XTreme Racing logo AGA

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

Last month we brought you a preview and mentioned that this game was looking particularly good. If you've ever played Super Mario Kart on the SNES then you'll undoubtedly have an idea of what to expect. Considering Mario Kart was, and probably still is, one of the finest games Nintendo have ever produced, to describe this as an Amiga version wouldn't be straying from the truth.

Over the last few months the games side of the Amiga has all been pretty similar. For instance, the games have all tried to be quick especially the Doom clones. To enable the best speed, detail levels, resolutions and screen sizes have all been made completely configurable, leaving it up to the user to play how they prefer.

Extreme racing, or rather Xtreme Racing as it has now decided to call itself, comes complete with a menu containing a feast of options which let you change more or less everything. You can change the controls, weapons, car settings and laps, as well as the in-game options which allow you to tinker with the more technical aspects, namely frames per second, pixel sizes, dithering and switching between the blitter and C2P screen modes.

The actual game features three modes of play a single race mode, a cup race or a complete season. The first is basically a practice session and it won't really matter if you happen to finish in last place; the cup mode is split up into three the Tortoise Cup, Custard Cup and Xtreme Cup the latter being the most difficult containing awkward computer drivers and tough tracks with many obstacles.

The Season mode is a complete tour throughout the game and in the Siltunna Grand Prix, depending on where you actually finish will result in how many points you will receive.


The best thing about Xtreme Racing has to be the 3D texture mapped graphics which are truly superb

There are eight other drivers to compete against and they all have varied attributes which you must look out for during a race. Each characters also has its own particular car. Super Mario Kart boasted an excellent mode whereby your kart had three balloons surrounding it and the first to pop all three would win. These could be popped by missiles and carefully positioned banana skins. Xtreme Racing contains exactly the same as this, although the banana skins have bee replaced with sheep.

There are three levels of difficulty so the game will last for months. The computer-controlled cars are extremely tough on the easier levels so I can't imagine how much practice you'd have to put in to get up to a winning standard.

There are also around 10 different courses, each with two different tracks. The second is usually littered with tight bends and annoying obstacles which will undoubtedly frustrate you beyond belief.

The best thing about Xtreme Racing has to be the 3D texture mapped graphics which are truly superb they even look better than Mario Kart! The cars are well drawn and there is an infinite amount of angles you can view your car from.

This all adds up to being nothing short of perfect in the presentation department. As mentioned before, there are options galore and the graphical presentation screens are of a highly professional standard.

I will point out that you will need either an A1200 or A4000 with at least 2Mb of RAM, and an accelerator is strongly recommended if you want the best speeds.


Lowering the tone

The only point that may lower the tone is that even thoug it may look brilliant and play like a dream, some people may argue that there is a certain cheapness. I am, of course, referring to the sheep, lemmings, and men by the side of the road. I suppose the sheep would have been okay because it is very funny to see a high speed sheep flying on your tail ready to explode at any moment. Although there are lemmings walking up and down trying to stop you, a more original idea would probably have been better, or not at all. Younger players may find it instantly hilarious and bask in its warm summer glow that is humour, but older players may be a little disappointed with the cheap jokes. It would have been better to stick some trees in the way rather than a badly drawn lemming..

Final word

If you have loads of friends gagging for a bit of multi-simultaneous action then there's nothing better than to link two Amigas together via a null modem cable so all eight people can take part (fou on each screen). Even with the screen divided into quarters it still doesn't restrict your view of the action which is quite a surprise.

There is no better multi-player game available to satisfy the needs of eight people. The graphics are excellent, the sounds are good and it plays like a dream. What more could you possibly ask for?



It involves driving against others, it's egregious, excessive, outrageous, and uncompromising Steve McGill says it must be...

XTreme Racing logo AGA

When Amiga Format first previewed Virtual Karting from OTM Software, we got very excited. Here was a game that mimicked Mode 7 on the SNES and promised the potential wonders of a Mario Kart styled racer.

Disappointingly, the promise fizzled out with the delivery of the full game. Nick Veitch liked it from the technical perspective but hat to admit that the game could hardly be considered fun to play. A missed chance all round we thought. Maybe Fabio Bizetti could do better with a follow up.

And then, out of the blue, a demo of X-Treme Racing (XTR) from Silltunna Software turned up. It consisted of a couple of tight little tracks that were fun to race over. It not only matched but beat hands down the technical prowess of the former game. Unfinished at the time weapons and pick ups were still to be put in for the cars the potential was plain for anyone to see.

Now that we've got the full game in our hands, the question, quite literally bursting at the seams to be asked is, does it fulfil its potential?
The unsatisfactorily shizophrenic response has to be yes and no.

From a technical viewpoint, this game is a whizz. I'll cover the technical delights and numerous configurable options later on. But from a gameplay perspective, the response depends on the manner in which the game is going to be played.

As a one player game, XTreme Racing isn't very much fun. In all, there are four different kinds of race in XTR: Cup races, Season races, Single races and the Death Match. The solitary player can play using the first three of these options.

Race options
Cup matches and Single Races are probably the best options at first. The Single race option lets you choose any of the twelve available courses and from three speed options for the car; Three Wheeler, 2.0 Fuel Injection and Turbo Nutter. As is to be expected from the description, the speed of the player's chosen vehicle depends on which option is chosen.

The Singles option is best for circuit practice and lets the player gear up for the Cup and Season competitions ahead. The flavour of the game comes through early when this road is taken. It also lets the player look into what is probably the major flaw of the game the course designs.

