Speed Demon

Vroom logo Gamer Gold

LANKHOR £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Mouse/joystick * Out now

I've never really liked driving games, but maybe that's because the only ones that I've had a goo in have been utter tripe with jerky graphics and awful controls. However, what do you think this has transpired? Yes, I can honestly say that I've seen the light.

Vroom has to be the coolest, bestest, four-wheeled fun I have had in many a milennia. The most notable features are the smooth and ultra-fast graphics and the realistic sounds. As you hurtle around the six available circuits, the engine sound changes pitch with each gear change and acceleration and with practice, the sound of the engine will tell you when to change gear without having to look at the rev counter.

Even the engine sounds from the other cars rise in pitch as you approach the fail as you leave them standing. There are tunnels to whizz through on your manic way to victory, which produce a whooshing sound as you go through them, and of course there is the inevitable clang! as you mistime a turn or crash into some Sunday driver.

It's not all about keeping on track though - for instance, you'll have to maintain your tyres should you be too keen on leaving the tarmac to say hello to rapidly oncoming trackside objects.

Each crash will diminish their performance and gripping ability, making those tight turns a nightmare. You also have to keep an eye on your fuel level. To help you with all these problems there's a friendly neighbourhood pit stop. Here you can refuel and replace worn tyres to improve your chances of attaining that umber one position. You must also be careful about putting too much strain on the engine. Too many revs or changing down to a lower gear too quickly will decrease in performance and will eventually blow up.

The control system is pure delight. You can use either a mouse or joystick to weave your way around the track, and very smooth it is too. You will even see the hands on the steering wheel and the front wheels of the racer move in relation to your turns.

Changing gears is pretty slick too. With a joystick plugged in, you drop down a gear by pulling back and pressing the Fire button. Alternatively, with a mouse the left and right button act as up and down gear changes. Pushing forwards on the mouse or joystick increases acceleration.

If you find gear changes too tricky, you have the option of selecting automatic gear changes, but this spoils the fun a little I think. Ther eis a training mode for you to use for practising and memorising each track, but the ultimate test of your driving skill comes in the racing mode. Here you may enter your name and you are then given a list of the other drivers in the Grand Prix.

The main race is preceded by a qualifying session which will determine your starting position depending on how well you did. You can even save your progress by pressing the function keys.

Yes, I have to admit, I've been converted into a driving freak. I must rush out and apply for a Formula 1 driving licence straight away. If you like the fast lane, then this racey number is for you.

Vroom logo

Pour on the speed (and then wipe it off with a damp, clean cloth) in Vroom, UBI Soft's challenge to the huge mound of racing games that are already out there. It's fast, it's fun, it's funky, but most of all it's French.

Let's be honest right up front. Any racing game released from now on is going to have to withstand immediate comparison to MicroProse's Formula One Grand Prix before it even gets off the starting line. But Vroom is a different sort of racing game altogether (cue chorus in the background: "Vroom is a different sort..."). While it's not nearly as simplistic as, say, Cisco Heat, it certainly doesn't pretend to be definitely realistic.

Under your control is a very fast car indeed. This car is controllable either with the joystick (the wimp's option) or the mouse. In a previous incarnation the game forced you to use either the mouse or joystick for particular modes - enough to put you off the game completely at first. The Amiga version removes this restriction (at the request of many frustrated players) and it makes the game much more approachable.

At first you shy away completely from mouse control, because it's so damn difficult: you need to push forward to accelerate, pull back to brake, use the left and right buttons to change gear, and steer at the same time. Once you get used to its subtleties, however, you realise it's by far the best control method, offering you far more precision than a joystick can. Automatic and manual gears are available in both modes - again, manual is the best option once you're used to the car.

The game offers three very different modes to race in. Training allows you to pick the number of laps and the circuit to race on, from the six included (Anderstop, Castellet, Zeltweg, Silverstone, Watkins Glen or Mount Fuji). It's basically a chance to whiz round each circuit and try to beat your best lap time without any other competitors getting in your way.

Even better is the 'Help' key that bails you out at any time by putting you back parallel to the track edge. In Arcade mode you need to pass a certain number of cars on each lap to qualify, and of course this number increases the farther you get.

