heat. The sound effects are done well, too, as scarce as they are. Some of the original voices from the arcade made their way over, as well as certain sound effects.
The only downside is there is no engine noise, which isn’t a deal breaker, but it would have been a nice touch. It’s kind of understandable, though, as I have no clue how the Genesis would be able to keep four engine notes going along at the same time, along with other sounds and voices.
Altogether, Indy Heat is one to track down and play in some shape or form. The arcade version is still great, as are most of the ports.
Out of the ports though, I can’t recommend the Genesis version enough. It may be difficult to find the ROM, but it is worth it for playing a piece of unreleased Genesis history. Repros themselves shouldn’t be too hard to get made (I got mine done by a friend on Facebook), if you find the right person to make them.
Either way, if you want a really fun arcade racer that you can enjoy multiplayer, Danny Sullivan’s Indy Heat is one wild, fast ride worth taking. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.