Circuit design
In a way, the course designs are reminiscent of Team 17's ATR in that they're cluttered, hard to follow and feel hateful at times. Not counting the Death Match arenas, there are six circuit themes with two circuits per theme making 12 circuits in all. The themes are: Forbidden Castle, Grasslands, Toxic Refinery, Floating City, Road Circuit and Tropical Islands.

Some of the circuits, due to the overuse and underuse of detail, are almost impossible to race on. The biggest culprits are the Toxic Refinery and the Tropical Islands.

The design and layout is so finicky that even very small mistakes are punished mercilessly by dumping you into the ocean or a vat of slime. It feels hateful and is reminiscent of a poor platform game where pixel perfection is needed to make certain jumps not very much fun. Not very much fun at all. More like hard work.

Yet it needn't have been so. The first Grasslands and Road circuits are great fun to play on. They're relatively tight and assuming you're not a total klutz they reward good driving. If only the same could be said for the rest.

To add to the flavour of the races and the Mario Kart theme, there are numerous pick ups which, when driven over, let the player fire various weapons at opposing cars. The implementation could probably have been better but when you finally get accustomed to the limitations, they're better in than out. The weapons can even be switched off from the options screen if you decide that they are not wanted.

As a one player game the appeal of XTR is limited. There's no denying that you'll improve and win races on the more difficult courses but it'll stop being fun fairly rapidly.

So far in the office, I'm the only one who's managed to win any solo races. And that's only on the easier courses. The computer controlled cars don't space out as much as tey could and on the harder courses their behaviour quickly becomes a demotivating factor.

Multi-player
No, XTR comes into its own when played against other people. With access to a second Amiga up to eight people can compete. If not then half that number to four. Despite the inevitable split screen trade off, multi player games are the way XTR was meant to be played.

With the vehicle weapons switched on the comedy factor comes into play and that can only be a good thing.

The effort and thought that has gone into the game displays to the full that major craftsmen have been at work. Like most 3D, first person perspective games these days, there's a plethora of options to help that vital configuration versus running speed ratio.

The screen can be stretched, squashed, widened and narrowed. The horizon can be moved up and down along with the camera angle which means that the player can see more or less of the road ahead.

Accelerated machines can access and make use of the famous 1 * 1 pixel mode. Joystick, CD32 and keyboard controllers can all be reconfigured. You can even opt to have cars switched to automatic acceleration.

There are more options than this, but the ones I've covered here are the most important. This is very much an Amiga friendly game.

Now that I've reached the end of this review, it's time for one of those sum up the game conclusions.
Technically, this game deserves an Amiga Format Gold, even if you've only got an unexpanded A1200. In terms of gameplay, though, things start to go a little bit astray. If the circuit designs had been better then, who knows?

As it stands XTreme Racing only gives brief flashes of its possible potential. With any luck Black Magic will quickly release a data disk of some sort with some new, more driver friendly circuits.


XTreme Racing
Not to be confused with Ziggy.

XTreme Racing
Guess who this is based on.

XTreme Racing
It's a rogue Bitmap Brother.

XTreme Racing
A warning against sun lamps.

XTreme Racing
Better Brad than dead.

XTreme Racing
Don't look in the mirror Kurzon.

XTreme Racing
The toke lass of the crew.

XTreme Racing
It's really Gazza in disguise.



XTreme Racing logo AGA

So geht's dahin: Vorgestern noch ein vielversprechendes Preview, gestern eine herbe Enttäuschung am CD32, und heute dürfen schließlich auch die AGA-Amigas alle Hoffnung auf fein-getuntes Gameplay fahren lassen...

Dabei hatte doch am Anfang alles noch so gut ausgesehen: Mit Black Magic ("Gloom") sind immerhin unbestrittene 3D-Pforis an diesem Spieldebüt von Silltunna Sofware beteiligt wer hätte sich da keine Hoffnungen auf eine Fun-Raserei gemacht, die selbst berühmten Konkurrenten wie dem SMS-Modul "Super Mario Kart" das Fürchten lehren könnte?

Und die komplett mit hübsch bunten Texturen tapezierte und in Echtzeit berechnete 3D-Grafik macht ja auch nach wie vor einen prima Eindruck. Da werden auf und neben der Fahrbahn plazierte Objekte wie Büsche, Passanten und explodierende Benzinfässer flüssig herangezoomt, was auch für die Vehikle der Gegner gilt: dasß diese nicht eben berauschend animiert sind, kann man verzeihen.

Zudem lassen sich der Grafik-ausschnitt und die Auflösung frei justieren, vorausgesetzt, die verwendete Hardware spielt mit: Wohl dem, der seinem Rechner eine Turbokarte mit Fast-RAM oder zumindest eine Speichererweiterung spendiert hat, denn nur so kommt man auch bei maximaler Detailstufe und im (horizontalen) Splitscreenmodus in den Genuß eines flotten Frame-Updates von rund 25 bis maximal 50 Hz.

Die übrigen, allesamt auf HD oder Floppy speicherbaren Optionen bieten ebenfalls keinen Grund zur Klage, denn die ein bis vier Piloten (per Modem sogar bis zu acht) dürfen die Anazahl der drei bis neun Runden und die gewünschte Soundkulisse festlegen.

Außerdem können sie sich zwischen Tastatur, Joypad, Ein- oder Zwei-Buttonsticks entscheiden und das favorisierte Eigabemedium anschließend noch konfigurieren.

