Life in the fastlane again

Super Cars 1 logo

SOMEONE has copped out. Here is a game with three of the most interesting cars due to be produced in 1990 and Gremlin Graphics has cheated on the names.
Instead of using the names Cizeta Moroder, Alfa Romeo and Honda, Gremlin has made up some silly wimpish names. But that will only worry the real car buffs.

The game is what matters, and at first glance it doesn't look anything special. Nine Super Sprint style tracks which scroll as you race computer generated cars around them.
But that first glance rapidly turns into something more. A determination that you can do better if you try again. And you will: your line improves as you learn the circuits.

Race wins produce prize money, which can be spent on repairing the car after the last race - there is bound to be some wear and tear - or by buying bolt-on goodies like a turbo or missile which lasts one race, or by trading in your car for a new one.

The garage assistant looks as she has escaped from a Cinemaware title. Buying a car is hard work. Even if you win a couple of races and do very little damage to the Blue Zagato you start with it is unlikely that you will be able to afford the next vehicle without haggling.

You'll have to haggle hard with this new car salesman to get a decent price out of this Monty Python loving vegetarian with an Oedipus complex. The buying and selling adds both a random element and some tactics off-track. But it is when the lights go green that skill really starts to count.

The rival cars start to spread out since each has a level of skill. If you play dodgems a bit and let a slow computer car in front of a fast one you can start the kind of pile-up which will let you romp away with the first prize.

There is nothing special about the game, yet the more you play the more you want to. I kept going even after my trigger finger started to hurt. What the game lacks in sampled speech and dazzling copper lists it makes up for in sheer gameplay.


Super Cars 1 logo

GREMLIN £19.99 * Joystick

Ferrari Testarossas, Porsche 944s, Jensen Interceptors, pah! They're all chicken feed compared to the cars in Gremlin's latest. Retron Parsecs, Vaug Interceptors, Taraco Neoroders and variants rule the roost here.

It's a single-player racing game, viewed from above, that gives you nice tracks to race on at three different levels making a total of 27 races. It's not solo stuff though: there are seven computer-controlled cars to compete against for each race. You start against three and more cars join in as you move up the levels.

Before setting your wheels on the first track, though, you'll have to check out your equipment. You're given the basic Neoroder car to start with and new tyres, engine, body and a full tanks of fuel. But as the season goes on all of these things become damaged - by bashing into the other cars, by skidding too much and so on - so before each race the gauges at the base of the screen have to be checked to see if you'll be able to survive the next race.

A race lasts a set number of laps, the number increasing as you step up the levels. If the race is long, your damage is high and things look dodgy, then pop into the garage and buy some new equipment. Note that improvements and repairs cost money and the only way to make money (and continue driving) is to complete each race in the top three and get some prize money. Coming first, obviously, gives you more prize money than coming third.

Win a couple of races and the coffers swell allowing you the luxury of buying some handy extras like a turbocharger for faster acceleration, power steering for a smaller turning circle and spin assist which points your car in the right direction after hitting an oil patch. Yes, oil, water and mud patches can all be found on tracks and all of them have detrimental effects on the speed or handling of your car. Then again, you could go for some down-right dirty tricks like front and rear missiles which, if aimed correctly, can knock a rival car right out of the race.

Start winning some serious money and it may be time to start thinking about a new car. A visit to the showroom before a race gives you the opportunity to select either the same type of car, but with a bigger engine, or a completely new model. There's even a chance to haggle with the dealer and try to knock the price down, but upset him and he'll throw you out of the showroom and not allow you back in until you've won another race.

Keep going until you fail to finish in the top three or until you manage to either blow the engine, tyres, or run out of fuel - easy to do if you don't watch your gauges closely and repair them between races. Then there's a full results service at the end of the game where two commentators give all the stats of who performed best on which tracks.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The tune which plays throughout is fine, as are the skidding and bumping sound effects: they're not brilliant but they're certainly adequate. The graphics are much better: not only is the animation very smooth, but there's a high level of detail with things like shadows from bridges and trees included.

