Speed King is a 3D race game, not difficult to guess from it's title I suppose. What you might not guess is that it's a motorbike racing game (yah boo sucks, smarty-boots).
It has its origins in the classic Spectrum racing game Full Throttle (and can, in fact, be considered as a conversion of that game by author Mervyn Estcourt, who wrote Full Throttle for Micromega) and it contains similar features, tracks, and racing scenario with a few additional touches.
When you load the game, you are presented with a wealth of options; for a start, track selection: there are ten tracks to race on, ranging from classic English ones like Donnington, Silverstone and Brands Hatch to the ones in more exotic locations like Paul Richard. On choosing a track, you are given a brilliant preview option. This allows you to view the track which you'd like to try at high speed and the computer zooms round it so you can take note of corners, straights etc. If you still don't feel like having a proper race then you can opt to practise. This allows you to zoom round the track on your own to get the 'feel' of the bike and get to know the track a little better.
Once you're happy with a track then you can set the difficulty level from the three provided. It's advisable to start on 'novice' - that's hard enough! Select the number of laps and you can begin.
The bike itself is a pretty powerful one with six gears, great acceleration, and it handles perfectly (as long as you ride it properly)! Using the gears is dead easy - pull the joystick down to shift up a gear, or forward when you want to shift down (when taking corners, for example).
When you start the race you'll find yourself at the back of a pack of twenty bikes. It's your job to work your way to the front and then stay there, no mean feat. The other riders are not idiots and they try to take the fastest way round the bends and cut you up of you try and overtake. You can crash into them of course, which sends you spinning from your bike. If you're too slow to remount then you soon find the bikers whom you've overtaken whizzing back past you. Most annoying!!
When you're racing there is quite a lot of on-screen information at the top. Your speed is shown, along with the gear you're in and your current position in the race. The lap times are also shown, along with the current record time, so you can gauge how well you're doing.
There are two racing games in this month's reviews, both quite different from each other. This one is more of the 'classic' view-from-behind 3D sort, which arguably Pole Position started. There are loads of really nice options, the practice and view ones being particularly good. Racing itself is great, if not a little difficult, and the bike has a wonderful 'feel' as you hoof it round the track at breakneck speeds. The graphics are excellent and the way the track scrolls about is very good. Sound is excellent too, with a rather odd, but nice tune on the title screen. There are many race games on the market, but this, with its options and general play, has surely got to be one of the better ones.
Speed King has several features that add realism; for a start the actual speeds you can achieve. The bike's top is 250mph, reaching it though, is another matter. Even on a long straight it's highly difficult to get within 20mph of the top speed, especially when you know there's a sharp corner at the bottom of it! When you start off, stop, or restart from a crash, your rider puts his leg down to stabilize the bike, a nice touch that adds further to the realism. Full Throttle on the Spectrum didn't let you go off the track or crash into other bikers (you just got slowed down), so Speed King offers that extra element of thrill. In its graphic presentation it doesn't let you down either. The track view is like that on Pole Position, scrolling from left to right as you zoom from one side of the track to another or go round a sharp bend. The 3D is very realistic, as are the riders when you approach them from behind and try to overtake them. One for the collection without doubt.
There have been so many racing games released on the C64 recently, some bad, others good and a few, brilliant. Speed King falls into the latter category, I'm glad to say, and is among the best racing games this year. The graphics are great and the track perspective excellent, making the game realistic and thrilling to play. The sound too, is good with a strange, but very effective, title screen tune and the roar of the engine during the game adds to the atmosphere already generated. As racing games go, this is a superb and tough one, second only to Pitstop II. If Speed King had a two-player game to go with its multitude of fabulous options, then I would most definitely consider it to be the race game out of those currently available. Nevertheless this is one game that shouldn't be overlooked at any cost.
Loads of excellent options.
Very effective 3D as you belt along.
Weird tune, but realistic bike sound.
The urge to win is tremendous (as he crashes for the Nth time).
And winning on all ten tracks will take a long time.
Value For Money 87%
Superb motorbike racing game.
Definitely in the top three all time race games!