Danach stehen Pokalwettbewerbe, eine komplette Saison auf allen zwölf Standardstrecken oder das Training auf einem beliebigen Kurs zur Wahl. Multiplayer dürfen darüber hinaus im "Deathmatc"-Modus ihre bis zu acht Konkurrenten in fünf Spezialarenen in den Abgrund rammen oder mit den gefundenen Waffen zur Verzweiflung treiben.

An die Extras (von denen stets ur eines aktiv sein kann) kommt man nach dem Zufallsprinzip durch das Überfahren von Fragezeichen-Feldern heran, in denen sich außer Einwegraketen, Minen, Zeitbomben und Wurf-Hammeln (!) leider auch ziemlich nutzlose Gimmick verbergen dazu gehören z.B. Turbobooster, die einen im Handumdrehen ins Seitenaus befördern, wenn man nicht teuflisch aufpaßt.

Bessere Motoren oder Reifen zum Aufmotzen der eigenen Karosse sind dagegen nur im Saisonspiel erhältlich und müssen mit jenem Klingelgeld bezahlt werden, das man ebenfalls unterwegs entdeckt. Den Bezwingern des härtesten Schwierigkeitsgrades winken dafür einige zusätzliche Strecken, ein komplett neues Szenario und der "Schaftmodus". In letzterem vertauscht man seinen fahrbaren Untersatz gegen ein flauschig weiches Wolltier, was vor allem durch die dazugehörigen Soundeffekte eine ganz neue Rennerfahrung darstellt.

Im Rennen selbst sorgt neben dem verstellbaren Betrachungswinkel eine beliebig postierbare Beobachterkamera für Übersicht, die sich z.B. als digitaler Rückspiegel verwenden läßt. Das funktioniert zwar auch bei den Splitsreen-Duellen recht gut, aber bei einigen Kursen könnte nicht mal ein ganzes Fernsehteam den nötigen Durchblick garantieren: Oft ist die Streckenführung derart verwirrend, daß man mit schöner Regelmäßigkeit gegen die Bande brettert.

Häufig ist aber gar keine vorhanden, und der Wagen rutscht gleich weiter in den Säuretümpel einer Chemiefabrik, in die Untiefen eines tropischen Sandstrands oder einfach in den bodenlosen Abgrund, neben einer schwebenden Zukunftsstadt. Man wird dann zwar umgehend wieder auf die Strecke verfrachtet, doch der Rest des Feldes ist natürlich längst seiner Wege gezogen.

An einen Sieg ist in diesem Fall nicht mehr zu denken, weil die Computergegner selbt die verzwicktesten Passagen in einem irrwitzigen Tempo und fast ohne anzuecken meistern.

Eine noch größere Spielspaßbremse stellt aber das Handling der diversen Sportflitzer, Pick-Ups, Polizeiautos etc. dar, die sich vorweigend optisch voneinander unterscheiden.

Ganz egal, womit man sie steuert und auf welchem Untergrund man unterwegs ist, die Blechkübel reagieren alle recht träge und sind nur schwer auf Kurs zu halten. Wenn man auf dieser schwammigen Basis dann vielleicht noch versucht, eine aufgesammelte Waffe abzufeuern, landet man in 98 von 100 Fällen wenige Sekunden-bruchteile später in einem der vielen Gräben.

Mit eben diesem Problem hatte bereits die CD-Version zu kämpfen, und auch bei der praktisch identischen AGA-Fassung katipuliert Otto Normalpilot bald vor der Tatsache, daß bei X-Treme Racing bur begnadete Fahrer (die dazu gerade ihren Glücktag haben...) auf einen Sieg hoffen dürfen.

Den einsamen Wölfen der Landstraße kann man daher nur vom Kauf abraten, denn von der überragenden Spielbarkeit solcher Genreklassiker wie "Super Skidmarks" ist dieses Game meilenweit entfernt!

Erfreulicher sieht es bei den Duellen von mehreren menschlichen Asphaltcowboys aus: Hier stimmt wenigstens die Chancengleichheit, und die Schadenfreude bei gelungenen Abschüssen ist auch gleich viel herzlicher.

Deshalb und auch ein wenig wegen der fünf feinen Musikstücke ist X-Treme Racing eben doch kein echter Flop. Ein Renner ist das Spiel freilich ebensowenig, und wenn man daran denkt, was ein ehrgeiziger Byte-Ingenieur daraus alles hätte machen können, kommen einem schlicht die Tränen... (mz)



XTreme Racing logo (1) AGA

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, consider Mario Kart well and truly brown-nosed.

Virtuosity. It's a word I learned to hate at university (2). A word beloved of heavy-metal loving physics students who really got off on twenty minute guitar solos. "Self-indulgent, soulless noise," I would say.
"But can'you appreaciate the VIRTUOSITY?" they would say.
"No," I would say.

It was as if I was supposed to listen to music just to appreciate how technically impressive the playing was. No way. Give me The Wedding Present, Cast or The Dickies shambolic-ally basging away at chords with energy and passionately singing perky little melodies over the note-perfect, bland virtuosity of Rush (3), Bon Jovi or Magmum any day.

Unfortunately, while playing Extreme Racing virtuosity was the word that kept popping into my mind. Because while there's a lot to admire in Extreme (not, however, its typography) (Erm which we've changed because it's abominable. Sorry Ed) I kept getting visions of poodle-permed programmers in skin-tight spandex, air-guitaring and shouting "Look at the VIRTUOSITY."

It's a game that seems to have leapt into existence because the programmers want to prove their technical magnificence rather than actually trying to produce a entertainingly playable game.

