You're absolutely bonkers, Smashie

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TITUS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

So just what exactly is a crazy car? Perhaps it's a Morris Minor hanging around bus stations asking passers by if they;ve seen its camels. Or it could be a Ford Escort discussing the life cycle of the wasp with a packet of fruit pastilles? Or how about a group of VW Beetles giggling at a rose bush? Those are all fairly crazy. But what's really crazy is releasing yet another driving game.

I mean do we really need another? Do we want another? After all, we've just had Jaguar XJ 220 and that just wasn't different enough to make it a Lotus beater. And let's talk about that old chestnut.

Why is everyone so determined to 'beat' Lotus 2? Wy not just admit that driving games have reached their peak? At the most you're only going to be able to boast some minor technical triumph. Oh, so it's three frames faster than Lotus? Very exciting. Is it worth splashing out on a game that's exactly the same but three frames faster? I doubt it personally. But, for some reason, the well-monied public seem to love splashing out on stuff they've seen before.

And so, will they get their money's worth from Crazy Cars III? I reckon they will actually it's certainly better than Jaguar as far as playability goes. I always found Jaguar too clinical. It actually looked and played like a game that was written solely to beat Lotus, and that was where it fell flat. There was no 'soul' to the game, y' know? No worthwhile purpose behind thundering about the place. Boring to be blung about it.

CC3 avoids that by at least giving you a reason to race. You've entered into the world of the Cannonball Run, the illegal road race across America. Pay yet money for each city, wager against the other racers, win the race, collect the loot until you've got enough to buy your way into the district championships, thus letting you win the big prize and snog loads of really ace birds. Well, that's the theory at least.

So you pick a city to race in, according to how much entry fee you can afford to spend, and the huddle down in a dingy shed to bet on the outcome. Quickly leg it to the road and set off, racing against up to three league drivers like you and about seven or eight local racers.

Oh, and let's not forget the everyday drivers and the police. The innocent civilians still bomb along the roads at reckless speeds, but they only serve to get in the way rather than trying to win. The police are a different matter entirely. Understandably narked at these law-breaking road hogs, they'll lie in wait, and attempt to pull over any car going too fast. This means you of course, but if another racer speeds past you then the police go after them instead. If you stop when the police are on your tail, you lose the race and have to pay a whacking fine.

A bit pointless actually, 'cos nobody's going to slow down and stop when you can easily outrun the rozzers, but there you go. Wait a mo, there's a smoke signal on the horizon. It's from Kevin Costner.
"What's it like then, this Crazy Cars III?"
I'm just getting to that bit, Kev, you impatient whippersnapper.

It's not bad, if the truth be told. It's better than Jaguar because Titus have remembered to put a game in here, but it lacks a two-player mode which could've made it a real stonker and a probable Lotus killer.

It's got all the necessary technical doobries to make it an acceptable driving game. Fast graphics, roaring engines and so on, plus it gets the adrenalin pumping with the police up your bum, your opponent out in front and your Mum telling you to come and get your tea. Sort of.

And hey. I'm feeling kinda mellow so I'll ignore the fact that it's criminally unoriginal and that driving games usually bring me out in huge weeping pustulent sores, and say that it's quite good. So if you want to buy it, I won't be very cross. In fact, I might pop round and have a game. Because I love you. Honest.



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While the shoot-em-up genre has stagnated, the equally simple-minded race-driving game goes from strength to strength. Let's burn rubber once more...

The nice thing about race games like Crazy Cars is that you can sit down and play them immediately, often without even referring to a manual, because they use an age-old-concept; one that is easy to relate and understand.

We all know what to expect from a game of this genre, don't we? Push forward to accelerate, steer left and right to avoid other cars and pull back when you want to stop, right? Wrong.

For, as you may well remember, Crazy Cars II tested your map-reading skills as well as your driving, and now Crazy Cars III goes into even more depth.

Take several desperate and reckless drivers with powerful cars, a perfectly innocent public-road system and some transport police, and you'll have some idea of what a typical Crazy race involves.

