Arcade conversions are seemingly very popular at the moment and to coin a phrase, they're what yer right hands for which is exactly what the software houses seem to know as no sooner does a machine grab your attention and have you asking for your pocket money in ten pees, then several software companies will wrestle for the license, so that they can wrest a few more pence out of your pockets. This is actually good economics for games players IF the conversion is a good one.
So, what of Continental Circus? Could such a wicked arcade game convert to the Spectrum? The Sales Curve seem to think so who have done the converting on behalf of Virgin Mastertronic and I must say. It does look juicy.
For those of you who haven't played the Taito arcade machine (whaddaya mean you haven't played it!), here's the brief...
Continental Circus is a rubber burnin' race game. No elephants, no clowns and no-one in glitsy suits beating tigers into submission with large whips. No siree. This game is for real heros. You must race against other cars and improve your performance (fnarr), to improve your ranking which to begin with is, well pretty naff. In fact it's crap! You're ranked 100th which is last place. As a reader of Sinclair User this really won't do will it. So by getting around the courses within the allowed time and overtaking enough cars you will qualify to race on each successive track.
You begin the game in Brazil and work your way up the rankings and through six other countries' tracks until you finally reach Japan, where you must finish in third place or better. Ahh sooo.
Sound easy enough for you? Ha, just hold it right there Mr Mansell. Cars go wrong sometimes, just ask Jim if he's got enough oil in his engine and he'll scuttle off out and bang another pint in his lotus. Well, oil levels are no problem with Continental Circus but collisions are. If you decide a car's in your way, don't do an Alison on it. The merest nudge will cause smoke to pour out and, as in the arcade game, you will be advised to make a pit stop to repair the damage. If you decide to continue then watch out! If you run the car for too long the smoke will turn to flames and eventually the car will blow its rivets all over the track.
If that isn't enough, there is also rain which can happen at any time, just like the real thing. Be careful on bends in the wet as it becomes frighteningly easy to completely wipe yourself out and be left without a working motor. Losing a car isn't too bad because that can be replaced but the all too important clock will continue to tick away your chances of qualifying.
Control is by keyboard or joystick with forward accelerating the car and the fire button acting as shift between low and high gear and your current gear is displayed in the top left hand corner along with speed, present score and the highest score, to the left of which is time left which ticks mercilessly down to zero. Your current rank and the rank you need to qualify for the next race are also here to lay testament to what a brilliant (or useless), driver you are.
It looks like we've got a winner here - okay so the 3D effect can't be implemented on the Spectrum but the 3D effect on the arcade tended to give people severe headaches and if Taito saw fit to introduce an on/off option then just think of the Spectrum version as being that much better than the original.
Virgin have a good product here (hurrah!), and it will be no surprise to me when it roars into the charts in a flash of smoke and hopefully, doesn't disappear in a ball of flames.
The race game goes one stage further. Ace.