After the worldwide phenomenon that was Pac Man, Namco found it difficult to recreate anywhere near the level of success that our pill popping friend did. Which is a pity as it has meant that games such as Rally-X have been living under that sizeable cloud ever since.
This is unfair because although the theme has been changed from hallucinogenic nightmares where ghosts torment a hungry yellow pie chart, to a slightly more realistic cat and mouse car chase, Rally-X is effectively a follow up to Pac Man. Expanding the playing area by introducing scrolling and an ever depleting fuel supply adds to the challenge, but it cannot be denied that by replacing the cars for Pac, Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, Namco could have badged the game Pac Man 2 and sold a ton more units.
Rally-X is a tough game and my initial attempts ended quickly. The inclusion of a radar was designed to help gamers with the large city, giving them advance warning of the approaching opposition. But more often than not, glancing across to the radar is your downfall and you are better advised to keep your eyes and the road and 'use the force'. There is a real sense of panic when a red car is on your tail and you weave through the top-down cityscape in search of flags and even now a game of Rally-X leaves me with a thumping heart by the time my last vehicle is totalled.
It seems that Namco/Midway must have received a lot of feedback like mine so a year later they released New Rally-X. Effectively the same game with a little more colour and a fancier racing car, they seriously notched the difficulty down making it more accessible to kids on a budget and its popularity increased greatly. But when you are playing the game, just imaging a yellow circle where your car is and repeat the mantra 'wakawakawakawaka' as you play and you will start to see just how huge this game could have been.