The first thing you notice when you begin driving in Crazy Cars III is that the game generates a good feeling of distance between you and the cars ahead. Far along the road in front of you, dwindling tail-lights of the leading cars appear and disappear quite realistically on the horizon; an effect which was not carried off as effectively in Lotus Turbo Challenge II.

Get it loose
Different weather conditions also have a greater bearing upon the game than in Lotus, with each climate producing its own car-handling characteristics as well as a change of scenery. Weather conditions are sometimes generated randomly, so it's possible to have snow falling upon the cacti as you drive along desert roads.

Different towns also have different scenery and who is to say whether or not you will race at night or in the daylight hours? A large range of scenic views is to be found within this game, each one of them well-drawn and moving past very swiftly... now I want a real Lamborghini!

Cash, as well as climate, is important. Prize money for finishing in pole position is double the race entry fee, but for finishing third you make a 50 per cent loss. So winning the race outright is practically the only way to make a profit.

The only alternative is to wager other competitors in your race that you will finish before them. Unfortunately your opponents are very good - you have been warned!

Money won at a race can be used to improve your car through the purchase of various add-ons, which is a welcome feature. The hardware store sells new and faster gearboxes, wet-weather tyres and super brakes, which are all ludicrously priced but improve your car's performance greatly.

The most expensive is, surprisingly enough, the good old nitro fuel, costing an incredible $50,000. For your hard-earned money you get 10 seconds rocket-powered mayhem, which increases the car's speed by about a third. This has the effect of practically turning it into a low-flying aircraft, so I suppose we must grudgingly accept that the race is more interesting when nitro is used rarely.

Babylon business
It's a fair cop - even in America. Police are to be found patrolling the highways, giving you even more hassle. Apart from the patrol cars which chase you when you accidentally (or otherwise) hit someone, there are also radar-operated camera speed traps along the road.

Police wielding hand-held speed-detectors also give chase frequently. They are excruciatingly annoying, but give the game much more flavour. And, as they try to ram you off the road (because you've been, er... ramming other people off the road), the game bears a very strong resemblance to Chase H.Q. (your car even becomes labeled with a huge arrow saying 'Offender' on it). N.B.: a sneaky trick to play when the cops are around is to shunt an opponent into a police car, thus turning him into an offender.

All in all, Crazy Cars III has amazing durability because it keeps on changing, the races run smoothly and quickly, and terrain is presented really well. From the word go, you have a challenge on your hands. It is certainly much harder than the recent Lotus and Jaguar race games, but in the long run this just means that you'll carry on playing.


GO-FASTER GADGETS IN THE HARDWARE STORE
Crazy Cars 3: Hardware store

Well, here I am at the Crazy Cars equivalent of Halfords, and there are lots of juicy things on offer. The devices are as follows, starting from the top row and working from left to right:
Radar detector, this useful gadget tells you police are ahead, so that you can slow down to avoid their radar;
Turbo boosts, that's ridiculously priced nitro fuel to you and me; snow tyres, the grip these provide is crucial for icy stages;
New automatic gear box, a self-shifter that will take you up to 336kph;
Superbrakes, these babies give unsurpassed stopping power;
New manual gearbox, this will take you up to 336kph as well - and it's $5,000 cheaper.



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Die Gaspedal-Ritter werden derzeit richtig verwöhnt: Erst vor kurzem ließ Core Design die brandheiße Asphaltkatze "Jaguar" aus dem Sack, jetzt schickt Titus die dritte Auflage der verrückten Boliden hinterher!

Zum Glück hat Crazy Cars III mit den wenig berauschenden Vorgängern kaum noch etwas gemeinsam, auch thematisch werden diesmal völlig neue Wege befahren: Hier wird kein fieser Terroristenring gejagt, stattdessen gilt es, die ebenso beliebten wie illegalen "Saturday Night Races" zu gewinnen.

Der Solo-Racer muß sich zunächst zwischen Automatik- und Schaltgetriebe entscheiden und anschließend die Frage beantworten, ob sein Lamborghini Diablo per Feuerknopf oder Stick beschleunigt werden soll.

Im Trainings-Modus kann man sich dann 15 der insgesamt 60, in vier immer schwerer werdende Lägen eingeteilte Rennen erst mal unverbindlich anschauen; beim eigentlichen Wettbewerb ist nämlich vor jedem Start eine Antrittsgebühr zu berappen.