It's unashamedly an attempt to do SNES games like Mario Kart and Street Racer - but on the Amiga, with comedy cars, multiple views, an eight-player mode, textured 3D, split-screen and everything. (If you refuse to accept the existence of any other machine (sigh) imagine Bump and Burn crossed with Virtual Karting).

The thing is, the SNES was built with special chips designed exactly to do things like multi-player, multi-angled, multi-viewed, texture-mapped 3D racing games. And while Extreme Racing demonstrates highly impressively it's possible to do the effects with clever programming, it devotes so much time to getting things up and running, there's not much left for, say, the game itself.

Listen. Can you smell something? It's the faint sound of ephemeral physics students chanting, "Virtuosity."


Bashing away at chords

KILL EVERYONE
Mechanically, Extreme Racing makes a credible go of it. All the key elements of Street Racer or Mario Kart (or, indeed, to a lesser extent Virtua Racer) are there. You get 12 reasonably well-designed tracks, two each for the six locations. You have a choice of eight different comedy cars, each with its own comedy driver.

There's a selection of single races, championship races, a racing season or a deathmatch in which everyone tries to kill everyone else. (Although, slightly oddly, that's more or less what you do all the time, since your car is always armed. Can't pass that comedy driver in front? Shoot him! Still. Not to complain, or anything. And you ca turn the guns off completely if you want. If you're mad or something, say.)

Pick-ups are dotted around for weapons or power-ups, or cash to soup up your engine if you're playing a season. You can alter the viewpoint effortlessly all the way from a below-the-exhaust angle with the horizon six inches ahead of you right th way to a spot-the-rust-around-the-sun-roof angle (4) with the horizon stretching majestically into the distance.

There's also a camera that records your race from in front, behind, or the viewpoint of the following car. There are bystanders to run over, jumps and obstacles, and a cheat mode to turn the cars into sheep. There's a link option for all eight players, or four on a single machine, although this does get a little cramped. But. And it's a big but.


Turn the cars into sheep

BUT
Told you so. You needn't bother with most of the options unless you've a real high-end big-box Amiga on an unexpanded A1200 you'll need to use the dithering option which makes the game look as if it's being played through a tea-strainer.

Even then it's annoyingly sluggish, with controls about as responsive as that Girl I met down The swamp the other week (5). You have to anticipate corners by rote rather than instinctively, the 'feel' is terrible, and it's a brave man who sues an engine booster.

Fiddling options to speed things up acceptably means such a small screen or so low quality a picture it robs the game of the impressiveness that made it worthwhile in the first place. (And, bizarrely, the difference in speeds between the smallest screen size with the slowest frame rate and the largest screen size with the fastest frame rate is hardly visible to the human eye).

For completeness, we tried it on an accelerated A1200 and while it was, indeed, excitingly nippy it didn't take very long to realise two-thirds of the viewing angles are stupidly unusable. It's a case of look-what-we-can-do rather than look-what-we-can-offer-you. Or VIRTUOSITY.


Guns that go plib

FIDDLING
Once you're over the wow factor, there's little to keep you going back to Extreme Racing. It's almost more fun fiddling with the options (6) than it is playing the game. The controls (surely vitally important in a racing game) aren't delicate or feedbacky enough, especially when compared to the likes of Super Skidmarks.

They're functional, and the game provides a few moderately diverting thrills if you can be bothered to master them, but you don't get the feel of them, just learn to live with their limitations. Weaving across the track with agility and grace is not an option (7).

Equally poorly there's no difference between the cars except in the graphics. They all handle as cumbersomely as one another and have no idiosyncratic defining weapons or special powers. Extreme Racing desperately, desperately needs some character. The comedy (This is obviously comedy in the Carla Lane sense of the word.) vehicles add nothing to the game and mighty as well be different-coloured Volvos.

But let's be fair. Let's imagine you've persevered with the controls. Let's suppose you didn't want to identify with any of the characters or form a fondness for a particularly loony car. Let's speculate that you are, in fact, ideally suited to Extreme Racing. You'll still be disappointed.

For a game that relies so heavily on guns, the weaponry on hand is frighteningly lame. Yellow missiles pop out of your car barely visibly, and you don't get to see people crashing into your mines because, obviously, they normally go off behind your back. And while the tracks are intelligently designed (no impossibly tight 90 degrees bends, for example) they're rarely exciting, hardly spurring you on to best the one-player mode.

Multi-player mode then. As I've said, you can have up to eight players on two linked machines, but it's all strangely hollow and uninvolving. You're still racing on those intelligently designed but rarely exciting tracks, you're still using guns that go plib rather than KERPOWWW! And there's still little of the thrill of the kill, except now your human victim's more likely to be ruing his tea-strainer than working up any kind of fun grudge at your blowing him off the road.

Extreme Racing is more a game for Amiga programmers than for, say, racing game playes. It's competent, but you've absolutely no reason to choose it over any of its contemporaries. For texture-mapped driving you're better off with Virtual Karting (although similarly stylish-but-hollow, it handles better and offers more excitement; wait or the March sequel and you get a multi-player mode as well) and for manic racing action you're better off with Super Skidmarks.

Hell, Stunt Car Racer's still a lot more fun than Extreme Racing. Although it does manage to be better than Street Racer on the SNES (9)


12-TRACK COPY KART

FORBIDDEN CASTLE
Sharp corners, some water that might represent a moat, a few turrety looking graphics and falling blocks that'll crush you.

GRASSLANDS
Large swathes of green. Which, presumably, is grass. Or maybe astroturf. The crossroads can get very confusing. And metal-strewn.

TOXIC REFINERY
More Port Talbot than Blade Runner, with loads of green gunky stuff and ramps.

