I'm an absolute sucker for
car games, it has to be said. Put
me behind the simulated
steering wheel of anything
(even a Reliant Robin) and I'm happy as a
sandboy. Now, I don't know exactly how
happy sandboys are capable of getting (in
fact, I don't even know what a sandboy is)
but I'll tell you this much - lock me in a dark
room with a copy of Stunt Car Racer and I'll
be happier than a sandboy.
First of all you should know that Stunt Car
conceived and programmed (on the 16 bit formats)
by Geoff Crammond. He's the same bloke who
wrote The Sentinel
which, as anyone who's played
it will know, gave a feeling of height and depth to a
computer landscape that hasn't been equalled since
(erm, until now). But there was one problem with it
- the speed of the thing. It didn't exactly crack along
did it? Whaddya mean, "Yes, it did"? Stop arguing
this instant. The Sentinel
very fast. Stunt
, on the other hand, is
very fast - well,
pretty fast anyway. And because it's fast, it's also
'vertigo-inducing' in the old "Yurks, It's A Long Way
Down" department. Much more so than The Sentinel
THE RACE SEASON
Like football, the Stunt Car league is split into four
divisions, but, unlike football, each division is made
up of only three places. At the beginning of the
game you find yourself in the crappest position
possible - bottom of division four. You have to take
on the fourth division computer opponents in a
series of three lap races (and win) to get promoted.
The circuits themselves are 'something else'.
They're 'far out'. They're 'bad'. They're 'straight out
of the fridge'. They're (Get on with it. Ed). Imagine a
traditional racing circuit (Brands Hatch, Monza or
somewhere), cross it with an absolutely ginormous
roller coaster, add jumps, multiply it by the first
number you can think of, and you'll be about there.
WHAT'S THE DAMAGE, JOHN?
There are eight circuits in all, two per division,
and the initial two (the little ramp and the
humpback) are the easiest of the lot. Don't fall into a
false sense of security at having seen the word
'easiest' though, because in this case it simply
means 'not quite as impossible as the rest'. These
circuits need to be practiced before you take on the
computer cars because of the humps, ramps and
jumps (not to mention the chicanes) that are
peppered about. Coming out of a chicane at full
speed might seem like a good idea - until you
realise that there's a hump coming up immediately
afterwards which'll sproing your car into the air and
take you over the top of the next bend causing you
to plummet 200 feet to your doom. In Stunt Car
Racer there are no fences to keep you on the track -
cock up once and you damage your car badly.
Damage to your buggy depends upon the severity of
the crash. Little 'graunches' (such as landing a bit
too heavily after a jump) cause a hairline crack to
creep along the tubular steel framework of the car.
Mega graunches cause 'impact craters' (little
holes). When the crack reaches the craters, the car
obviously isn't going to take much more abuse, so
'pottering about with Granny in an Austin Allegro'
mode is required. Which means SLOW DOWN, or
you'll lose control and lurch, sparking and grinding
on to the tarmac as everythinq snaps.
When in practice mode there's a digital clock on
screen, so you can monitor each lap time and try to
beat it next time around. When your lap times are
getting below one minute you should be ready to
enter the 'league'. Oh, and you can save the game at
any point - which means that if you make it to
division three the computer can safely be reset. Just
load in the league table next time you play and the
Speccy will remember where it was you left off.
Stunt Car Racer is, quite simply, THE racing game to
get. It's so atmospheric! And novel too. It'll leave
you gasping as you take a ramp at 200 mph, and
then watch helplessly as your buggy soars in a
gargantuan arc through the air towards the landing
bridge. Will it be a crunch or a boing?
"Cruuuunch!!!" Oh no! Stunt Car Racer makes the
Indy 500 look like a tricycle race through Toytown.
And if it ever gets 'converted up' and finds itself
strapped to a moving cabinet in the arcades...
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