Hang On has the distinction of being the first game I ever played for the Sega Master System when I had the console for Christmas when I was six years old. I am sure I am not the only one who can claim this as the first game they played with their Master Systems as this was the game that came with the console. Initially it came as one of the little used game cards that the original Master System could use as an alternative to the cartridge but then later came the Master System Plus which featured the game built in to the console along with Safari Hunt.
Hang On is a simplistic third person racing game. The object of the game is not to beat other riders to the finish but rather to beat the timer between checkpoints. This was a common format among racing games of the era with games such as Out Run and Super Monaco GP having the same goal. The player races a superbike in a seemingly endless road with various backdrops and scenery to give the impression of distance traveled. These scenes range from a race course style backdrop to a desert to a city.
Hang On can is a good game with which to start playing Master System games. It is not overly complicated yet is challenging enough to keep you entertained for a good few hours while you master the controls. The key to winning the game is selecting the right gear at the right time. You have three gears – LOW, MEDIUM and TOP – which alternate your speeds. Obviously TOP is the fastest gear but can only be used on the straights as in corners it will send you sliding across the screen. I found switching to MEDIUM as you hit the bend then going to TOP as the bend starts to shallow out as being the best tactic. You may slide a bit but not enough to see you being thrown in to a cactus or a a small bush which will cause you to explode in full 8-bit fashion. Once gearing is perfected then your main goal then is to avoid the other riders who are merely objects to avoid in this game.
Hang On isn’t going to thrill fans of in depth games but it will entertain for an hour or so. Its main drawback is the lack of variety between levels – the scenery repeats itself exactly in each level with just the track changing becoming more challenging. The scenery is not bad for 1987 and is better than what we saw on the SG-1000, the precursor to the Master System, but it isn’t spectacular. As a launch title it is a very good game but from the retro gamer’s point of view there are better racing games on the SMS.