FLOATING CITY
Lots of roads on stalks, not much evidence of buildings or a city of any sort. A bit like the M5 through Birmingham. Except not as smoggy and a bit more pink.

ROAD CIRCUITS
More crossroads, and lots of oil patches which allow from some gut-wrenchingly queasy spinning-around-in-a-3D-landscape-type graphics.

TROPICAL ISLANDS
Gimmick of the level - you can drive on the light blue bits. They're shallow water you see. Gosh.

WE FAILED THE AUDITIONS FOR MARIO KART, Y'SEE...

XTreme Racing BOWE
Vehicle: Orange buggy
Special powers: None
Inspired by: The Banana Splits.

XTreme Racing Aikaro.
Vehicle: Red phallic-style thing.
Special powers: None.
Inspired by: Akira.

XTreme Racing DENTAKU
Vehicle: Yellow sports car.
Special powers: None.
Inspired by: Wishful thinking on the part of the programmers.

XTreme Racing WEAZEL
Vehicle: Truck.
Special powers: None
Inspired by: Too many late nights watching Sky Sports.

XTreme Racing BRAD
Vehicle: Green Beetle.
Special powers: None.
Inspired by: Herbie Rides Again.

XTreme Racing KURZON
Vehicle: A Lotus with fibreglass bits stuck on to give authentic '70s SF look.
Special powers: Smart bomb which destroys all the other cars. No, only joking.
Inspired by: One of Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's previous hosts. Maybe. Or not.

XTreme Racing DAVINA
Vehicle: Something akin to Barbie's camper van. Only more pukey.
Special powers: None.
Inspired by: Penelope Pitstop.

XTreme Racing ROZZA
Vehicle: Saloon-style American police car.
Special powers: To arrest illegal gathers with rhythmical leanings.
Inspired by: The Blues Brothers.


XTreme Racing logo AGA CU Amiga Superstar

Price: £29.99 Publisher: Black Magic/Silltunna 01302 890 000

Billed as one of the best racing games in a long time last month's cover disk gave you a taste of what to expect. And by golly it's good.

As the old saying goes: "If the mountain won't come to Mohammed, he'll rende a new one in Vista Pro". If you're in the heart of rural England gagging for decent games and no-one is producing them, you've got to do it yourself

And so a young lad with big, steep toecapped boots and an internet account set himself the task of not quite recreating Mario Kart on Amiga. Alex Amsel, Wolves supporter, programmer and game designer, claims: "It's actually not at all like Mario Kart, any resemblances are only superficial". And he's right, you know, there's not a Mario or Yoshi in sight.

Despite very little advance publicity Silltunna's little gem has raised a lot of interest and we were eager for the full title to arrive in, especially after last month's cover demo.

This was one of the most popular disks ever, if the amount of phone calls and letters we've received about it is anything to go by. The boxed game finally arrived the day before our Christmas hols and we had it up and running, serial linked between two Amigas in a flash.

Luckily, after Christmas, Lisa was on extended holidays and the cattle prod she normally uses to extract reviews from us was hung up on the wall, well out of harm's way. So we spent ages playing it, examining every nook and cranny of every track with every car purely for research purposes of course.

A barrel of fish
But there were a couple of thing that really puzzled us about Xtreme Racing before it ever turned up. Who were Silltunna? Where did they get the weird name? Why had we never heard of it before?

First things first, Silltunna consists of two chaps from Staffordshire, Alex Amsel and Richard Whittall, helped by dozens of wonderful graphics and sound wizards, idea people and the general sort of top class lads and lasses that hang around programmers' bedrooms. They also solicited much help and encouragement from Mark Sibly in New Zealand who has lent the Black Magic name to the project in a publishing capacity, as well as advising on certain aspects of the gameplay and design: such is his faith in it.

The name Silltunna is Swedish in origin and means 'barrel of fish', which the lads think is a right laugh. They claim it doesn't really signify anything, it just sounds cool. Development only started in August 1995 after Alex had contacted Richard when some artwork by him was published in CU Amiga Mag's Art Gallery. I'd say that's some achievement: 0-100% finished in under six months!

Weapons
XTreme Racing is fairly conventional in terms of setup, after all it's a racing game. There are 12 tracks, eight cars, a single race mode, a season mode, a championship mode and a death match. Hold on. Death Match? The latter is available in two or more player mode and involves competitors driving a car around a choice o maze-like circuits trying to bump each other off, and it's top fun.

The reason this mode has been included is that weapons are available in XTreme Racing, though you can disable this in the options menu if you like.

Certain points on each track are littered with question marks. When you run over a question mark it will yield a random icon of some sort. These include jumps and turbos and, more importantly, weapons.

These are divided up into roughly three categories passive, active, and booby traps. Passive weapons include forward and backward firing bombs, quad directional rockets and simple line of sight rockets. Active weapons include homing missiles, sheep (a woolly missile), delayed action mines and direction changers (which effect the steering of opponents).

Booby traps include mines and laughing bananas which are designed to be dropped on the driving line so that other cars will run over them. It's no fun if you hit these yourself.

The object of all these bombastic shenanigans is to enable you (or a computer/human opponent) to gain the advantage in a race. If there's one thing more satisfying than passing another car through sheer driving skill, it's blowing them up first and then passing them. This can also happen to you though, and if you set the race on one of the higher of three difficulty levels it happens with alarming frequency.

Wacky tracks
The twelve tracks are divided up into six different zones. The most conventional of these are the Road Circuits and the Grasslands tracks. The least conventional are the Floating City and Toxic Refinery ones which are all futuristic and moody. All feature jumps and obstacles, some of whicha re dangerous, some of which will merely slow you down in the Castle tracks there are big gaps in the circuit which have to be jumped.

