The Game: Go, Speed Racer, go! (Well, almost.) As the driver of a high-powered race car, you rocket around corners and down straightaways, trying to pick up every yellow flag in the maze-like course and avoiding deadly collisions with pursuing red cars. Watch out for rocks and oil spills, and use your smokescreen only when necessary to distance yourself from the red cars. (Bally/Midway [under license from Namco], 1980)
Memories: Namco released Rally-X at the same time as Pac-Man, and like Pac-Man, Namco licensed Rally-X to Midway. In fact, the major buzz at that year’s AMOA (Amusement Machine Operators’ Association) annual trade show – where arcade owners tried to figure out which would be the hottest new games to buy for their establishments – was for this dandy little racing/maze game, and Pac-Man was considered an also-ran, perhaps a little too abstract for the U.S. market.
If you think about it, though, the two games aren’t that dissimilar. In each, one must avoid contact with one’s pursuers, be they ghosts or red cars. In each, one must clear the maze of objects (flags or dots) to advance in the game. And Rally-X‘s opening musical fanfare isn’t a million miles away from the tune heard in Pac-Man‘s first intermission.
Why did Rally-X fail to set the world on fire like its dot-gobbling counterpart? Perhaps because Pac-Man was so outrageously abstract, bearing no resemblance to anything in real life, it appealed to a wider audience. With its race cars and smokescreens, Rally-X may have come off as nothing more than just another sports game, of which there were plenty in the early days – and many of those early sports video games weren’t very impressive, which may also have colored the gaming public’s view of this little racing game.
It’s actually kind of addictive.
Namco offered a New Rally-X upgrade to owners of existing Rally-X machines, as well as marketing the “new” game in its own cabinet.
And as for home versions? Ah, the pitfalls of being an also-ran…as every licensee in the video game universe trampled others to take a swipe at Pac-Man, Rally-X was forgotten in the home video game race until an arcade-accurate emulation of it appeared on Namco Museum Volume 1 for the Playstation in 1995.