Burning Rubber

Power Drift logo

FUN Versus accuracy. This is the balancing act which all the creators of the latest genre of driving simulators have to master. Power Drift and Hard Drivin' appeared in the arcades at the same time. One was fun, the other accurate.
Now I'm sure that with plenty of time behind the wheel, Hard Drivin' would be more rewarding. But at £1 a throw I couldn't afford to find out.
So I became hooked on Power Drift, with its huge screen, amazing hydraulics and "faster than the eye could follow" graphics. A machine with more just one more go appeal than any other.

It would be a brave man who attempted to convert such a game to a home computer. That man was ZZKJ. He'd been to the brink of technology before with Super Hang On. Now he prepared to dive into his source again. And this wasn't ketchup. The problem with spritey games, like Outrun for instance, is that they look and feel 2D.
Solid games like Interphase feel better but need some serious processing power. And anyway, Power Drift is intrinsically sprite based.

ZZKJ managed to find a way to story, magnify and rotate sprites so that they appear solid. Then he calculated relative positions in the same way as he would for a 3D game.
The upshot of all this technical mumbo jumbo is that if one car cuts a corner, slides past a tree and back on to the track to crash into the next car, the graphics all look right. And you really feel as though you've done something pretty clever.

Missing from the conversion are the rotation, including an Afterburner style roll if you crash, and a small map which shows where the other cars are. Nothing to worry about.

The frame rate is acceptable in most places, helped by the blitter. Sometimes it slows to a crawl when there is a lot going on. The person with a Commodore processing card in his A2000 will be surprised to learn that not only does this game load, it benefits from the 68020.

It's exciting, spectacular, and impressive. One of the compromises made for the sake of playability is particularly generous collision detection. But then karting is supposed to be a non-contact sport.
The game's got instant "grab the mouse and go" appeal, but also has depth. You won't do well until you learn the 27 circuits.
Master the game for a mode which puts you in control of the Afterburner jet or the Super Hang-On bike.
Me? I'm off karting for real. Let's call it research.


Power Drift logo

ACTIVISION £24.99 * Mouse, Joystick or Keyboard

Forget the Ferraris and the Porsches, what you really want is a little buggy to sit in. Give it plenty of poke in the shape of a rear-mounted engine with a top speed of 244kmh and do not bother with namby-pamby seat belts and roll cages and you are on your way.
Welcome to Powerdrift, Activision's conversion of the popular Sega coin-op. As if you had not already guessed, it is a driving game! There are a few subtle differences between Powerdrift and other racing coin-op conversions, not least the absence of a time limit. None of this rushing to reach the next checkpoint as the seconds tick away. That does not mean you can just take your own sweet time though: it is still a race.

Twelve competitors take part in each race, but you start in fourth position. Quite simply, the idea is to finish each race, but you start in fourth position. Quite simply, the idea is to finish each race in one of the top three places to qualify for the next stage. Each race is four laps of the track and there are five tracks to each course, with five courses to choose from.

The tracks tend to increase in difficulty as you progress. For example, the first couple of tracks will tend to have fewer and gentler bends while the later tracks will become much more difficult to negotiate and quite a challenge.
As well as bends there are other hazards, including suspended log tracks with no barriers on either side, so it is very easy to get the line seriously wrong on a bend and go plummeting into space. Then there are the jumps that can only be cleared if you are travelling over a certain speed.

Last but not least, there are the other racers, colliding with any of whom causes you to go into a spin. Not mucn time is lost as you are almost immediately back in the race, but your speed suffers and it takes a couple of seconds to get back up with the pack.

Fail to qualify and you can use one of your five continue credits to have another bash, Incidentally, and rather entertainingly, if you come in first for all five races you may get the chance to drive the motorbike Super Hang On or fly an F14 from Afterburner round a bonus track.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Very fast and very colourful, it is so fast, in fact, that it sometimes gets a little confusing as to where you are supposed to be going. But after a couple of laps of each course, you will know them well enough. The jingles are standard coin-op fare, and the sound effects are fine for the job required.

JUDGEMENT

Wonderful stuff. As challenging and as addictive as you would expect from a hit coin-op but with much more gameplay depth than usual. A first-class racing game with all the essential ingredients to keep you in the driving seat.


Power Drift logo

Activision
Price: £24.99

Finally we see the first of Activision's biggies for Chrimbo, a conversion of an extremely fast race machine. So how has cartie-racing legend Power Drift fallen into the 68000?
Not very well, as I expected. The problem lies with the machine. When an arcade programmer has an idea, he is given the hardware to carry that idea out. No matter how good a programmer is, the Amiga 500 hardware is not going to improve, and so the new breed of arcade games are too difficult to carry across. Powerdrift is one of them.
Activision did try, and to be fair they have not done an awful job. What they have done comes as close as you are going to get. Unfortunately due to the limitations of the machine a few sacrifices had to be made...

The game is simple in design. Five courses, five stages to each, four laps of each stage. Come in the first thee and progress to the next. As you race through the courses the bends get tighter, the jumps get bigger and the opposition gets tougher.