To do so you need to hit the ramps placed in ront of them at considerable speed and at the right angle. If you miss the ramp or hit it too slowly you'll end up sinking in a green sea, known childishly by Silltunna as "The Sea Of Snot".

Similar scenarios exist on other levels. When you sink into water or snot, or fall over the edge of a road in the Floating City level, you don't lose a life the computer will place your car past the obstacle you missed but you do lose time and probably several positions on the track.

Other obstacles designed to slow you down include trackside spectators whom you can run over, exploding oil barrels and most bizarrely, in the seaside levels, sharks which make your car spin like a top if you hit them.

Speed!
Just how good XTreme Racing is depends on how fast your Amiga is. Anyone who's seen the demo from last month's magazine will know what I mean. Xtreme has more menu options than a Chinese takeaway. These include routines for just about every possible upgrade of an AGA machine available.

You can, believe it or not, play XTreme on a standard A1200, with 2Mb RAM and no hard drive, but it's a bit like going into a Chinese takeaway and asking for plain boiled rice. The game will automatically opt for blittered screen routines and you'll see something not dissimilar to Virtual Karting, though then times better in the playability stakes. You can then size the playing screen up or down to suit your speed tastes.

If you have a 1220 or 1230 accelerator and extra RAM you're into spring roll, sweet and sour pork, fried rice and banana fritter territory. It suddenly becomes a tasty and good looking game, with plenty of speed and the option of a slowish, but beautiful 1x1 pixel screenmode.

However, if you're really speed hungry, elitist 040 and 060 owners have the equivalent of Mr Wong's £40 Emperor's Dinner menu with all the trimmings. Full speed 1x1 heaven we reckon.

Had I not played the hi-res versions I would have been able to put up with the blittered routines. Unlike VK, they did not make me sick. However, if you do not have a hard drive or at least a spare external disk drive don't even contemplate investing in XTreme Racing. I don't think I've ever sat doing as many disk swops as I did while testing it on an Amiga with none of the above it goes beyond frustrating, believe me.

And so...
I've given Xtreme two score boxes because it's really almost two different games. As an accelerated game playing of hard drive it's wonderful; best fun we've had in ages. As a standard A1200 game (A4000 owners need not worry, it is fully compatible and great) you will need a minimum of one, preferably two external drives and it can be a bit tedious.

Yes there are other faults, the biggest of which is dodgy collision detection in too many places, making it difficult to accurately judge sharp corners, dodge gunk and pick up question marks, but I'm more than willing to forgive this because it's so such fun you can't bear any grudges.

The final test of any game is how long it delays real work in the office and XTreme Racing almost got us all fired. It's true to say that this job could be construed as being a bit cushy; I mean, playing games is all part of a day's work. But there comes a time when joysticks must be downed and keyboard put back on desks so that we can do what we're really paid for: writing. That time came and went in a flurry of red, blue and yellow cars and as deadlines drew close the threats got louder and playing the game for a bi more 'research' became unjustifiable.

Finally the fateful "Forbidden Castle Level 2 that broke the camels back" came along and I hard to write or die. Oh well, all good things must come to an and: and there's always next month!


Suicidal bystanders

Racing around XTreme's tracks, one can't fail to notice the poor fools standing vulnerably on corners or wandering over and back on the track. If you hit one it's pretty messy but we all have to put up with these sort of trials and tribulations.

XTreme Racing
Hello man. Mind if I bump into you for the camera?

XTreme Racing
This is some sort of weird floating Chicken. Soon it'll be dinner.

XTreme Racing
A rather large short trousers wearing idiot stands on a corner...

XTreme Racing
And regrets it. Scenes like this are accompanied by a squelch.

Sand and snot

There are twelve tracks divided up into six zones in Xtreme Racing. The idea reamins the same for all, but the difficulty levels and sort of obstacles encountered keep the game interesting.

XTreme Racing
The floating City levels are fraught with high glying hi-jinks and over-the-edge into the chasm of no return danger. We approve.

XTreme Racing
The Castle levels featue no castles but lets of juvenile nose muces (the green areas). Drive over the question marks and pick up weapons.

XTreme Racing
The grasslands are indeed surrounded by lush green grass and also dangerous 'get that sinking feeling' lakes of doom.

XTreme Racing
The relatively straightforward road circuits are ideal for practicing these driving lines and brakework artistry we all fancy ourselves at.

XTreme Racing
The Toxic Refinery levels are among the most dangerous in the game. Sharp bends and awkward jumps are the order of the day.

XTreme Racing
And so to the beach for sme relaxation. In season mode this is dreadful slow 'till you upgrade your car, but it's god fun when fast.

A spot of season racing against the pros

In season mode you start off with a much slower car than normal. You can still have a multi-player game but you cannot select the tracks, this is automatic. Each track is now littered with gold and silver coins too and whle trying to win, or get a decent position, you've got to collect as many of these as possible. In fact if you're losing badly it's best to give up the ghost and just collect coins. A combination of coins and prize money allows you to upgrade your car in the all important areas of Engine, Brakes, Tire grip etc and also allows you to buy turbos and extra points (enabling you to sneakily climb the ranks by the back door, so to speak). This mode is seriously competitive, though the automatically selected tracks are not always the best.

XTreme Racing
That's me, Aikaro. A bad start has left me languishing in fifth place overall..

XTreme Racing
The stars beside the prices indicate how much you've upgraded your car. Five stars is the maximum.

