|There's some rods, they're hot.... Maybe...|
Take a television and put in down so that the screen is facing up towards the ceiling. Then take 4 steering wheels and 4 pedals and you've basically got the right layout for this arcade racer. Throw in some colours for the cars, make the tracks increasingly difficult and ensure some short cuts for the cheekier players and you've got Hot Rod.
|And nothing happened for ages, then a quick flash of something, then nothing.|
The recipe here is perfect for the home console (wait for it...). You've got a top down view racer akin to the old Micro Machines games with similar functionality. Up to four players can race around a track, picking up points and gas in order to race over the finish line and gain more points which can then be spent on upgrades and boosts to the racing car. The grinding is paramount and after winning races, you'll get yourself more and more points in which to buy better things and become an almost unstoppable car. On the assumption you can actually DRIVE the car.
As a racer, it's bright and bold and flashy, a rainbow spectrum of illustrative prowess brought by Sega here with clearly defined roads and layout, bonus pickups and nice little details in the background from people walking along roads to cattle wandering the countryside while you're driving through it like a bat out of hell. However, there lies a problem with this method of gaming.
|On your marks, get set, don't blow your engine on the start line.|
As mentioned above, actually driving the car can be a challenge. You're encouraged to floor the pedal and spin the wheel to corner, while there is also NO BRAKES. You can slow down gradually by releasing the pedal but there's no braking at all. So if you're going to lose control, you are GOING TO LOSE CONTROL and likely into a train, or against the wall and bump repeatedly against it while everyone else trundles happily along to the victory line.
|You either won or paid enough money to see this shit.|
Like the aforementioned Micro Machines, Hot Rod uses the same system of playing. In that it's one screen and whomever is found to be lagging behind (i.e. slipping off the screen) will be bumped to the middle of the screen and a significant amount of fuel will be confiscated as punishment. Do this enough times in a race and you'll be drained of all fuel and out of the game. Fuel pickups are not that numerous and you'll get 10 to 20 points worth each time, while winning a race will get you roughly 80 or so. Win enough races and the card girl gives you a kiss, aww isn't that cute. No.
|Despite the image, it's actually quite a smooth game.|
In the shop you can buy a whole host of items, from tyres to spoilers, wings and bumpers, engines and beyond. Cash is usually tight and you'll likely only get the change to have one upgrade or less (yes, none at all) when you visit the shop and not every item is available, it all depends upon which shop you go into. Sometimes your engine might blow up and you have to buy another, other times you'll have little clue as to what hazards will assail you in the next level and you'll be left guessing whether to buy the speed tyres, snow tyres, or radials in order to get the most of your control in the upcoming race.
|Different tracks with different challenges, sometimes you'll get a clue at the shop.|
That said, while the driving can be picky, tricky and finicky at the same time, there's also the fact that there are a LOT of levels in this game. If you can navigate around the tight corners, the horrible chicanes and the occasional traps like rock slides, avalanches, oncoming traffic and such, you might find it's a fun game to play but it does love to punish the unsuspecting player and punish them fiercely. If you can fund the time, it's an ok game, but far too expensive to really get into the meat of the gameplay and discover the marred gem of a game this is.