Scalextric on screen

Super Cars 2 logo

Publisher: Gremlin Graphics Price: £24.95

Amiga games players who've been around for a year or so will no doubt remember the original Supercars. It was far from unique as an overhead view car racing game but it did have a few features that lifted it out of the ordinary.

Well. Fans of the genre can jump for joy now because Supercars 2 is here. And the most exciting thing about the sequel is that it caters for two players at once, something that the original didn't manage. On loading you are asked to select either easy, medium or hard level then it's foot to the floor time.

The circuits start easy, with plenty of straight sections and nothing especially testing. The game is viewed from above and the style of the original is maintained as much as possible. You (and a friend if applicable) are represented by a coloured car. The computer cars (and there are a lot of them on most levels) are all white.

To call Supercars 2 a race game would do it injustice because much of the game revolves around combat. After each race you enter the shop (assuming you were placed in the top five cars) and the winnings from the race can be squandered on repairs for the car and extra armour and weapons to increase your chances of winning the next.

In each race there are only two weapon types available to you, and they need to be chosen with care. The standard types available to you, and they need to be chosen with care. The standard types are front and rear shooting missiles which are activated by pushing the joystick forwards or back respectively. In the shop either of these missiles can be exchanged for homing missiles (deadly and very accurate), spinning missiles that circle the car for a couple of seconds, and land mines.

Other add-ons include armour (reduces damage to the car from deflections), a larger engine size and a battering ram which causes damage to the other cars when you collide with them head on. This may come in very handy when you're in tight bunch. As you need to fight for positions, every dirty trick in the book will be useful. Don't feel at all guilty because the computer drivers will pull no punches, rest assured!

Later levels feature everything you ever wanted from a Super-Deluxe Scalextric set. Jumps, lumps, crossovers, chicanes and opening and shutting gates as well as a choice of routes on certain levels makes for some really tough races.

Playing with another Human player means you are vying for the top spot with one extra contender about, which makes things a bit tougher. Picking on each other will only mean dropping out of the top five though so avoid it at all costs. Supercars 2 is a worthwhile game.



Super Cars 2 logo

GREMLIN GRAPHICS * £24.99

Gremlin have been living in the fast lane since they launched Lotus Turbo Challenge. Determined not to be typecast as producers of racing games, they promptly put and Team Suzuki on the starting grid. Now comes Supercars 2, a different approach to a very familiar theme.

Supercars could be played against the machine or against someone you used to call a friend - until they win and you don't.
Either way it's a race to the line, over an increasing number of laps. At your disposal are guns, bombs, mines and other assorted military hardware which can be used to trash the opposition. The resultant race is a barging, ;pushing, shoving, bumping, boring and highly-illegal road-race epic.

Give me a brake
There are two ways to control the motor and the game defaults to a fire button accelerator: the longer you press, the faster you go. The alternative, faster method uses the fire-button to brake, while the power is continuous. This leaves you free to concentrate on steering, bending the stick left and right to get around corners. Forward and back commands are saved for the weapons, launching missiles or mines in the respective direction.

The controls are few, but it gets kind of hectic once the flag drops. Even the biggest tracks are only three cars wide, which means passing relies more on fire-power than driver skill. After being shot a car explodes and disappears for a few brief seconds. Take that shot and grab their place, because only those who make it to the rostrum race again.

While the opponents require fire-power and horsepower to beat you, the tracks themselves demand drive skill. ON the later tracks jumps and tunnels appear. Line is vital for both. Take a jump wrong and you end up in the rough, quickly killing your car. The tunnels hide the car, so you have to get lined up correctly before entering, then following the scroll as it tracks the invisible motor up screen.

It's war
Between each race comes a visit to the parts shop, where better weapons or mechanics can be nabbed. Thrown in, on occasions, are random penalty/reward sections. The police, for example, take exception to folks who are using large-calibre weapons on each other. At other times mysterious Aunts announce that you may, or may not, be heir to a fortune. The answers that you give determine whether you get the fine or the dosh. No clues are available, but it doesn't always pay to be scrupulously honest.