Mit den eingeheimsten Siegprämien sollte man daher haushalten, wer zwischen den Rennen sein ganzes Geld für Breitstreifen und Motortuning verjubelt, steht auch nicht besser da, als ein Bruchpilot, dessen Karre wegen zu vieler Karambolagen den Geld aufgegeben hat.

Totalschäden sind hier jedoch selten, denn die Konkurrenz stellt keine großen Anforderungen an den Spieler, die Polizei ist auch nicht immer auf Zack, und das Wetter (Schnee, Regen, etc.) hat kaum Einfluß auf das Fahrverhalten.

So komplex wie "Jaguar" ist Crazy Cars III also bei weiterem nicht, aber dank flotter und abwechslungsreicher 3D-Grafik, brauchbaren Soundeffekten und einer prima Steuerung macht die Berg und Talfahrt mindestens doppelt soviel Laune wie ihre beiden Vorgänger zusammen. (rl)



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Could Titus reconcile their shady Crazy Cars history with their slick new image, wondered. Here's the answer.

Preconceptions are funny things. Take, for instance, any of you readers who have 'experienced' the first two Crazy Cars games. Right about now you'll be saying, 'Mmm, I wonder what's reviewed in a couple of pages'. But wait! Don't do it. Stick with this one, it'll be worth it. Give me, ooh, three pages to blow your preconceptions apart. Trust me. I'm a professional.

THERE'S A KILLER ON THE ROAD
It's been over a year since Lotus II first graced our screens, showing up the clutch of other Amiga racers for the amateur jobs they reall are. At the time it seemed like nothing more could be done with sprite-based driving games (although some still prefer the original Lotus). Then Jaguar appeared, with the claim that it was a Lotus beater.

Sure, it managed to add some neat features to the formula - atmospheric weather conditions, more variations in tracks, and a course design kit - but a lack of cars on the raod and a lack of anything particularly new or exciting prevented it from fulfilling its original promise.

So chances are your eyes have wandered off to the Bottom Line box over at the bottom of the review, and you want to know why I've given it such a high score. After all, it's only a Crazy Cars game, isn't it? No, actually it's not. It's a shame that they just didn't think up a new title for this one, because it really has no connection with the previous two accursed racers.

So let's do a quick check list, shall we, and quickly compare the features of Crazy Cars III with those of Lotus II and Jaguar (we'll forget about Lotus: The Final Challenge for the moment). Track editor - nope. Two player mode - nope. Spectacular weather conditions - nope. (Crazy Cars III) does have snow and rain, but the rain is particularly crap and the snow, though pleasant, is more reminiscent of It's A Wonderful Life than arctic conditions).

So Crazy Cars III loses on all counts, right? Wrong. This is the most funsome, groovesome and triumphant racing game I've played on the Amiga. The key lies in Titus' approach to the subject. While Lotus II and Jaguar have strived for realism - the simulation of a real life race, if you like - the guys at Titus have gone for a blend of Out Run arcade simplicity and cartoon-like, um, craziness. They've also got their game moving way faster than the rest. A fully-powered car can hit 400km/h, and it sure looks convincing.

Nobody would ever believe some of the stunts that the Lamborghini can pull - but, just like in the movies, it doesn't matter, because it makes for a fun game. If you liked the Cannonball Run, if you ever admitted to enjoying an episode of Knight Rider, or if you love movies based in San Francisco (where the cars are frequently airborne on their way down steep hills) then Crazy Cars III is going to do things you that you thought only Winona Ryder was capable of (for girl readers, please substitute Dolph Lundgren or some other swoonsome hunk).


Demands play after play after play

DESOLATION ON THE ROAD
Now that I've (hopefully) convinced you of just how much fun I've had with this game, I'll get down to the basics of gameplay. Imagine a variation on the Cannonball Run. Set in America, there are four divisions of illegal races to work through, with around fifteen races in each division. Each race has an entry fee which is dependent on difficulty and on the winner's prize (second and third places also secure modest amounts of cash).