XTreme Racing
On top of winning £2000 cash for coming first you can collect over £1000 in coins on the track.


XTreme Racing logo CD32

Im Preview-Rennen weckte Black Magics Prototyp noch Hoffnungen auf einen neuen Spielspaßrekord im Wettbewerb der Fun-Rasereien, und das fertige Serienmodell hat nun auch beeindruckende 3D-Pisten im modernen Texture-Design zu bieten - nur der Spaß blieb leider weitgehend auf der Strecke.

Dabei hätte gerade aus der Zusammenarbeit der technisch versierten Newcomer von Silltunna Software mit den "Gloom"-Architekten von Black Magic am Amiga ein temperamentvoller CD-Konkurrent für das SNES-Modul "Super Mario Kart" werden können. In der Praxis kriecht X-Treme Racing auf der Motivationspiste nun aber selbst automobilen Klassikern wie "Skidmarks" oder "Lotus" meilenweit hinterher.

Schuld am Kolbenfresser ist hier einzig und allein die ziemlich verkorkste Handhabung der beteiligten Fahrzeuge. Denn damit steht und fällt in diesem Genre nun mal die gesamte Spielbarkeit...

Dieser Konstruktionsfehler ist um so betrüblicher, als Amiga-Piloten selten zuvor von einer vergleichbaren Optionsflut überrollt wurden: Man wählt die Zahl der (drei bis neun) Runden pro Rennen, schaltet die Sound-FX an oder ab und kürt eines von fünf Musikstücken der unterschiedlichsten Stilrichtungen (Rock, Techno, Jungle etc.) zum akustischen Begleiter. Mit Hilfe von je zwei Spiel-CDs und Amigas lassen sich auch Massenvernastaltungen mit maximal acht Teilnehmern organisieren, wobei man die bevorzugte (Null-) Modem-verbindung selbst festlegen darf.

Das CD32 zieht dabei mangels serieller Verbindungsmöglichkeit natürlich den kürzeren aber bei X-Treme Racing ist die Amiga-Konsole ohnehin nur zweite Wahl, weil die Rekorde und alle getroffenen Einstellunge am besten auf Festplatte bzw. Floppy verewigt werden.

Steht nur ein Rechner zur Verfügung, können immer noch bis zu vier Piloten über den dann vierfach horizontal geteilten Bildschirm rasen, doch ist leistungsförderndes Tuning auch dann dringend zu empfehlen. Selbst ein 1200er mit Fast-RAM ist nämlich fast zu schwach, um die ganze Detailpracht des Multiplayer-Modus zu entfalten; das gelingt erst einem mit 68030-Motor auffrisierten AGA-Boliden.

Lediglich Solisten können sich mit einem preisgünstigen 28-Mhz-beschleuniger begürgen und erzielen so bereits ein flüssiges Frame-Update von rund 25 Hz am fein gepixelten Fullscreen.

Völlig unabhängig von der Hardware sind die übrigen Features zugänglich. Man kann Übungsrunden auf den zwölf Standard-Rundkursen drehen, die von höchstens acht, von Menschenhand oder elektronisch gelenkten Autos bevölkert werden.

Dann kämpft man entweder um einen fiktiven Pokal und motzt via Preis- und Sammelgelder die eigene Karre mit Turbo-booster und Bremsraketen auf oder bringt eine komplette WM-Saison ohne derartige Aufrüstmätzchen hinter sich.

Wer den schärfsten Schwierigkeitsgrad wählt und trotzdem als Sieger aus der gesamten Saison hervorgeht, erhält Zugriff auf weitere Geheimkurse und den sogenannten "Schafmodus". Damit hat man plötzlich die Kontrolle über einen wolligen Wiederkäuer anstelle der sonst benutzen VW Käfer, Polizeischlitten etc.! Nicht verschwiegen sei allerdings, daß sich die acht frei anwählbaren Gefährte vorwiegend durch ihre Optik unterscheiden.

Last but not least kann man sich in fünf Spezialarenen mit vielsagenden Namen wie "Cape Fear" oder "Road Rage" an besonders spannenden "Death Matches" beteiligen: Hier muß man seine Partner im Straßenchaos nach Möglichkeit ins Seitenaus rammen bzw. ihren fahrbaren Untersatz schrottreif ballern.

Der Einsatz von Minen, Zeitbomben, Zielsuchgeschossen oder gar Wurf-Hammeln(!) ist im normalen Rennalttag ebenfalls möglich, in der Praxis jedoch eher schwierig. Die Explosivstoffe sind nämlich zusammen mit Turbojumps und anderen, eher unnützen Gimmicks in markierten Boxen enthalten. Was man beim Drüberfahren rausholt, hängt vom Zufall ab, außerdem darf immer nur ein einziges dieser Extras an Bord mitgeführt werden.

Daß der Munitionsvorrat daher meist schon im Handumdrehen wieder verpulvert ist, hat freilich auch sein Gutes, denn so bleibt mehr Zeit, um sich und die Hauptsache zu konzentrieren. Und diese hat wirklich unsere gesamte Aufmerksamkeit verdient, denn jeder noch so kurze Abstecher ins seitliche Dickicht bzw. in die dort verborgenen Täler und Seen ist eine kleine Tragödie: Bereits ein minimaler Fahrfehler genügt, und schon kann man auf der letzten Position des meist dichtgedrängten Felds in Ruhe über sein Versagen nachdenken...

