Retail Price: £8.95
The American Cross Country Prestige Cars Race, the craziest contest of them all, is about to take place. It covers three of the continent's toughest tracks and crosses the rugged and punishing terrain of Florida, Arizona and the NASA (sic).
The race comprises five levels, each divided into several stages which run over a time limit. The player can choose from a selection of five high performance cars, and successful completion of a race within the time limit rewards the driver with a more powerful vehicle. Beginning with something like the relatively humble Porsche 911 Turbo the player can progress via the Lamborghini Countach to the ultimate in racing cars, the Ferrari GTO.
Contestants line up on the starting grid, and a flick of the fire button sees the player's mean machine hurtle along a black tarmac track which twists and turns through rugged, sandy terrain.
Dips and bumps in the road make control of each turbo charged monster more precarious. High speed contact with either hurls the car momentarily into the air and out of control. More experienced drivers can exploit these uneven conditions and take the opportunity of soaring gracefully over obstructing opponents before landing with calculated panache on the other side.
Cornering requires extra care; racing off the track or plunging headlong into road markers severely slows down progress. Explosions never occur however; each car bears a charmed life and collision with other racers results in nothing worse than crippling deceleration and crucial loss of time.
Tracks become progressively more difficult with more twists, more bumps and more determined opponents. A status display at the head of the screen shows current speed and units of time remaining.
Graphics: the three main cars are recognisable, with a simple road perspective
Sound: only a realistic revving sound
Options: five levels of difficulty and a choice of three makes of car
The fastest, craziest, meanest cross country race turns out to be one of the greyest, severest and most sober, run-of-the-mill grand prix simulations. The graphics are disappointingly basic; the scruffy grey background never changes and the tarmac is so black that the outline of the bumps merges into the raggedy edge of the road. It's not a crucial drawback, though, since for most of the time, despite all talk of opponents, the only crazy car on the track is your own. Having said that, a lonesome race is better than no race at all and this one is more than just competently portrayed. Controls and scrolling are smooth; graded difficulty and increasingly tight time limits ensure compulsive gameplay, although the scoring system is ridiculously generous. One final quibble regards the congratulatory high score message which declares the player 'One of the fastest men in the world'. As girls play computer games as well would have been more appropriate and just as easy to substitute 'drivers' for 'men'.
While some lucky people can afford to buy the cars featured here, the rest of us have to either carry on dreaming, or alternatively play Crazy Cars. Graphically the game is good, with the nicely drawn cars zipping around the often tortuous racetracks, jostling and barging each other out of the way in an attempt to be the first across the finishing line. My only niggle is that the road would have benefitted from either road markings or road signs, since on many occasions I was caught unawares by a sudden hairpin bend. Initial interest is high as your car careers around bends, and flies into the air on hitting the many bumps that adorn the track. Although early stages are fairly easy to complete, later tracks almost need the player to possess the skills of a rally driver to survive. I enjoyed playing Crazy Cars; if you're a budding boy - or girl - racer, take a good look.
If Out Run and Crazy Cars had a head on collision the result would be one of the best games on the Spectrum. Crazy Cars has all the playability and addictive qualities that Out Run lacked. Sadly, this first game from Titus lacks any graphical flamboyance; the game is attractive without being impressive - unlike Out Run whose speed suffered due to the amount of detailed graphics crammed onscreen. Crazy Cars certainly has some aesthetic appeal - the distant city is very smart - but its main attraction is the speed at which you fly around the track. All Crazy Cars needs to make it an Out Run-beater is a white line down the middle of the road and a few signs and bushes on the side of the track. As it is, though, things are going to be very close between the two. A great game for a new company trying to break into the market.
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