As cash is earned, outgoing arise in the form of car repair and modifications. Initially, they include such lowly, but useful, gadgets as radar detectors (for advance warning of police patrols) and extra-grip tyres. As the game advances and stakes rise, it's possible to buy better brakes, manual gear-boxes, five and six speed systems, nitrous-oxide engines, ECMs (to eliminate detection by police radar), and one-off turbo boosts.

Money is also needed to enter the division challenge. This involves driving a two lane road, overtaking entire convoys of trucks, while - yes, you guessed - more trucks fly head-on on in the other lane. Anyone who's seen Basic Instinct will fee right at home here (I mean the car chase, not the other bits).

Also competing in these races are twenty professional drivers, plus locals of varying skills. In any one race, there may be up to four of these pros to be wary of, but they also offer an opportunity to make some extra cash. You see, pre-race betting is catered for, so it's possible to win much more than the standard cash prize. Similarly, it's also possible to foolishly blow the last of your cash.

Police patrols? Radar? Illegal races? Oh yes, you read right. Crazy Cars III doesn't give you some namby-pamby race track to spin round. Oh no. What you get are real roads, while real drivers (the only complaint is that all the roads are mysteriously one way), and real police. Whether it's by photograph or good old-fashioned radar trap, the cops are out to put an end to these races.

Chances are you'll soon hear the sound of sirens and have the cops on your tail. It's then the tough choice between slowing down and hoping they go after one of the other professional drivers, trying to burn them off, or slamming the muthas right off the road. You see, it's not just the player's car which takes damage in Crazy Cars III. The pros and police can also be reduced to the level of Robin Reliant, with smoke billowing out the back and seriously reduced performance. And the fact that the pros can also be chased for speeding, and that they respond intelligently to the radar traps (electing to slow down or burn the police off) gives things the race a thrillingly believably edge. IN fact the intelligence of the other cars almost makes up for the lack of a two-player mode.


Way faster than the rest

THE GREAT LAMBORGHINI HUNT
Actually, just to re-iterate the point about the computer car intelligence routines, it's worth noting that the demo mode on Crazy Cars III is not a recording of a human controlling the Lamborghini - it's actually the computer driving the thing (and what a good job it does too). The various professional drivers even have differing levels of ability, via individual distances they can 'see' ahead, and manoeuvre accordingly. This is an important factor in the playability of CC III. There's none of that drone-like weave from side-to-side stuff here.

And while I'm being generous with the compliments, I'll give a quick hurrah of appreciation for the level designs. The combination of colour-schemes, road layouts and scenery graphics ensures that every track feels individual, and true(ish) to the location of the race. Boston, for instance, is a night race, with a beautiful cityscape looming behind the miles of undulating roads and huge tunnels.

Other tracks, such as Miami, include road-works, single lane sections, and water. Gosh - it reminds me of my misspent youth playing OutRun down the local beach arcade. Okay, so a couple of tracks are fairly generic, but others just look and feel so different that it's a real thrill to go from race to race, discovering new delights, and attempting to learn track layouts. It's also nice to be able to knock various bits of scenery, sending them flying up over the bonnet.

The sound too, adds brilliantly to the proceedings. This engine noise is thankfully beefy, with a satisfying whine when a turbo boost is used. Even the tunnel sections sound right. It's all the little, thoughtful touches which leave an impression. Maybe it's the way things are split into divisions, maybe it's the way the car can be totally customised as the game progresses, perhaps it's the precision with which the difficulty curve has been set, or maybe it's the way more tracks become available as the player improves. Whatever it is, Crazy Cars III demands play after play.

Just in case you haven't guessed then - yes, I prefer it to the Lotuses and Jaguar. For me the ideal game collection would include this, F1GP and Vroom. Sure, it lacks the features and near-infinite number of tracks which Lotus: The Final Challenge is promising, but this game's bloody-mindedness is its strong point. Complicating things with a track designer or more realism would have only diluted the tasty cocktail. Crazy Cars III is simply excellent fun, and that's what it's all supposed to be about, isn't it?