Supercars 2 really has to struggle to get itself noticed amongst a highly distinguished pack. Supercars I, Nitro and Jupiter's Masterdrive are just a few of the top dogs, but even in this lofty company Supercars 2 can hold its head high. The graphics are outstanding, with highly detailed landscapes, scrolling around at speed. The cars are precise, with pixel-perfect collision detection, but are slightly unconvincing when cornering. To compensate the sound here is all pained tyres.

Going head up
Supercars 2 and its ilk suffer the same problems on the game front however, regardless of how splendid the effects are. The problem lies in the long-term interest they can muster. Head-to-head, on a split screen, against a human player the competitive element gives it strength. Against the machine though, the pulling power is limited, as each player soon finds their performance plateau.

The courses vary in relation to what difficulty level you've chosen, but the scope for real difference is limited. Essentially, Supercars 2 remains a test of fine control. Your control options are limited to two directions, stop and shoot and events still get out of control.

Supercars 2 is fun to play in the short term. The introduction of the question-and-answer sections lifts Supercars, adding even more elements to this structurally established genre. It is a well crafted and well thought out game, but has to be one of the last stands of the genre. Virtually every avenue of gameplay enhanced has been made since the Super Sprint days, but if this is to be the swan-song, it's a doozy.


Super Cars 2 logo Amiga Joker Hit

Daß die Jungs von Gremlin mittlerweile anerkannte Spezialisten für Bildschirm-Rasereien sind, braucht man niemand mehr zu sagen. Daß "Super Cars" einer ihrer gelungensten Beiträge zum Thema war, ist wohl auch schon bekannt. Aber wer hätte gedacht, daß es noch viel besser geht?

Kaum ein Spiel wurde von den Leuten mit Benzin im Blut und einem Formel 1 Motor im Kopf so sehnsüchtig erwartet wie Super Cars II. Kein Wunder, hatte der Vorgänger doch von der genialen Steuerung bis zur hübschen Grafik, wirklich alles zu bieten, was Rennfahrerherzen hoher schlagen läßt. Das heißt, nein, eine Kleinigkeit fehlte schon zum totalen Sportlerglück - ein Zwei-Spieler-Simultan-modus. Und genau den hat Gremlin jetzt nachgereicht! Daß nebenher natürlich noch so einiges verbessert wurde, ist Ehrensache...

Ehe man auf den insgesamt 21 Kursen sein Glück versuchen darf, wird die Veranstaltung im Hauptmenü erst mal auf die persönlichen Bedürfnisse zugeschnitten. So stehen drei Schwierigkeitsgrade zur Verfügung, die den Piloten auf unterschiedliche Strecken entführen. Während man im Easy-Modus über halbwegs übersichtliche Asphaltpisten brettert, wimmelt es auf der schwierigsten Stufe nur so vor Unterführungen und verzwickten Kreuzungen, zudem ist dann der Straßenzustand alles andere als unproblematisch.

Das Spektrum reicht von Wasserflachen über Ölpfützen und Steine auf der Fahrbahn bis hin zu tückischem Glatteis. Außerdem muß natürlich festgelegt werden, ob man alleine oder mit Partner ins Rennen geht, und auch den Steuerungsmodus darf man sich aussuchen: Entweder dient der Feuerknopf des Joysticks zum Gasgeben oder zum Bremsen.

Am Start erwartet den Super Cars Veteranen dann schon die erste große Überraschung - es ist jetzt viel mehr Konkurrenz unterwegs! Daß einem nun gleich neun Gegner das Leben schwer machen, hat aber auch seine Vorteile: Diesmal genügt es, am Ende eines Rennens unter den ersten fünf gelandet zu sein, anstatt wie zuvor unter den drei Erstplazierten.

