Your Sinclair1st November 1989
Published in Your Sinclair #47
Stunt Car Racer
I'm an absolute sucker for car games, it has to be said. Put me behind the simulated steering wheel of anything (even a Reliant Robin) and I'm happy as a sandboy. Now. I don't know exactly how happy sandboys are capable of getting (in fact, I don't even know what a sandboy is) but I'll tell you this much - lock me in a dark room with a copy of Stunt Car Racer and I'll be happier than a sandboy.
First of all you should know that Stunt Car was conceived and programmed (on the 16 bit formats) by Geoff Crammond. He's the same bloke who wrote The Sentinel, which, as anyone who's played it will know, gave a feeling of height and depth to a computer landscape that hasn't been equalled since (erm, until now). But there was one problem with it - the speed of the thing. It didn't exactly crack along did it? Whaddya mean. "Yes. it did"? Stop arguing this instant. The Sentinel was not very fast. Stunt Car Racer, on the other hand, is very fast - well, pretty fast anyway. And because it's fast, it's also vertigo-inducing in the old "Yurks. It's A Long Way Down" department. Much more so than The Sentinel.
The Race Season
Like football, the Stunt Car league is split into four divisions, but, unlike football, each division is made up of only three places. At the beginning of the game, you find yourself in the crappest position possible - bottom of division four. You have to take on the fourth division computer opponents in a series of three lap races (and win) to get promoted.
The circuits themselves are 'something else'. They're 'far out'. They're 'bad'. They're 'straight out of the fridge'. They're (Get on with it. Ed). Imagine a traditional racing circuit (Brands Hatch, Monza or somewhere), cross it with an absolutely ginormous roller coaster, add jumps, multiply it by the first number you can think of, and you'll be about there.
There are eight circuits in all, two per division, and the initial two (the little ramp and the humpback) are the easiest of the lot. Don't fall into a false sense of security at having seen the word 'easiest' though, because in this case it simply means 'not quite as impossible as the rest'. These circuits need to be practiced before you take on the computer cars because of the humps, ramps and jumps (not to mention the chicanes) that are peppered about. Coming out of a chicane at full speed might seem like a good idea - until you realise that there's a hump coming up immediately afterwards which'll sproing your car into the air and take you over the top of the next bend causing you to plummet 200 feet to your doom. In Stunt Car Racer there are no fences to keep you on the track - cock up once and you damage your car badly.
What's The Damage, John?
Damage to your buggy depends upon the severity of the crash. Little 'graunches' (such as landing a bit too heavily after a jump) cause a hairline crack to creep along the tubular steel framework of the car. Mega graunches cause 'impact craters' (little holes). When the crack reaches the craters, the car obviously isn't going to take much more abuse, so 'pottering about with Granny in an Austin Allegro' mode is required. Which means SLOW DOWN, or you'll lose control and lurch, sparking and grinding on to the tarmac as everything snaps.
When in practice mode there's a digital clock on screen, so you can monitor each lap time and try to beat it next time around. When your lap times are getting below one minute you should be ready to enter the 'league'. Oh, and you can save the game at any point - which means that if you make it to division three the computer can safely be reset. Just load in the league table next time you play and the Speccy will remember where it was you left off.
Stunt Car Racer is, quite simply, THE racing game to get. It's so atmospheric! And novel too. It'll leave you gasping as you take a ramp at 200 mph, and then watch helplessly as your buggy soars in a gargantuan arc through the air towards the landing bridge. Will it be a crunch or a boing?
"Cruuuunch!!!" Oh no! Stunt Car Racer makes the Indy 500 look like a tricycle race through Toytown. And if it ever gets 'converted up' and finds itself strapped to a moving cabinet in the arcades...
A gasp-a-minute, vertigo-inducing, solid-filled-vector-graphics road-racing game. The Speccy's processing speed has coped admirably (again) with a 'downgraded' 16-bit game.