Here's a motorcycle racing game on some of most tortuous tracks in the world that all speed merchants will love! Start by setting the options: Practice, Single Race or Championship Circuit. Then set the difficulty level between easy peasy at one end of the scale and 'Aaaagh! Where are the brakes,' at the other. Finally, log in your name and the number of laps you want to race (1-99). Three bikes are on offer: a 125cc wimpo machine, a 250cc butch machine and a 500cc suicide machine no one in their right mind would choose.
It's best to choose Practice mode first, mainly to get used to handling the machine. You can spend most of the time in the first few races on the grass rather than the tarmac. But once a bit of control is gained, tackle Single Race or Championship. In both of these you're up against other racers, with the Championship Circuit offering the added fun of slowly clawing your way up the leader table.
Whichever mode you play The Cycles, it's fun, and you get tasteful day-glo sunspecs with the game too. In real life I prefer driving a car (though not as suicidally as Nicko) to riding a bike, but unlike Nick I enjoyed playing this game. Okay, it isn't graphically stunning, but I found it playable. Perhaps Nick doesn't like racing games after his car crash.
MARK ... 85%
'Cycles is a typical Accolade conversion. They make a fantastic simulation of motorcycles on the 16-bit computers and then attempt to bring the game to 8-bit - unsuccessfully. The packaging is plastered with screen shots of the IBM PC version not the Spectrum - a tad misleading. The graphics consist of patchy coloured cycle handlebars and a monochrome area where the undetailed track trundles by. When racing the odd opponent zooms past too: nothing special visually, and there's no tune, just a motorcycle noise effect. Playing the game isn't too bad once you master the controls. Hit every corner at correct speed or you go flying off into the grass. Play doesn't seem too difficult though: I got first place every time on the hardest difficulty! A world record I think! Cycles is a mediocre simulation of a nail biting sport, not suited to the 8-bit capabilities.'
NICK ... 52%
NEEEEEOOOOOWWWW!!! "And... here... comes... Jack The Lad, Jack The Lad zooming into the hairpin bend on her Honda 150." EEEEEEEOOOOWW!!! "Oh, and... there... goes... Jack The Lad, just watch her shooting through the chicane at breakneck speed!" SCCCRRREEEECH! CRAAAAASSHH! "Oh... and there's Jack The... And she's, er... uuuuuurgh."
Motor cycle racing, eh, readers? There's nowt to beat it - the thrills, the spills, the sitting astride a throbbing machine in your pervy leathers, whizzing down an open road with the sun in your face and the wind in your hair. Shame about The Cycles then, 'cos this latest motor cycle racing from Accolade has got more in common with a bone-shake round the park on your sister's Raleigh Esprit than a swift spin round the hairpin bends of Brands Hatch! Hrumph.
That's not how things are supposed to be of course. No, in The Cycles the aim of the game is to whiplash round eight authentic Grand Prix circuits in the hope of becoming Motorcycling Champ of the World. But flippin' heck, even before you can rev up and speed out onto the track you've got to plow your way through the usual barrage of 'options'! You know the sort of thing... What kind of race - Practice, Single or Championship Circuit? What kind of difficulty level - Beginner, Levels Two, Three, Four or Pro? What kind of mean machine...? And so on.
Finally, of course, you do get to hit the tarmac, straddled across your bike viewing the track from a first-person viewpoint, which, I must admit, works very well - it certainly makes a change from the usual overhead or view-from-behind perspectives you normally get in these kinds of games. But what follows as you actually begin to manoevre (or try to manoevre) your mean machine around the course lets the whole show down. The simple Left/Right/Brake/Accelerate control system for steering the bike is just so heavy and lacking in an centralising force that it makes the game virtually unplayable.
Imagine, there you are accelerating away from the starting line, with the screen scrolling smoothly towards you, the sun in your face, the wind in... (Yes, yes, get on with it! Ed) when you see a sharp right-hander approaching on the course map that charts your progress in the top left-hand of the screen. Yikes! Better move over to the left so I can slip smoothly through the bend, you think. Just a quick tap on the Left control and... aaargh! You're right out on the grass verge! Quick, move right to get back on the track. Double aaargh! You're now skidding all over the grass verge on the other side. Basically, you end up spending the rest of the race continually toggling Left and Right to make your wibbly way through the course. Douple triple aaargh!
A responsive steering system is the major element of any racing game. The Cycles doesn't have one. And what that means is that all the other good elements, like the smooth scrolling, the way you can keep an eye on the other competitors with the on-screen 'radar' map, and the variety of races and skill level you compete at, are totally redundant. Nope, stick to your Raleigh - at least you'll be able to go in a straight line!
For some time there's been a gap in the market for a really realistic, exciting, challenging motorbike racing game. Well THIS ISN'T IT! Ha!
In the greatest example of misleading packaging I've seen for some time, the Spectrum version of Accolade's dismal Cycles - International Grand Prix Racing is illustrated with IBM-PC screenshots, which make it look great. Not only are the Spectrum graphics relatively naff, most of the elements of realism seem to be absent too.
It could have been good. You get five difficulty levels, practice rounds, international championships, competitors' tables, displays of lap time, laps remaining, route maps showing your position and that of your competitors, and a choice of machines. But in the fine details, things start to go skew-whiff. For a start, your three road-burning big thrusty machines - 125, 250 and 500cc - have different performance specs, but all look exactly the same! And once you get on the practice track, get this; the handlebars of your powerful road-eating racer don't deviate from the horizontal, so you've no idea how far you're steering and you tend to veer all over the road.
To make things worse, there's a broad black band across the bottom of the screen which cuts into the leading edge of the black roadway, so you can't make out where the edge of the road is. But it doesn't much matter, because even if you drive off the road you can't crash - you just get lost on the grass. On the practice rounds you don't have any opponents to crash into, but once you get onto the international tournament, racing at fifteen track including LeMans, Salzburg, Donnington and so on, you get nine riders to compete against. And they look awful; like big lumpy dispatch riders rather than sleek racers. You can't crash into them either - they just melt out of your way. The animation is fairly smooth and background details reasonable, but that's little consolation.
On lower levels, your gears shift automatically, so all you have to do is control speed and steering. On higher levels, you have to learn to use your gears to get the best performance out of the bike without burning out your engine. This is just about the only entertaining aspect of an otherwise mishandled game. If you accept the dubious claim that Cycles is "The only motorcycle game with a first-person perspective" - and SURELY that isn't true - then that's just about its only virtue.
As Barry Sheene would say - ooh, me pins.
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Spectrum Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Originally reviewed: TGM026.
Like the Amstrad version, the bike graphic at the bottom of the screen is boxed off, which spoils the driving effect when near to either side of the track. Horizon graphics are fairly detailed and there's a colour split here - below it, green monochrome, above it, blue monochrome. Computer cycle definition and movement is amateurish but road perspective is good and the moving stripe trick gives a commendable feeling of movement. Sound is limited to an engine noise like a bee in a jam jar but sonic weaknesses don't stop The Cycles from being an excellent race game.
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