Die Steuerung ist grundsätzlich in weiten Grenze konfigurierbar und unterstützt gleichermaßen Stick, CD32-Pad und Tastatur. Multiplayer-Adapter zum Anschluß von vier Freudenknüppeln sind ihr jedoch fremd, aber vor allem ändert das benutzte Eingabegerät nichts am schwammigen Handling und der wenig überzeugenden Beschleunigung der Karossen.

Dadurch erfordert es nicht nur viel Übung, sondern auch (zu) viel Glück, gegen die CPU-Fahrer zu bestehen bei unseren redaktionsinternen Testrennen stellte sich der Spielspaß jedenfalls eigentlich nur im Wettbewerb mit gleichermaßen gehandikapten Mitspielern ein.

Wesentlich mehr Finessen als das für Solisten weitgehend 'vermurkste Gameplay hat die sonstige Technik zu bieten. So bestehen die Pisten und Grünflächen gänzlich aus knallbunten und detailliert ausgearbeiteten Häuser, Bäume etc. sowie die leider nicht sonderlich spektakulär animierten Autos zoomen soft heran.

Die in Echtzeit berechnete 3D-Grafik paßt sich zudem flexibel allen Wünschen an: Die für die Detailschärfe verantwortliche Pixel-größe ist einstellbar, ebenso das Format des Grafikfensters.

Auch die Scoreleiste läßt sich abschalten, dazu kann man Betrachtungswinkel und Höhe der Beobachterkamera regulieren. Darüber hinaus ist sogar noch eine zweite Kamera entweder stationär oder auf einem beliebigen Fahrzeug installierbar und übernimmt dann beispielsweise die Funktion eines Rückspiegels.

Mit einem Spitzenplatz ist es bei X-Treme Racing aus den erwähnten Gründen also trotz aller gute Ansätze nichts geworden, und den Grund dafür posaunen die Programmierer auch noch stolz in der Anleitung hinaus: In schlappen vier Monaten Entwicklungszeit hat man dieses Game zusammengeschraubt! Hätten die Herren Konstrukteure mal lieber noch ein paar Wochen für den Feinschliff dranggehängt, dann würden wir uns jetzt nicht mit der Hoffnung auf eine gründlich überarbeitete Floppy-Fassung trösten müssen... (rl)


GRUSELBAHN

Unter diesem Sammelbegriff sind zwei Strecken enthalten, so wie in den sechs anderen Szenarien auch. Die Sprungrampen vor den Säuretümpeln sollte man hier immer mit genügend Tempo angehen, und Achtung: Es gibt auch Attacken aus der Luft!

HOLZWEG

Diese beiden Straßen zeichnen sich durch haarige 90-Grad-Kurven und unfallträchtige Kreuzungen aus. Vorsicht vor Bäumen, Gummifässern und Passanten am Wegesrand!

PALMENROUTE

Zwei Gutelaune-Strecken. Sehr hübsch anzusehen, aber Achtung vor Untiefen, kreuzenden Haien und Lemmingen auf der Piste: Rammen bringt Sonderspaß!

CHEMIEFABRIK

Beide Pisten bieten versetzt installierte Sprungschanzen, explodierende Ölfässer und eine wirre Farbwahl, die das Erkennen der Fahrbahn erscwhert.

VULKANWAY

Das Geheimszenario: Wer auf diesen versteckten Rundkursen seine Kollegen in die Glut am Wegesrand schieben will, muß erst mal weltmeisterliche Leistungen auf den konventionellen Strecken erbringen.

GRUSELBAHN

Zwei konventionell gestrickte Kurse, die kaum Besonderheiten enthalten - bis auf den hier verborgenen dritten Geheimkurs vielleicht...

AIRCITY

In luftiger Höhe installiert, ist dieses Pisten-DUo mit besonderen Gemeinheiten gesegnet: Man fährt "Gloom"-ähnliche Monster über den Haufen und schiebt die Mitfahrer über das Seitenaus in die Tiefe.



XTreme Racing logoData Disks AGA CU Amiga Superstar

Price: £14.99 Publisher: Acid/Guildhall 01302 890 000

It's funny the way people review games isn't it? If you get one Amiga, stick a disk in it and play some games for an hour or so before passing judgement you'll inevitably get a compromised score.

As far as I can see this is what happened to Xtreme Racing. The amount of Blitter mode and 2x2 pixel screenshots I saw in other magazines was amazing. In this day and age you'd think someone would have the sense to check a game on more than one machine, but obviously that is beyond some reviewers' capacity, either in terms of equipment or intellect.

When we reviewed it we played it for about a month, in single, two and four player mode on everything from a standard A1200 to one with a 1230 50Mhz accelerator, 16Mb RAM and a hard drive, and every combination in between.

And our verdict was based on this. Because of the amount of disk swops, it was ruled out as far too frustrating on standard A1200s. With a hard drive though, even without acceleration, it was recommended with acceleration and extra RAM it was highly recommended.

Finally, with a null modem cable, some of the above and a friend with a similar Amiga it is absolutely fabulous. And now a data disk pack is available.

These data disks not only give you more manic tracks but also a track editor. It's relatively easy to use with practice and supplied with enough objects to populate the easiest or hardest levels your imagination can come up with.

The original game gave you 10 tracks to race on so if you own it you'll no doubt have all but exhausted these already. As such the extra tracks which are included are worthwhile in their own right, but the track editor will give this game major league lastability.

As can be seen from Leading Lap and the forthcoming Alien Breed 3D II, editors are becoming more popular, and for those who lack hacking, programming and art skills but are full of stunning ideas they're a godsend. With a lot of practice you can make a great game like Xtreme Racing go on for a long time. AD