LASTING INTEREST

It's not easy and the difficulty tuning has been set just right, making it highly addictive. The gameplay is great and it's fun to see things like loosing off a missile at one car, say on a bend, the car becoming a write-off and all the other computer-controlled cars bashing into it. With 27 races to win it's going to last you some time.

JUDGEMENT

It may not be an original idea but it's one of the best of its kind. Gremlin seem to be keeping up their new-found form of quality products, like Switchblade, which is pleasing to see.


Super Cars 1 logo Amiga Joker Hit

Autorennen in der Vogelperspektive gibt's für den Amiga ja schon einige - aber leider nur mehr oder weniger schlechte. Doch jetzt hat "Gremlin" eine Variante des Themas "Carrera-Rennbahn am Computer" herausgebracht, die sich wirklich sehen lassen kann!

Der bekannste Vertreter dieser Darstellungsform bei Autorennen und gleichzeitig Urahn der ganzen Gattung ist der C64-Klassiker "Supersprint". Schon bei dieser altehrwürdigen Automatenumsetzung musste sich der Spieler durch verschiedene Strecken kämpfen, Hindernissen ausweichen und die Konkurrenten überholen, um weiterzukommen. Bei Super Cars dehnen sich die Strecken sogar über einige Bildschirme aus, und auf der Fahrbahn tauchen ständig kleine Überraschungen wie Wasserpfützen, Öllachen und Schlamm auf. Aber hier ist noch mehr geboten: Vor jedem Rennen kann man sich feine Extras kaufen, den Wagen reparieren oder sich gleich komplett neues Gefährt zulegen!

Nun zum eigentlichen Race: Der eigene Schlitten startet als letzter, um weiterzukommen muss man sich bis zum Ziel möglichst weit nach vorne gekämpft haben. Für den ersten Platz gibt's 20.000 englische Pfund, für den zweiten noch stolze 12.000, und wer die Flagge als Dritter sieht, geht mit 5.000 Kröten nach Hause. Tja, und mehr ist nicht, für die Schlechterplazierten heißt es "Game over"! Das sauer verdiente Geld wird dringend benötigt, schliesslich muss der Bolide instand gehalten werden, und die vielen Extras, wie Turboläder und verbesserte Lenkung, darf man auch nach jedem Durchgang neu kaufen.

Die 27 verschiedenen Strecken sehen sich allesamt ziemlich ähnlich, spielen sich jedoch erstaunlich unterschiedlich und abwechslungsreich. Auch die Steuerung ist prima: leicht zu erlernen und zu handhaben. Damit nicht genug des Lobs, das Rennen selbst ist ein einziger großer Nervenkitzel - spannend bis zum Ende! Es macht einen Heidenspaß, mit Höchstgeschwindigkeit durch die Strassen zu brettern und die Konkurrenz die Schlusslichter zu zeigen. Wer will, kann sich sogar Raketen und eine Panzerung zulegen und die anderen Autos abdrängen oder kurzerhand außer Gefecht setzen!

Auch die Präsentation ist gelungen: Überall begegnen einem gut animierte Grafiken und witzige Gags, man fühlt sich schon fast an "Cinemaware" -spiele erinnert. So ist beispielsweise ein Besuch beim Autohändler immer interessant, auch wenn man sich gar kein neues Gefährt zulegen will/kann. Der gute Mann sieht nämlich so aus, ob er seinen ganzen Fuhrpark eigenhändig geklaut hätte... Außerdem kann man per Antwortmenü mit ihm verhandeln oder ihn beschimpfen - er zahlt es dann mit gleicher Münze heim! Dass das Scrolling manchmal etwas ruckelt, ist leicht zu verschmerzen, und der Sound ist ein Quell der reinen Freude: Sowohl die Musik als auch die Effekte (Reifen-quietschen) sind absolut spitze. Mit einem Wort: äußerst empfehlenswert! (mm)


Super Cars 1 logo

Gremlin
Price: £24.95

Prepare for the roar of the engine and the thrill of the race in Gremlin's latest Amiga offering, Super Cars. Take your seat and get ready to compete with some of the toughest drivers on the circuit.