'NO SIRE, THEY DON'T COME AS STANDARD'

Of course the real problem with cars, even wildly expensive ones such as the Lamborghini, is that they don't come with many extras. Shell out yer thousands of quid and you'll be lucky to get an FM radio, never mind locking wheelnuts and fluffy dice. Here's just a selection of what's available - if you've got the cash, they can provide it (probably).

Crazy Cars 3 A radar detector will give you advance warning of police speed traps. Let those other cars take the heat, and then cruise ahead.

Crazy Cars 3 Extra grip tyres are a must before any rain-filled or icy tracks. They aren't too expensive, and they make cornering a real joy.

Crazy Cars 3 A few engine adjustments can do wonders for the optimum speed. As soon as you can afford it, go for this one. Uselss on bendy roads, though.

Crazy Cars 3 A five speed gearbox is certainly a step up from the standard automatic - but it's also a pain in the backside to get used to gear changes.

Crazy Cars 3 Much easier than faffin around with manual gears, the five speed automatically really lets you give the old Lamborghini some (ahem) stick.

Crazy Cars 3 Not turbo boosts are real fun. For a short term kick into the world of fast-forward reality, there's nothing finer. Kerrrrpoooow.



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Titus return with yet another racing game. Tony Dillon is in the driving seat...

FORGET THE PAST
Make no bones about it, the first two Crazy Cars games were dire. Although they both featured highly attractive sprites, the movement both of the road and the objects on it was so jerky that little or no impression of movement was created - and chronic sprite detection rendered the games unplayable.

Naturally, I can't say I was looking forward to the third in the series. How wrong I was, though, as CCIII is really quite good.

Cast as an illegal racer, you are part of a league which spans the width of the USA. Starting in Division 4, you must work your way into the pole position through a combination of driving, gambling and expansion.

MONEY
The most vital thing to have in Crazy Cars III is money - and lots of it. Each race costs money to enter, and the more money it costs, the more you stand to win. But that isn't the only way you can earn big bucks. In most of the races, other drivers from your league table will be competing against the locals, and before each race you have the chance to gamble with these riders, all of whom are betting money on themselves to win.

They will rarely bet more than 1500 dollars at a time but, even so, that's a lot of extra pocket money.

Cash isn't just used to enter races, though. For each season, there are a host of improvements you can buy for your vehicle. These range from a modest police radar to full tune ups and extra gears - the latter pair increasing your top speed for instance. You can go without buying extras, but they do give you a much better chance in the harder races.

DRIVING FORCE
Obviously, the racing section is the most important part of the game, and I'm happy to say it works well. Titus have opted for the now-standard two-tone scrolling road, although the width of the strips is far greater than in previous titles. Core's Jaguar, for example, has 32 strips from horizon to foreground. CCIII has roughly eight.

This, coupled with the small number and size of roadside objects helps the game run at a cracking pace. Objects glide past smoothly, as do the other cars, and everything is fairly convincing.

It lacks the sophistication of Lotus - especially as the corners are represented by the road suddenly bending to one side - but it still works well.

What doesn't work so well is the handling. The car tends to swing about a hell of a lot, even with the smallest joystick movements. This means that, when you overtake at high speeds, nine times out of ten you will end up hitting a roadside object.

In addition, all corners look the same, yet have varying degrees of force making it impossible to compensate for bends most of the time making accuracy a frustrating process. With practice, it is possible to get used to these quirks, but they shouldn't really be there in the first place.

If it wasn't for the playability problems, Crazy Cars III would be an excellent racer - although it does make its forerunners look really trashy. As it stands it's quite good, but rather too frustrating to be truly addictive.


MAPPING IT OUT The US map displays the location of all the races left to run. The ones marked in orange cannot be entered yet as you don't have the money, but any others are ready for your attention. One exception to this rule, though, is the star in the centre of the map which represents the division challenge, rather than a race, and the only way to get onto this is to earn enough cash to buy a pass. Once you have completed the challenge - a timed race against some tough juggernauts on a narrow stretch of road - you are eligible to move up to the next, harder division.



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CRAZY CARS: Out now from Palace on Amiga and ST, £25.99

Despite the fact that he's more of a Carlos Fandango than a boy racer, we let MICHAEL HORSHAM take CRAZY CARS III from Palace out for a joyride.

