Formula One

Publisher: Spirit
Machine: Spectrum 16K

Published in Crash #8

Formula One

Well, after months of speculation and rumours, the road racing game with the famous steering wheel has arrived. Quite how, we don't know, since last heard of, the police were investigating the company because of customers' mail order money going missing and the game's non-arrival.

The cassette includes two versions, a 16K and a 48K version, to suit either type of machine. The inlay claims that the game is based on current formula one levels of braking and road holding. The 48K version gives you a choice of ten tracks: Hockenheim, Osterreichring, Kyalami, Zolder, Paul Richard, Monza, Zandvoort, Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Monaco. These are selected from the front end menu, each track with its name appearing on a keypress one after the other.

The screen display is not unlike that of Psion's Chequered Flag. You are seated in your car, your hands seen on the steering wheel. The road is white, seen in perspective against the green grass and blue skyline. Movement is indicated by the small signs on the side of the road, but there is no moving background as in other versions.

Formula One

What makes Formula One different to all other road racer games is the much vaunted steering wheel which comes with the game. This is a yellow plastic device, shaped rather like the top of a big pickle jar, and was promptly nicknamed the Yellow Ashtray in the Crash offices. It is designed to fit neatly on the Spectrum in such a way that it can be rolled left or right along the top row of keys. These are designed to proportionately increase left or right turn. There is an option for automatic or manual gear change.

Comment 1

I'd understood both from the ad and from the publicity since, that the 'delay' in this game was due to faulty mouldings for the steering wheel. So one might have expected something special, perhaps (it is possible?) an add-on at a price of nearly £9. But perhaps that's asking too much. In the event, the flimsy plastic lid you actually get is a gimmick hardly worth having and certainly not worth paying for. In addition, the left/right keys (all the top row) are designed to proportionately increase the turning movement, so they are less effective for simple keyboard use. The 3D works quite well, but the car graphics are not a patch on Chequered Flag, which they resemble, as nothing in the car is animated at all. Not such a bad program, hardly a good game.

Comment 2

You may have felt ripped off by not receiving this game had you ordered it, but you may still be ripped off by getting it. With the game came a free ashtray for hours of frustration.

With ten tracks you can have a choice of disastrous driving. 3D graphics are very effective with the signposts whizzing past either size of the track, although I haven't found out yet what their usefulness is, apart from indicating that the 3D is actually working.

The idea of having proportional keys is a very good one, but doesn't work well with this game. The actual key response is appalling and would seem to have been faster if written in Basic, with a delay or two to three seconds after pressing a key.

Response time totally spoils the playability of the game and that, of course, makes it completely unaddictive.

Comment 3

The game looks good but does not play the same way - in fact you might say "No way". It's not possible to guide this vehicle around the tracks provided. The actual car looks unprofessionally drawn and I would have thought it would have been possible to make the wheels look as though they were going round as there is no other way of seeing movement at first until you gain enough speed to see the marker posts sliding by.

The track also seems to go on forever; at least it does at the average speed of 30mph (!), which is about all you can safely do when the sheels apparently don't take you where you think you're steering.

I've yet to find out whether there are other cars in this game, as the inlay suggests, because I've never been able to quallify yet, and I'm not sure I can be bothered to try again.


Control Keys: Accelerate = z, Brake = Caps Shift, change up = S, change down = A, to steer use all top row
Joystick: The yellow ashtray
Keyboard Play: Steering keys are highly unresponsive
Use of Colour: Good
Graphics: 3D efect works quite well, overall less than standard graphics
Sound: Below average
Skill levels: 1
Screens: 10 tracks (48K version)
Originality: Well, the road racer is hardly original, but the steering wheel is, on the other hand, it doesn't work very well and is a laugh
General Rating: A barely average-looking 3D race game with built-in unplayability.