Natürlich winken wieder fein abgestufte Siegprämien, für die der Wagen im Shop auf Vordermann gebracht und mit nützlichen Extras bestückt wird. Neben den bekannten Bug- und Heckraketen sind jetzt etliche Neuheiten wie beispielsweise zielsuchende Missiles, eine Art Satellit, der das Auto umkreist, oder Minen zum Abwerfen im Angebot. Außerdem ist neuerdings auch kaufmännisches Talent gefragt, indem man nämlich Teile einkauft, wenn sie günstig zu haben sind, und sie dann ein paar Runden später für teures Geld wieder abstößt. Zudem tauchen zwischen den Rennen nun kleine Fragespielchen mit Polizisten, Reportern, Sponsoren oder Anwälten auf. Amiga Joker Hit Wer hier z.B. Verkehrsschilder richtig erkennt, kann sich ein paar Extragroschen verdienen.

Auch das eigentliche Renngeschehen hat nochmals an Dramatik gewonnen: Ganz davon abgesehen, daß die Zwei-Spieler-Action am vertikal geteilten Screen einfach einen Riesenspaß macht, wurde das gesamte Spieldesign erkennbar aufgepeppt. Zum einen sind die computergesteuerten Fahrer ausgebufft wie eh und je, zum anderen lassen auch sie jetzt schon mal eine kleine Rakete auf das Spielerfahrzeug los dann brennt die Karre für einige Sekunden, was natürlich wertvolle Zeit kostet und dem Gesamtzustand des Wagens nicht gerade zuträglich ist.

Und dann erst die Streckengestaltung: Da gibt es lange, dunkle Tunnel, die man blind durchfahren muß, scharfe Haarnadelkurven, Sprungschanzen und vieles mehr. Zusammen mit der nach wie vor spitzenmäßigen Steuerung ergibt sich also ein Rennspielchen, das weit und breit konkurrenzlos in der Landschaft steht!

So weit, so toll. Leider haben derart viele und gelungene Neuerungen auch ihren Preis. Das fängt damit an, daß man sich hier während des gesamten Games mit dem gleichen Wagen begnügen muß, der Verkäufer aus dem ersten Teil ist scheinbar in Rente gegangen. Außerdem hat die Grafik ein bißchen gelitten, die Landschaften wirken etwas bläßlich, und auch beim (multidirektionalen) Scrolling ist ein leichtes Ruckeln zu verzeichnen.

Die Portraits der Fragesteller in den Unterspielen sind zwar ganz nett, aber über diese Zugabe zu einem Sportspiel kann man auch geteilter Meinung sein. Und schließlich wurde während des Rennens auf fetzige Musikuntermaling verzichtet, (gute) FX wie Reifen-quietschen und Explosionsgeräusche müssen als Geräuschkulisse genügen. Auf der anderen Seite macht alleine schon die Tatsache, daß zwei Spieler am Splitscreen gegeneinander rasen dürfen, während Solo-Piloten den vollen Schirm zu sehen bekommen, die meisten der zuvor erwähnten Mankos locker wett!

Nach Abwägung aller Vor- und Nachteile bleibt unterm Strich also nicht mehr und nicht weniger als ein superspielbares Stück Software, das Fans des Renn-Genres um keinen Preis verpassen dürfen. Auch wer den Vorgänger schon hat (zur Zeit übrigens für 79,- DM zusammen mit drei weiteren Games auf der Compilation "16 Bit Hit Machine" erhältlich), wird von Super Cars II begeistert sein - ein Hit von einem Hit (C. Borgmeier)


Super Cars 2 logo

New power-ups and a two-player mode sadly fail to improve upon the original. (In fact, they make it worse!)