AmigaTitus Software's Crazy Cars III offers a slightly different view of the joys of motoring, mainly because it's about 20 cars ding battle in a series of illegal road races across America, and one of the racers is you!

I don't know about you, but I think driving sims are weird beggars really, all the ones you know and love, like Lotus Turbo, Jaguar, and even the venerable Outrun, have little to do with driving your actual cars. They've got a lot more to do with going very very fast on a super-scrolling screen and bashing things up. (A bit like the M25 really, only a tad safer.)

Crazy Cars III skillfully mixes elements of bona fide car racing games like MicroProse's Formula One Grand Prix with the flashier, supercar-oriented, outlaw style of, say, Outrun.

The result is a fast-moving game with bags of features where you need to develop your driving skills quickly if you stand a chance of getting anywhere (or even staying on the road, for that matter). All of which begs the question: "what's it like, then?"

LOOK OUT! IT'S A JOYSTICK
Everything centres around the joystick, driving-wise. Gear changes can be toggled between automatic and manual (manual is by far the hardest), then it's pull back to brake (the brake lights come on), hit fire to accelerate, right and left to steer. With a few goes on the training mode, driving isn't that difficult (he lied) and after a few races you'll be slinging your bright red car around like nobody's business. (Watch out for the weather conditions though).

LOOK OUT! IT'S A CACTUS
Races are set in different locations all across the US of A, and the whole game benefits fro some pretty smart backgrounds of cities and pretty countryside. But you shouldn't be looking at the scenery, not when the bruisers in the cruisers (the po-lice to you, boy) are out to get you.

The desert setting is a suitably hot-looking, water-free zone, as deserts generally tend to be. Another good thing about the race settings is that the weather conditions actually affect the driving. In the snow, for example, the road is slippy and icy - a good deal of concentration and careful gear selection is needed just to keep going.

The screen also presents your speed, gear selection and race position throughout the race, flashing up the ugly mugs of your opponents, the police and whoever else you manage to pass the way.

LOOK OUT! IT'S THE RIVAL DRIVERS
Tension is added to the whole racing thang by the addition of 'bets of the side' between you and a few of the other 19 drivers involved in the race. They have names like Kaled, Stozz, Hagar, Client and Kurt, which tends to suggest that none of them would order a Babycham and then try to pretend it was trendy or 'hard' in any way. Betting with this collection of potential axe-murderers is one of the ways to amass the money needed to enter the more expensive races in places like San Francisco and Spokane (coincidentally, the birthplace of ancient, dead crooner Bing Crosby).

LOOK OUT! IT'S THE SHOP
A nice touch this, the garage and shop provide the option to either repair your car after the damage sustained in the races, or you can buy various add-ons, like a 5-speed gear box or a turbo charger. (Providing, of course, you've got the dosh.)

LOOK OUT! IT'S THE POLICE
Each race setting you choose comes complete with its resident police force, who are either hot on catching speeding, illegal road-racers, or, to put it bluntly, they couldn't give a collective toss. In practice though, the simple act of flashing past a couple of 'smokey bears' above the local speed limit soon gets the blighters on your tail, complete with flashing lights and wailing sirens. What's more, they'll try and force you off the road. If you're good though, you can outrun 'em. Yeeeehaaaaar!!!!

LOOK OUT! IT'S A TRUCK
Muster $5,000 and you have the option of buying a pass into the Division Challenge. It's a time challenge, made ever so sightly difficult by the huge trucks which insist on forcing you off the road and driving straight at you should you stray into their path.

LOOK OUT! IT'S THE SUMMARY
Crazy Cars III is a bit good, actually. If you can master the basic driving skills, the world is your lobster. Start off on the drier tracks and think tactically about the skill level of the local drivers you'll be up against, and you just might be in with a teensy chancette of winning your bets and progressing through the levels. Make no mistake, though - it's no the easy task.

The scenery and the responsiveness of the car to all of the different types of weather - snow, rain and blazing sun - coupled with the tension of gambling and the thrill of the police chase makes sure that the whole package adds up to one of the better driving doofers on the market.Z