It is the courses that made the arcade version so impressive. Not satisfied with straight race along the ground and the occasional hill, Powerdrift's courses are full of tight bends, bridges, hills, jumps and dips. What this results in is a very packed screen, as you race under bridges, jump over bits of courses and even stop and watch cars racing elsewhere on the track, a feat only accomplished once before, in the Digital golden oldie Integrations T.T. Racer.
The way the road was constructed in the arcade, and the system employed in the Amiga version, is by laying down strips of graphics, one behind the other to create a 3D image. The Amiga version contains less strips which makes the track look very broken, and also leads to some very confusing circumstances. For example, when you pass under a low bridge, all the strips blend together, and you end up with a screen full of colour, rather than a cartie race track.

The game is fast, but at the sacrifice of smooth scrolling. If you remember OutRun Amiga you will know what I mean. There are plenty of times where you just cannot tell if the road branches left or right, or indeed which part of the road you are supposed to be racing on. This ruins what could have been a good conversion, but how are you supposed to enjoy a racing game when you cannot make out where you are meant to be racing?

There are one or two graphical touches thrown in. For example the way the viewpoint pans across the course before setting in the normal position. The special courses have been kept in too, on which you race an F-15 Afterburner style along and then the Super Hang-On bike - a feature taken from the arcade original.
The soundtrack is good, but limited. The usual growl and squeals accompany your racing and there is some nice sampled speech that counts you in and also provides an audible lap counter.

A fan of the coin-op might enjoy this, I personally do not. It is nice to have a fast game, but when that speed means a loss of gameplay, then I would rather have a slower game.


Power Drift logo

Sean Kelly may be to driving skills what Nigel Mansell is to method-acting, but that didn't stop him taking Power Drift out for a test spin and living to tell the tale...

Amiga review Life is a little like playing Power Drift. You have your ups and downs, your lefts and rights, and sometimes you darn well don't know which way to turn. Then, to top it all, there are those shocking moments when you hit a bump so hard you go flying up into the air and wish you'd put on your pair of brown trousers afer all.

As you probably know (unless you're as thick as Heinz Country Vegetable Soup), Power Drift - the arcade game involved racing a buggy around 25 incredibly bendy tracks, whose height above sea level changed from second to second, and er... that was it. Apart from the massively undulating track, impressively fast graphics and mean-looking cabinet, Power Drift - the Activision game - is pretty much the same. So, take away the cabinet and what are you left with?

Well, a pretty darn rootin' tootin' good racer - that's what. Programmer ZZKJ, author of the brilliant Super Hang On on 16-bits has done an amazing job capturing the graphics, speed and spirit of the arcade version.

The first thing that strikes you is the sheer seed and smoothness of the billions of trackside objects scrolling towards you. Occasionally ally things move so fast that you can't tell the direction you have to head for next, which makes the game a little frustrating at times.

All the original's different track surfaces seem to be there and the varying effects they have on your vehicle at different points during the races have been kept. There's also a huge variety of tracks, 25 in all, broken down into five sequences of five tracks.

The range of background scenery is also massive, from big cities at nighttime to snowy Christmassy-style scenes - just right for this time of year. The impression of racing up and down the hills has also translated extremely well, and when cornering on gravel, you really do get the feeling that the car is slip slidin' round the bend.

Control is by joystick, keyboard or mouse and like Super Hang On. I found the mouse to be the most responsive method of control, although it did take some getting used to. Soundwise, there's an effective digitised "First lap... second lap..." etc each time you cross the line for a new lap and some fab skiddy and crashing sounds throughout. Alas, they've also kept that really annoying ditty which plays interminably. Hopefully, a button to turn this off exists somewhere, but I didn't find it.

Luckily though, a lot of attention has been played to the little details. For example, if you crash just before a steep bank, you find it difficult to get any speed up at first as you are attempting to restart on the bank. Similarly, if you are going under a bridge and any of the other buggies happen to be passing over it at the time, you see them zipping across the screen. Although this doesn't add to the gameplay, these sorts of little details can add a great deal to the appeal and staying power of a game. Possibly a good job in this case, as I found it fairly easy to get through the first tracks, and suspect that it won't take most gamesplayers that long to finish the game (You modest dog you. Ed.).

With the above tiny reservation taken into account, Power Drift is still an excellent conversion. The graphics and spirit of the original have been captured well for the Amiga release, so you should definitely jump in your buggy and head for the local software shop as fast as your little wheels will carry you. It's a stonker of a game. Stop


Power Drift logo

Activision, Amiga £24.99

The 64 version rough-rode its way onto the cover of Issue 55 and zoomed away with a Sizzler for its troubles. Following up the rear we have the Miggy Drift written by Super Hang On programmer ZZKJ.

It plays much the same as the 64 version with a off-road buggy to drive, one of 12 rough-neck characters to choose from to drive it, and five courses to race around (each containing 5 circuits). In each race, you must finish in the top three to proceed to the next circuit.

Other than graphic and sonic differences Amiga Power Drift does boast some extras. The track you are about to race on spins into view, there is some speech here and there and, most useful of all, you get four continue plays.


Robin Hogg With its neat presentation Power Drift appears to be a good conversion. But as you get to harder, more graphically complex levels the graphics and gameplay start to get messy and confusing, spoiling the playability somewhat. Fans of the coin-op might appreciate the programmer's bravery, but others will wonder why he didn't keep it as graphically simple as the C64 game.
Phil King While Power Drift is technically very impressive with its extremely fast layered graphic effect, sometimes it is just too ambitious. Masses of (admittedly excellent) graphics are flung left or right at a considerable rate and occasionally you are left trying to follow a road that has disappeared in the collage of graphics hurtling at you. This does not happen all the time, but when it does, it is extremely disorientating.