Take part in one the most exciting motor spoils in the world in Dirt Track Racer. You and your All Terrain Vehicle have been selected for pole position at the sled of a gruelling five course race, and have to stay there if you're to win the cup.
The five stages are village, forest, many, cross country and then back to the village at night. Each is shown from above, as if you were watching the action from a helicopter. To get to the end of a stage all you need do is follow the arrows that have been placed at each junction. This sounds totally simple but if you miss a junction (which is easy to do) you can have terrible trouble getting back on course.
ATVs are built to withstand the battering they get on courses like the ones in this game but add-ons are always welcome to improve their performance. During each race credits can be collected from the track which can then be spent at the discount warehouse. Things like new tyres, turbo chargers, power steering and infra-red devices will all help to get you to the finish.
Dirt Track Racer doesn't capture the atmosphere of the real sped at all. The tiny graphics are pleasant enough and make a good racing game but it looks more like Scalextric than dirt tracking. There's entertainment there, but it's not hooking enough to make it an addictive game.
Up until yesterday, I thought ATV stood for Anglia Television. Apparently, I was completely wrong. It stands for All Terrain Vehicle instead. Or at least it does when you're playing Dirt Track Racer, because that's what you find yourself driving.
Zeppelin's new buggy racing game is an overhead-view multiscroller, with five courses and ten mud-pluggin' computer opponents to whizz against. Your little car (small but quite nicely drawn) stays in the middle of the screen as everything moves around it - which is pretty handy because all the other competitors look exactly the same, and it's the only way you can tell who you are! Ho hum. (Actually, another way is to leave the course completely and charge through the shrubbery, which is a bit of a laff - you won't get many points, but at least you'll get to see all five levels!)
The action zooms about really quickly, and pressing forwards on the joystick accelerates no matter which way you're facing. This takes some getting used to, but it works okay, despite the fact that your mini-mean machine wants to spin round in random, drunken circles.
There's a speedo and a damage meter, which you need to keep your eyes on - spend too much time off the road and the suspension'll get knackered, which is the only way you get to lose the game. Alternatively, you can collect tokens to upgrade your car or get it fixed. These don't just lie on the track you're racing down, but also on other roads away from the beaten track. Stuff like turbochargers, extra suspension and roll-over bars are available at a cost, so it's always worth rattling off through a hedge and doing a bit of damage to your ATV, in order to collect a juicy fifty pointer.
And all in all, DT Racer ain't too bad. The only bummer for me was that it made me feel really pukey if I watched it too close-up. It's a bit like an ancient game called Androids, which had a similar kind of scrolling - it sort of vibrated a bit (oo-er) as if you were up in a helicopter. But perhaps I've just got a weak tum.
So if you're into Super Sprint type games, you can't really go far wrong with Dirt Track Racer. It's an amusing little aperitif of a game. Well presented, set at just the right pace and with some nice twisty tracks to race around, it's one for all the family (if they happen to share a passion for All Terrain Vehicles and Spectrum games).
Stay clear of the "dirt track devil" I said to Steve the mag metal maniac, as I scrambled forth to review this wheelie Spectrum budget from Zeppelin. Sad to say it wasn't really worth it. I soon took off my skid lid because I didn't really mind if Dirt Track Racer did actually crash.
Something tells me we've seen it all before maties, yes it's the old bird's eye view of a small, simple sprite meandering around a maze with vertical scrolling and dodgy control. Hold on now, surely five different race courses and ten repair/upgrading options manage to set Dirt Track Racer apart? Well possibly, but that's it though. I mean let's face it, you can give the poodle a haircut but you can't bring it out to dinner.
As your all terrain vehicle potters around the course, hopefully ahead or behind the main bunch (if you get caught in the middle of that lot you'll be seriously damaged and find it difficult to get out) there are credits to pick up which enable you, between races, to upgrade the machine and repair damage. The upgrade options include modifications to the engine, brakes and suspension as well as a set of "bull bars" with which to run your competitors off the road.
The concept of the all terrain vehicle is a little difficult to visualise because of the lack of 3D perspective, the small size of the main sprite and the general vagueness of the graphics. Although this is helped somewhat by a nice drawing of the real vehicle above the damage meter and fuel/speed gauges on the right hand side of the action screen, I found keyboard control much more reliable than joystick, though overall it is a bit shaky and there's no reverse!
Dirt Track isn't a particularly bad game, more a well worn theme, one which I consider flawed these days when Spectrum software, even on budget labels, can reach higher standards of graphics and gameplay.
Label: Zeppelin Games
Price: £2.99 Tape, N/A Disk
Reviewer: Alan Dykes
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