Monaco, eh? What a posh place. It's nearly always sunny, everyone's 'chic' and money flows like water. Makes you sick really - surely nowhere can be that perfect. Well, the good news is that there is actually some bad news regarding Monaco. It's not quite so brilliant after all. It's situated next to a gigantic toilet, you see - a toilet called the Mediterranean Ocean.
The Monaco Grand Prix therefore takes place right next to one of the largest sewage dumps in the world. So, next time you're sitting in front of the telly, listening to Murray Walker blithering on about how, uncannily, Alain Prost has just managed to overtake himself for the third time, remember one thing - those rich 'jet-setters' (the ones sprawled about all over the decks of their yachts) the cameras pan across every lap. Are they in paradise? No, not quite: they're surrounded by bobbing jobbies, floaters, or whatever you like to call them. Too much champagne, one little slip on a wet deck and shazam! From Nirvana to Hell in one fell swoop - with a series of tetanus injections just around the corner. So there is justice after all.
But was Super Monaco Grand Prix anything to do with water-borne excreta? Er, not really, no, so let's get back to the point. The Super Monaco GP coin-op was really something special. Vast chunks of roadside detail were whipped around at breakneck speed as you battled against 15 other formula-one cars to complete three laps of the tortuous course.
Hairpins came at you at speeds of 200 mph. Chicanes came at you at speeds of 200 mph. In fact virtually everything came at you at speeds of 200 mph, which is why most people had crashed at the end of lap one and were forced to feed the machine with another 50p piece so they could have another go,
Apart from the size of the sprites and the speeds at which they were thrown about, there was one other thing that made this game stand out from the crowd. This was the use of a rear view mirror - a massive one that stretched across the whole top fifth of the screen. You could see back for quite a distance and count the cars on your tail. You could see them getting bigger - a cunning visual clue that meant they were getting closer - but as you were often heading into a tight bend, acceleration was out of the window: and blocking tactics were called into play.
If a car was trying to slip past you on the left as you were approaching a hairpin right, you could take the corner wide and carve him up. If he hit you rear end, you'd both sustain damage, but he'd come off the worst and disappear from view in a cloud of smoke. Just like real racing driving, the idea was to keep one eye on the road in front and one eye on the action behind.
As you climbed up the position board, far from becoming less frenetic, the game kept pace by setting you a 'target'. If, for instance, you had grabbed 6th place, a message would pop up on screen telling you that you mustn't drop below 9th if you wanted to stay in the race.
And lots of scary loud beeping screamed out to remind you of this fact whenever another car got within ten lengths. This forced your attention back to the mirror: get passed by three more cars and that was it. It was the kind of pressure guaranteed to stuff up an up till excellent performance. And the better you were doing, the more punishing your target. Getting to 1st or so meant you had to remain there or be disqualified - a bit of a side-step from the real thing, but it certainly kept you on your toes.
But that, in a nutshell, was the Super Monaco Grand Prix coin-op. Superlative graphics combined with frenetic action. Not a great deal of longevity, as there were only three laps to go through - but despite this it was one of those arcade machines that got surrounded by crowds of people, all waving their one pound note and shouting "Me next!". Fights were not uncommon. So how has the action transformed to 16-bit restricted memory home computers? Read on, clot.
Dunc: Well, well, well. This is a turn up for the books. When I heard that Super Monaco Grand Prix was coming out on 16-bit, I thought "Blimey, that's going to be crap!". I was expecting a frame update of somewhere about the eight per minute mark - given the amount of trackside scenery bitmaps that would have to be shifted around. But fortunately I was wrong.
The game really does fly towards you smoothly. However, that's because the scenery's been reduced a bit. But that doesn't mean that it's sparse. Far from it. Tall buildings, trees, lamp-posts, piles of tyres and road direction signs come hacking at you thirteen to the dozen.
But enough about the animation, what about the game itself? After all, what works in an amusement arcade doesn't necessarily work on a home computer. Take Hard Drivin' for instance - two tracks and a time limit. Finish both and that's it, no incentive to return. So Super Monaco's single track was going to be much of the same. Guess what though? The computer game version is different in this respect. There isn't just the one course, there are four of them, and as you have to race over each of these twice (once in dry conditions and once in wet conditions) you can sort of read eight courses (seeing as the handling of the car is quite different in the wet).
To get to race at Monaco, you've got to first of all get good placings on the three previous tracks. First off (after choosing automatic transmission, four speed or seven speed) you get your preliminary race, of about half a lap, which is just you on your own against the clock. This determines your grid position (from one to sixteen). Then it's 'ready, steady go' time as you try to become number one.
The action's the same as the coin-op, with you checking your mirror with one eye to determine whether or not you need to do some carving up while your other eye scans the road ahead - however, the mirror in the US gold conversion seems to have lost some of its prominence, becoming more the size of your standard car rear view mirror. I personally preferred it big, but there you go.
The backdrops aren't as stunning as the original either, although they're quite pretty as far as racing games of this genre generally go. Something else that's missing is the 'course-map' on screen as you race - you can't tell how far in front of you the leader is. Again though, this doesn't really matter that much, so no probs.
So, we get to the meaty bit. How crap/brill is the game? Well, as conversions go, the Amiga version of Super Monaco is pretty accurate to the original, and at the end of the day really rather good - although somehow, somewhere, a little bit of the 'sense of urgency' has gone walkabout - and even with the four courses the longevity is questionably, but the game should be great fun while it lasts. Not the racing game to end all racing games, but not the worst on the market by any standard.
Dunc: The ST version of the game is different to the Amiga in exactly the way you'd expect: less colour and sound, but as you're used to the ST palette and sound chip this shouldn't really bother you at all. There is one other difference, however, and that's the roadside graphics - on the Amiga the buildings are quite tall. On the ST they're a bit shorter. Who cares?