Video game developer Sunsoft acquired the license to produce Super NES games based on the popular Looney Toons characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and the Road Runner in 1992. This game, Road Runner's Death Valley Rally is one of the better games based on the license and it actually manages to recreate the zaniness of the original Road Runner vs Wile E. Coyote cartoons. The player is cast as the Road Runner himself and must complete a series of platform-based levels while triggering special flags and avoiding the coyote. Unfortunately while it is a fun speed-based race through traps and troubles, it can become tedious very quickly.

There are five worlds in the game that are set in a variety of places (such as the desert, a construction site, a train, underground mines, and Mars) with each world divided into three levels plus a boss battle against the coyote. The main goal of each level is to avoid the coyote. He'll use most every trick in the book to get at you including pursuing on foot, dropping grenades from a hot air balloon, flying around in a batman costume, and much more. Each of the traps and ploys the coyote tries come directly from the old cartoons that the game is based on, so if you're familiar with the animated shorts of yesteryear you'll get a kick out of seeing some old gags revisted. At the end of each level the coyote gets his comeuppance, but it's impossible to injure him directly during gameplay himself. Avoidace is the watchword of the day here. And yes, the coyote does fall off a cliff at least once in each world; in fact he plummets to the bottom of the canyon in all of his Mode 7 glory. While all of this is going on you'll also have to find the hidden and not-so-hidden flags that are scattered around each level. Triggering one causes it to raise up on the flagpole and, aside from awarding points based on flag color (yellow, red, green, and purple), if/when the Road Runner bites the dust you'll continue from the last flag that was activated. There's a time limit for each level that is worth points at the end, but if the timer reaches zero before you finish the level, nothing happens. Collecting enough flags results in extra lives and chances to continue when all the lives are used up.

So with all this opposition against him, how does the Road Runner defend himself? Well, he pretty much cannot. His main weapon is his speed; by building up enough speed and then quickly stopping his sharp feet will knock down certain minor enemies and obstacles. The surfaces in the game are done up in such a way that the Road Runner can run straight up walls and over slopes (much like how the platforms are set up in the Sonic the Hedgehog series). By standing still and pushing the A button the 'Runner can use a mean peck to whack at baddies or eat bird seed (which, incidentally, fuels his speed). He can also jump, but this can only be used to scale obstacles and bottomless pits and not for jumping on enemies. Oh, and just for fun the L and R buttons make him stick out his tongue and make the classic "beep beep" noise. Along the way the Road Runner can pick up items to help him in his journey, such as life meter refills (five hits and he's dead, so use these wisely), piles of bird seed, invincibility shields, 1-ups, and extra points.

The most memorable aspects of the game are the boss fights. At the end of each world you are shown a blueprint of the coyote's latest master plan. The blueprint outlines how he will attack and where the weak point(s) are in the device. Some of the dangers to be faced in boss battles include a giant catapult, a killer crane, a massive coyote robot, a speeding locomotive, and a drilling device. The trick is to avoid the dangers that the coyote lobs and peck at the weak points until they fall apart.

While the Road Runner is lickety fast, he's quite difficult to control at high speeds. Unlike speed maven Sonic the Hedgehog who can almost stop on a dime if you control him well enough, the Road Runner requires a good stretch of land to slow down, stop, or change direction. His jumps feel "off" somehow, as if they don't react to the physics model in the game. He's almost too light; he'll hang in the air for a moment at the arc of a leap, plus he becomes wider than he is taller when he jumps. This can make landing on narrow ledges difficult as it's hard to tell how he'll stand upright when he lands. Once you get the hang of how the Road Runner moves things aren't so bad, but even still you'll find yourself frustrated in later levels that require precision speed and jump control.

Road Runner's Death Valley Rally is a fun if difficult romp through one of animation's most classic cartoons. Initial previews of the game in Nintendo Power claimed that the game and a real Road Runner cartoon were displayed side by side and "players couldn't tell the difference between them"; well, I wouldn't go that far, but the game is still crisp and bright. If you're a fan of these classic characters and of platform-oriented side-scrolling games, I bet you'll enjoy this one. You're best bet for finding it is to check the used game stores and online auctions. Better hurry though - it'll go fast.

Nintendo Power

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