Of all the 8-bit magazines of the era, Your Computer circa 1983-1985 must surely have been the most crammed. Although it went rather downhill for its final issues, the magazines of this period covered hundreds of different computers, and each month presented a few utilities, one "big" game and some smaller games in the Software File columns.
Grand Prix is a good example of the quality of many of the "big" games of this period. Similar to the Superior classic Overdrive, it is a three dimensional racing game. The instructions could not be simpler, drive as fast as you can, avoid the other cars and try and get a bonus of seventy points or more to progress to the next stage. The game is written in 100% machine code, runs in Mode 2 giving very high quality graphics and uses colour-switching to scroll the scenery and road to give the illusion of movement.
Your car is done is a frightening shade of pink which helps to distinguish it from the many blue cars you are competing against. Well, I say 'competing' - although that's not really the right word. Grand Prix is tough. As tough as a pair of old boots left overnight in the deep freeze in fact.
The first feature of the game is that you never get any peace. Two enemy cars are on screen at all times. You overtake one of them; it's brother appears in the distance. You overtake the other and another one likewise starts scrolling towards you.
Now this might not be so bad if you were always able to deftly manoeuvre your car around the playing area. Unfortunately, you have to maintain a constant speed which makes this almost impossible. And that's where things get really tricky.
Basically, the two cars on screen feature also works in reverse. If you start to drive slowly, and the cars in front of you speed into the distance, two other cars will try to overtake you from behind. Except they frequently don't overtake; they just ram into the back of you instead!
The idea seems to be to maintain a speed which is fast enough to move forward, and a little bit faster than the other cars on the road. This way, you can treat them as obstacles and chart a path through them. All good, apart from the fact that you never quite know, when they appear in the distance, which lane they are in. They appear to be in lanes one, two or three - and they don't change lanes. Therefore you need to wind and weave around the road to get into the one lane without an obstacle. This is, alas, easier said than done.
The scrolling cars are neat, as is the perspective view as you accelerate up behind them. The steady revving of your engine is also a nice touch, and also the bouncing tyres which abound.
The single biggest irk occurs whenever you hit another car, or it rams into the back of you. You are reincarnated in the exact same space where the accident occurred, only to be smashed into again and again - until you can get out of the way!
You need to reach a bonus of seventy points to proceed to each stage two. I have managed to reach about fifty points and, in the circumstances, I think that's pretty good. One thing I should point out in addition is that , because Grand Prix uses up every last byte of the BBC's memory, you really need to hard reset the Beeb before firing it up. Variables and code fragments left from running other things on the disc can confuse it.
On then to Backpack Bozo, a game that's decidedly more crappy and involves you falling from the sky and trying to squish insects under your feet. You have a jetpack rather than a backpack and the game involves a fair degree of skill. Alas, the presentation is so terrible that it makes some VIC-20 games look positively supreme in comparison. You are a green 16x8 figure, the insect a 8x8 one. These two elements are the only moving things on a entirely black background.
The idea is that you use Z and X to move left and right and attempt to slow your rate of descent to such a slow pace that you can hit the insect, but not the ground it is walking on. It is possible - just! - with a lot of practice. However, touching the ground, or running out of energy, is much more likely. You have three lives and, when they are gone, you'll be reaching for the BREAK key. Nothing much to write home about.
Grand Prix was written by Michael Barter and is available on the Your Computer 5.04 companion disc. It runs on a BBC (Model B only) with PAGE at &1900. Backpack Bozo, on the same disc, was written by J. Powell and J. Burnam and runs on all BBC computers, and the Acorn Electron.