Day 66 - en route

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of my favourite game genres is the racing game.  I love flogging the life out of a car (or bike, truck, whatever) engine, roaring down highways or around tracks at the highest speeds possible, all the while fending off the attentions of evil opponents who will stop at nothing to leave me eating their dust, or worse, the asphalt.

Unfortunately, they were quite difficult games to pull off effectively on the 8-bits.  That didn't mean there wasn't a multitude of choice, and even when they weren't great, I would often play them for hours on end.  What can I say?  I needed my speed fix.

Time? You'd think they'd have had time to clean the track before we raced on it!
What our favourite computers lacked in power when attempting to convert arcade racing giants, though, they made up for through the programmers' imagination and creativity.  And so for every failed or disappointing 3D arcade racer, you could find enjoyable and playable original racers or stunning overhead-view 2D games.  And they weren't all "racers", either... not all games where you drive a vehicle take place against the clock.

Some arcade conversions were successful, though.  On the Commodore 64, Buggy Boy is renowned as one of the best games available.  For the Spectrum, Chase HQ is generally regarded as being among the cream of the racing crop.  It's hard to argue... I played Buggy Boy to death in the day, and I've heard many a similar testimony regarding Speccy Chase HQ.

Erm... can you get my driving gloves out of the glove compartment, please?
What of the original games, though?  Most were based on arcade games, as was the way back then.  It was hard to be truly original with a racing or driving game.  The Kikstart games managed it, though, and managed to be fun, challenging and maddeningly addictive.  The urge to shave milliseconds from your best times pulled you back time after time, even if you did tend to end up gnashing your teeth with frustration.  Those games were so good that they live on today in spirit, through the Trials series.

Then there was Turbo Esprit on the Spectrum.  I must emphasise "on the Spectrum" here... the difference between Spectrum and C64 versions seems to have been like night and day, with possibly the largest ratings disparity I've ever seen in reviews... the ZX version receiving an impressive 88% in Crash magazine, with ZZAP! 64 awarding the Commodore version just 9%. With its original viewpoint and plot-driven gameplay, it made for a highly-satisfying alternative to the usual on-wheels fare.

It's burning like a flame, now nothing seems the same, I've lost control of mind and body...
From successful arcade ports like Turbo Out Run and Power Drift, to amazing originals like Stunt Car Racer and Turbo Charge, to those inspired by the arcades like BMX Simulator and Speed King, to other types of driving game like Deathchase and The Fury, our need for speed was very well catered for.  And I'll be writing about them all, and hopefully talking to their authors.

And with that, I'm going to leave you with this: a Commodore 64 game called Stock Car.  A lot like Super Sprint, it was a game you could customise almost to no end, and my mate Graeme and I played it for ages.  Trying it again now, I'm not quite sure why... it's not as much fun as I remember.  It must have been for that remarkable end sequence...