A day at the races
There's also a somewhat informative Demo mode, which shows you all the best places to crash. Actually, having a quick shufty at the demo before you attempt a lap is a good idea. There's nothing worse than coming cold to a course, screaming around what looks like an easy bend and rapidly making the acquaintance of a hoarding by the side of the track.

But the real biggie is the Competition mode. This is a full championship, with names (authentically humorous ones like Latreze and Mainsail being provided by the game) and times are recorded after each race. You need to race a qualifying lap before each circuit to place yourself on the grid, and since you have to work your way through each and every circuit in turn it's best to make use of the Save and Load Game facilities.

One fairly minor point to note here: you save names and times direct onto the game disk, which means a) you can't keep different sets of stats and b) there is always the possibility of something going horribly wrong with the drive while you are saving, which would leave you with a completely useless game disk.

One of the most enjoyable options is the modem link. Connecting up two Amigas with a null modem cable allows you and a friend to race each other one-on-one. This, of course, leads to much verbal abuse as one player crashes and has the humiliation of watching the other sail briskly by.

Vroom is a top class game with tons of careful programming behind it.

Days of Thunder
Vroom is fast, much faster than F1 Grand Prix. The graphics crack along at a phenomenal rate, and although this is partly because of their simplicity (relatively speaking), you can't help being impressed. Hills and hollows are incredibly realistic, so much so you find yourself swaing with the car as it rounds a bend or crests a hill. Accompanying this to perfection is the meaty growl of your engine and the Doppler-effect enhanced sound of all the other cars screaming past you. Whack the volume up and you can become completely lost. The intro music is suitably tacky too.

As you might expect, it's not all wonderfulness, though you really have to grope to find anything seriously wrong. The game's instructions are pretty poorly translated and are probably worth reading through two or three times. There's a Zoom function available during racing which is supposed to alter your view but seems to do hardly anything at all, certainly nothing useful.

The indicator-lights are situated right under your driver's hands, so they're completely obscured unless you're turning a corner. Someone ought, perhaps, to have pointed out that screeching around a corner at 190mph perhaps isn't the best time to check if your tyres are OK. And as usual, none of the other competitors ever crash - though they do stop at the pits. In fact, they usually do this just then you want to, and naturally you don't actually see them until you're approximately three feet away from their rear tyres in what you thought was an easy swerve-into-the-pits-for-a-gas-fill-up manoeuvre.

Yes indeed, it's straw-clutching on a major scale when it comes to criticism, because, to put it bluntly, Vroom is most excellent. It's got the graphics, it's got the speed, it's got the sound (which is so often a disappointment in race games), and most of all it's massive fun to play.

You really can see an improvement in your driving after many hours of practice, and there's always the hope that eventually you may crack the championship. There's no doubt about it, Vroom is a top-class game with tons of careful programming behind it and gameplay which grabs you where it hurts. (Pity about the title though).

The only things you need to keep an eye on during a race (apart from the map) are the tyres, your petrol and your engine.
Vroom Vroom Vroom
The easiest thing to forget about is your petrol level. Again you can get a top-up at the pits. Of course that's no good when you're on the other side of the track and you run out of gas, forcing you to sit on the track like a soporific lemon until the race ends. Tyres can become knackered if you take too many detours on that attractive grassy bit next to the track. The car rattles up and down like an aged Metro and you'd be advised to stop off at the pits and get the tyres changed. Otherwise corners become a problem. Top tip number one: don't do 250mph in first gear. Too much abuse and the engine gets really ratty and explodes - you can see the flames in your rear-view mirrors. And you only get the one for each race - no pit stop in the world can help you there.

Vroom logo

Also ehrlich, auf dieses Autorennen hat uns Lankhor aber tüchtig warten lassen - erst macht uns den Mund wässrig, dann erscheint das Teil nur für den ST. Aber die Sache hat auch Vorteile: Wo Atarianer mit Macken leben mussten, brettern Amigianer unbeschwert über Formel 1 Pisten...

Sechs davon sind im Angebot, manche idyllisch (Bäume), andre bebaut (Tribünen, Werbetafeln), allesamt schön hügelig und kurvenreich. Zu sehen sind die Landschaften immer aus der 3D-Fahrerperspektive, mit Lenkrad und Vorderrädern vor der Nase. Natürlich erst, wenn im Hauptmenü Über Grundsätzliches entschieden wurde:

Zur Wahl stehen "Training", "Punktehatz" im "Arcade Modus" oder der "Wettkampf" auf Originalkursen wie Zeltweg und Silverstone.