Super Cars is based heavily on Super Sprint but also has some unique twists. You have a choice of seven cars to race in but, as you would expect, the faster the car, the more dosh you pay. A nice touch is that you can haggle with the salesman to get a few grand knocked off.
Add-ons can be purchased to give you an unfair advantage. These include missiles, power steering, speed-ups and armour.

Once you're satisfied with your car it's off to one of the nine race tracks. The action is viewed from above and the screen scrolls to keep the player's car central - another difference from Super Sprint. Between four and nine computer cars take part, and you must finish in the top three to avoid disqualification.

Graphically, Super Cars is about average for this type of game. The car would look more at home on a 64 but the track graphics are never very far from reasonable. The option screens are a different matter, plenty of detail, lots of variety and some really excellent designs.
Although there are very few spot effects there are several Chain type tunes but even these start to sound familiar and grate on the ears.

Super Cars is instantly hookable. A good control system means the players can get straight into the game, the excellent presentation also helps. The well gauged difficulty level keeps the player hooked until... it hits you - Super Cars is one of those repetitive games that falters after only a few hours. As you progress nothing new is added.

A two player option would have helped enormously but I'm afraid that as it stands Super Cars gets the thumbs down from me.


Super Cars 1 logo

Seatbelt. Ignition. Mirror, Signal, Mano... Crash! %**!!@**!!! Sean Kelly takes Gremlin's new Super Cars out for a spin.

This ain't a game to tax anyone's intelligence (except maybe mine), as it has a scenario that can be summed up in one word. Drive Fast And Win. Alright, four words.

This 'Driving Fast And Winning' malarkey is performed around a series of nine tracks, each progressively more difficult than the last. In order to move up to the other two leagues, and thus qualify for a better car and bigger budget, you must finish in the top half of the race order on all nine tracks. Once you move up, you'll face the same nine tracks, but with more hazards.

Winning or gaining a position results in a cash prize which can then be used to carry out essential maintenance on your car or to add all those extras like armour, turbo and missiles. Finishing third all the time won't give you enough dosh for a pair of fluffy dice.

Overhead racing games, in theory, should be easy to produce. No massive vectors or sophisticated scrolling routines. But so far the majority of them have been pretty crappy. So what about Super Cars?

Amiga reviewSean: Most cars look pretty much the same from a helicopter at an altitude of a hundred yards. For that very reason, overhead racing games like Super Cars tend not to be fantastically stunning when it comes to the graphics - different coloured cars, green grass, grey track and that's the lot. They also tend to be about as much fun to play with a guitar without any strings.

But contrary to expectations, Super Cars has proved to be a stunner on the playability front. Though the controls take a bit of getting used to, once you're past this tiny hurdle, it's even more addictive than blue Liquorish Allsorts. It's one of those games that is easy to pick up, but once you're playing, practically impossible to put down. Like the Financial Times in fact. If you're into skidding in a big way (Dunc springs to mind - I can't imagine why. Ed.) then the oil slicks and mud patches will be right up your street. And as you learn more about keeping the other cars at bay, by the use of sneaky tactics like barging past them at corners and pushing them into the oil slicks and sand, the game gets even more addictive.

The tiny details make for an attractive course design. Similarly, the trackside scenery is imaginatively produced, highly detailed and colourful - think yourself lucky that you're in the helicopter, not hanging onto a steering wheel watching the opposition disappear into the distance.

The gameplay graphics are supplemented by some spondicious linking sections which are so good they look as if they could've been blagged from a Cinemaware game. A catchy little tune, coupled with some very unpleasantly realistic skidding sounds, complete the game on the aural front. Get a little too overexcited and the tyre wear scale will plunge into the red. And Pirelli P6's don't come cheap.

There's no doubt about it, Super Cars is megafun. It's a very addictive challenge with heaps of playability. It only just misses being ZERO HERO'd due to the lack of variety in the tracks. It would have been good to see a few chicanes, humpback bridges and tricky curves. All the bends are right angles - a tad samey after a while. If Scalextric can manage it, why not a 16-bit computer? This point aside, it's utterly fab. Get your loved one to buy it for your Valentine's Day Prezzie. And if you haven't got a loved one, buy it yourself. You never know, you might just fall in love with Super Cars.