This is a game with an impeccable pedigree. Its predecessor, Supercars (pretty obvious really) was one of the most popular overhead-view racing games ever on the Amiga, and also one of the best (as its placing in our own All-Time Top 100 shows). The programming team, Magnetic Fields, have been responsible for some other major successes of late too, notably Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge. Add to that Gremlin generally developing something of a knack for driving games, and expectations for this one were understandably high.

Sad to report, then, that it doesn't really live up to them. Not that it's a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, it it hasn't really got what it takes to make the major leagues.

Why? Well firstly, there's been very little advance made on the original Supercars. The game is the same Super-Sprint-with-add-on weaponry mix as before, with only the two-player option adding any new gameplay features to speak of. Graphically there's been an improvement, with some variation in the background types, but again there isn't really anything remarkable happening.

The conversation sequences of the original have been kept, but this time you have to contend with the Dept of Transport, an Environmental Health Officer, the police, journalists, sponsors and solicitors. The formula however is the same. Choose (or in some instances, guess) from three replies to given questions - get it right and you win cash or championship points, get it wrong and you lose them.

More significant are the changes to the add-ons you can buy. Turbo boos and mines have replaced power steering and retro-thrust, which might not seem that important, but wait! In both games your car's road-holding isn't up to much, coupling poor cornering with over-sensitive steering to the extent that it's very hard to keep in a straight line, so the power steering and other handling improvements available in the first game were actually rather crucial. They've taken them out for the sequel and I can't for the life of me see why.

Add to this the narrow, twisting courses and the large number of opposing cars, and what you have is a game that never really gets going to the degree it should.

This is accentuated in the two-player game, where the split screen (impressive though it may be) cuts down visibility and gives very little time to reach to the unpredictable bends in the course. It gets really ridiculous when long tunnels crop up, forcing you to drive blind, hitting walls and cars with monotonous regularity. It all makes for a very high level of frustration indeed.

Although it's all very efficiently done and nicely presented, the changes they've made have actually emphasised the weak points of the game without adding very much. Oh dear.



Super Cars 2 logo CU Amiga Screenstar

After what seems an eternity, the sequel to Supercars is here. The unoriginally-named Supercars 2 has been created by the original writer of Supercars, Shaun Southern of Magnetic Fields. Shaun was also responsible for the brilliant Lotus Turbo Esprit Challenge.

Since Magnetic Fields were founded nearly two years ago they've pumped out a series of hits starting with Super Scramble Simulator. Thankfully, Supercars 2 continues this trend. Supercars 2 is basically an extension of the first game, with the welcome addition of a two-player mode.

Using a joystick for player one and joystick or keyboard for player two, the game idea is the same as the first - make sure that you are amongst the first five past the line - but with a lot more added extras to enhance the gameplay.

Once the game has loaded, the player has a choice of whether to have the firebutton as an accelerator or brake. I personally found it a lot easier to use the brake option because the car naturally gains speed by itself. You also have the choice to start on the easy, medium or hard levels.

There are 21 tracks, with seven per level. The circuits themselves are a great improvement from the flat racing track of the first game: now you have bridges, jumps, tunnels, and opening and closing doors, whereas before the tracks were limited to a few sharp bends.

An added feature is a racing locomotive which crosses the track at various intersections (Nigel Mansell's type of driving is of great use here). Added to these superbly drawn extras are some 3D effects - rolling hills and dangerous ramps. The car sprites are made up of over 280 frames of animation so there's a great variety of movement from the car as you dodge obstacles such as oil, stones, ice and water.

The weaponry has been enhanced by the addition of homing missiles, land mines, and an encircling missile that shadows your vehicle and blows up any car near you. There are also small front and back missiles. The missile deflector speaks for itself; this is very useful if you're in two-player mode as it can be used to deflect missiles back at your opponent. The last weapon of note is the Knightrider-style turbo boost (if you can remember the tv series). It's very handy for jumping over chasms, or for squashing the cars in front of you, thus saving on valuable missiles.