Außerdem hat man festzulegen ob der Wagen eine Schaltautomatik haben soll und ob mit Maus oder Stick gefahren wird - in der Praxis reagieren beide Modi erfreulich exakt.

Sollte es auf der Strecke dennoch zu Pannen kommen, können während eines Boxenstops Reifen und andere Teile ausgetauscht werden. Bei einem Crash segelt zwar schon mal ein Rad durch die Luft, mehr als ein bißchen Zeit ist damit aber nicht verloren.

Außer mit blitzschneller Grafik weiß Vroom durch einen durchdachten Screenaufbau zu gefallen, dank Miniübersicht und Anzeigen hat man die Lage jederzeit im Griff, ohne daß der Hauptschirm deshalb zu kurz kommen würde.

Zwar hört sich der Motorsound eher nach einen asthmatischen Rasenmäher an, aber das ist verzeihlich - schließlich dürfen (Null-) Modembesitzer hier sogar zu heißen Duellen antreten. Insgesamt ein gelungenes Game für actionorientierte Amiga-Racer! (C. Borgmeier)

Vroom logo

Who needs racing realism when a game plays this fast?

You might have thought that with Lotus 2 and Formula One Grand Prix both released in the last few months, both ends of the Amiga drivSing game market (arcade and simulation) were firmly tied up. Lankhor obviously think differently though, and have cleverly come up with a game which falls more or less right in between the two.

Indeed, Vroom is actually two games in one - there's an 'arcade' mode, which is a straightforward heads-down racing game which you win simply by overtaking lots of other cars, and a 'simulation' mode which takes things a deal more seriously, with qualifying laps, pit stops, championship point scoring, more realistic handling and all that kind of thing.

Unlike the well-received ST version, both these game styles give you the option of joystick or mouse control (with finely adjustable mouse sensitivity - you can alter acceleration/brake sensitivity and left/right sensitivity separately), and controllability is one of the game's strong points, although Lotus 2's fire-button-to-accelerate option would have improved matters even further.

The other main thing Vroom's got going for it is speed. This game really shifts, leaving both Lotus games firmly in its slipstream, but never quite getting so fast that you don't feel in control, and that's the perfect speed in my book.

Come to that, in man ways this is the perfect driving game as far as I'm concerned - unlike F1 GP (you do all have that by now, don't you? I hope so) you can just pick it up for a quick burst of racing thrills, and unlike Lotus 2 it isn't useless once you've finished it.

Even when you've been through all six courses you'll still want to improve your championship scores or shave seconds off your best lap times (time records and points can be saved to disk at any time if you don't want to play a whole championship at once, or, if you prefer, you can simply choose a shorter championship by opting to race on all, some or just one of the courses available). And of course, as an arcade game it's as timeless as these things nearly always are.

While the Lotus games score over Vroom with their two-players-on-one-screen option, you can still play this with another Amiga (or ST) owning chum, as Vroom allows you to connect two machines either physically or by telephone, with the use of a null modem link. Other options include the traditional manual/auto gear selection, the chance to race any number of laps on any of the courses for practice, a strange graphical 'zoom' facility which doesn't seem to do anything of any great significance and the availability of a help key which automatically sets your car on the right trajectory, but really these (along with the lovely and convincing sound) are just a few tiny dabs of icing on an already-beautiful cake.

In what's been a pretty good month for games of all sorts, I'm afraid I'm going to make yet another demand on your protesting wallets. Yep, I'm going to tell you to buy this one, too.

Vroom logo

It's somewhat ironic that the area where most race games fail is probably the most important aspect of the genre - speed. Notable stalled attempts have been the Chase HQ games, the OutRun series, and Continental Circus. The list of winners is limited to Super Monaco GP and Geoff Crammond's vector-based epics. In Vroom, though, Lankhor have something of an oddity.

With its minimal graphics, the average Amiga owners weaned on graphical wonders such as The Godfather and Space Ace, wouldn't give Vroom a second glance. However, cowering behind its 8-bit facade, it's one of the fastest racers you're likely to see. Not since Psion released Chequered Flag onto the bustling 48K Spectrum market has such a simple race game proved so playable, and the addictivity Vroom generates makes it far superior to the said coin-op botch-jobs.