The game is very pleasing for the eye, with four colours for the car sprites and 64 for the track designs. There's Cinemaware-type graphics for the interview screens, police station interrogations and even for the transport inspector. This time round you have to stick to the same car all the way through; but the game has its rewards if you skillfully answer the journalist's questions.

The sound effects of the cars are good and there's a lifelike strain of the engine when going up the hills on the track. When colliding with other cars and obstacles there's a realistic grating noise. Supercars 2 is a must for any racing fanatic; but it's a shame that, unlike the original, you can't buy a better car or choose a track in the order you want.

Supercars 2 is a great improvement over its predecessor. That was a hit and I'm sure this will be, too.


STEERING
Left and right on the joystick effects the car's steering; forward and back are used to access the car's formidable weaponry. Once again, you view your car from a bird's eye point-of-view, high in the sky wit your car positioned in the centre of the screen as you trundle around the tortuous tracks. The scrolling deserves a special note, it's particularly impressive. Once control has been selected, it gives you a quick description of the rae track you're about to attempt. The track environment is selected randomly from following three settings: snow, sand/mud, or grass/heather and rocks, each screen has been drawn up in 64 colours on DPaint III.

Super Cars 2 logo

Super Cars, eh? Porsche 959, Lambourghini Countach, Ferrari Testarossa, Carlos Fandango Bankmagnet, and also a rather neat game from Gremlin. We let David 'Mine's A Triumph Herald' Wilson pick up the keys to the Amiga and take the sequel out for a spin.

There was something about those top down racing games that made them a bit naff-ola. Probably because a top down racing game is one of the easiest things in the world to program - the Codies have been doing it for years (oops) and as a result there's something 'budgety' about them.

Then came Gremlin's Super Cars which applied all the latest coding techniques to this tried and tested formula and actually came up with a superbly playable little number that we rated 89 in February 1990. Since then we've had , Badlands, Nitro, Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart's Off Road Racer et al. Now we've got Gremlin fighting back with the sequel, Super Cars II.

All the original game features are present, including the Cinemaware style inter-game screens, but what's new? Well, most immediately there's two player head to head option, with the screen split down the middle.
You and a chum attempt to compete in the Super Cars championship racing on different, more complex tracks - against each other and numerous computer controlled motors.

There are three difficulty levels, each comprising seven tracks - and tracks can feature one of three graphics including snow, rocks, heather, and grass. You can still tool up with forward and backward firing missiles, but now you've also got homing missiles, mines, a 'super missile' and armour, as well as the usual car accessories - new tyres, bodywork, turbo, furry dice et all.

Oh, and don't think this'll give you the unfair advantage of the prequel, 'cos now the computer controlled cars are packing missiles too - and it takes some pretty neat drivin' to outmanoeuvre a homing missile! Once you've sorted out your purchases, you're straight out onto the tracks and we're straight into the review (Vroooom vroooooom!)

Amiga reviewDavid: What was it that made Super Cars er... super? Perhaps it was the slick programming, the smooth graphics and the nail-bitingly addictive gameplay.

Probably - but a contributory factor was the simplicity of it all. Control was tricky, but, once mastered, the tracks were pitched just right. Okay, so next question - what makes a good sequel? The usual answer is bung in loads more features.

This is what Gremlin has done - more weapons, more tracks, more graphics, more, more, more. Erm... but if the beauty of the prequel was its simplicity, then won't this 'more' business detract from this? In some respects, yes.

Take the shop screen. Nice idea. You can now buy more optional extras. Great. You can also choose whether to fix them to your motor, and which key press/joystick command will activate them.
Okay. Then, you can 'buy' as well as 'sell' weapons. This means you can buy loads of homing missiles when they're in cheap, then flog them all back when the economy emerges from recession and prices are at a premium (it sez here). Leave it ahrt!

Super Cars II is certainly as good as the original - the two player option is a great addition, nice new tracks and settings are on offer and new weapons - but the simplicity and accessibility of the first title seem to have been lost.