It may not feature the many houses and fences that line Chase HQ's roads, but the programmers have instead planted sparse trees which, whilst equally as damaging when hit, ensure the game nips along a break-neck speed. Opening with options ranging from linking two machines, to selecting one of the six international tracks and gear systems.

Vroom skips any unnecessary hassle, allowing the player to get straight into the game. Seated behind the wheel of what appears to be a go-cart but is actually a state-of-the-art Formula 1 racer, and using the joystick or the mouse to steer this unimpressive vehicle, the basic aim of Vroom is to overtake a predetermined number of opponents, thus guaranteeing your qualification to the next circuit. However, as you prowess grows, so do the number of opponents you need to overtake.

Unfortunately, it's this simplicity that proves to be Vroom's downfall. The action is limited to whizzing around the tracks, and this offers very little variety. Although an eye must be kept on your tyres, engine and fuel, staying on the road is your prime concern and rather a dull one.

Thus, although Vroom has the speed that the coin-ops lost in favour of content, it needs a compromise with the speed retained but something added to capture the imagination. As race games go, Vroom is certainly one of the fastest and more playable, but alas it has all the content of a packet of Polos.

OPTIONLESS Although Lankhor have made Vroom quick and easy to get into, a number of options mentioned in the manual are conspicuous by their absence. For instance, the supplied sheet says that your car can be recentred using the 'Help' key if you start to career off the road, and another is supposed to let you view the car from above whenever the F10 key is pressed. Unfortunately, on playing, neither work, making the manual rather sloppy.

TYRED OUT Each of the six courses features a series of sharp corners which will send any unwary racers shooting off the track. This affects your car in a number of ways, with the wheels buckling and the engine pumping out smoke after every accident. A limited number of crashes can be sustained, but valuable time and fuel are also wasted, giving your opponents the opportunity to overtake. All of your car's features are in limited supply, and dashboard indicators are coloured-coded to represent the state of your fuel, tyres, and engine. However, to effect much-needed repairs a pitstop is located to the right at the starting line.

Sechs extra Runden

Vroom... ... Data disk logo

Entweder hat irgendjemand bei Lankhor plötzlich das Gaspedal gefunden, oder das unerwartet flotte Erscheinen der Datadisk ist als kleine Wiedergutmachung zu verstehen...

...schließlich hatte man uns das Originalprogramm erst ewig angekündigt, dann aber schnöderweise die St-User vorgezogen und die Amigianer ein paar weitere Monate schmoren lassen. Vergeben und vergessen, immerhin zählt Vroom zweifellos zur Elite der Rennspiele.

Weil aber selbst die elitärste Raserei langweilig wird, sobald man jeden Zentimeter der Teerdecke in- und auswendig kennt, hat die französische Company nun eine umfangreiche Datadisk zu ihrem Asphaltfresser abgeliefert: sechs weitere internationale Rennstrecken warten auf den Vroom-Piloten.

Zunächst geht es auf den Hochgeschwindigkeitskurs von Hockenheim, wo einst der Österreicher Gerhard Berger durch eine kleine Abkürzung der Waldschikane auf seine fliegerischen Qualitäten aufmerksam machte.

ähnlich rasant ausgelegt ist der Ferrari-Hauskurs in Monza mit viel Auslauf, aber drei höchst fiesen Schikanen. Der berühmte Name des für seinen kämpferischen Einsatz aus abseits von der Piste berüchtigten Brasilianers Nelson Piquet ziert die Rennstrecke in Rio de Janeiro; dank der weitgeschnittenen Kurven erinnert sie stark an ihr portugegisches Gegenstück in Estoril, das erst seit 1984 im GP-Zirkus mitmischt.

Der Gilles Villeneuve-Kurs in Montreal wiederum zwingt die Fahrer mit vielen Schikanen zum häufigen Herunterschalten, und das Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez von Mexico City bietet schließlich eine ausgewogene Mischung aus drei Vollgas-Geraden und 14 engen Kurven.

Logo, daß die Datadisk ohne das Original keinen Meter weit fährt, weshalb wir wie stets in solchen Fällen auf einen eigene Bewertung verzichtet haben. Der Preis für das neue Rennvergnügen soll aber nicht verschwiegen werden: Für ca. 49,- DM dürft Ihr den Asphalt zum Kochen bringen. (pb)