This is one of the first games from Mastertronic's excellent MAD range, and like most of the original games in this range (Spellbound, etc) it would probably sell just as well if it was released at a tenner [Don't tell Mastertronic though! - Ed]. The game is of excellent quality, the graphics, not just the sprites, but background and display are wonderful. The multi-directional bit-mapped scrolling is as smooth as Uridium or Dropzone at all speeds, and scrolling can be in about 32 directions, all as smoothly.
The music is almost beyond belief. A three quid game should not have great graphics, certainly not smooth scrolling, and definitely not amazing music! MAD has broken the rules. The music is superb three-track atmospheric affair, which would make Paul Hardcastle, Jean-Michael Jarre and Andy Brown listen, let alone Roy Hubbard and Andrew Braybrook.
Several times I have loaded this game just to listen to the music; it beats Rambo and is only equalled by International Karate. The only sound effects occur when you crash so you have this superb track pounding out at you throughout the game. Believe it or not, this game also features speech. At the beginning of the game it bellows out "V8 return to base immediately" in a rather impolite tone of voice.
The game has all the trappings of a really top class game, which it is.
The scenario is that seven years after a nuclear holocaust, you have decided to leave your underground haven.
There you were in contact with the sky lab all the time and decided to build a car, featuring a V8 engine, turbo charger, push button radio cassette player, adjustable wing mirrors and all mod cons. So you're out cruising in your pride and joy when you receive a message over the intercom: your mates in the sky have discovered an unexploded warhead near you, and you've got to get back to base in time.
Sounds easy? It's not! It is impossible. I am gradually going mad over this game. After driving 2.5km to enter the base complex (which is hard enough, I could do it only by judging a shortcut through the background which saved 0.6km, enough to get to the complex) more speech bellowed out "Caution, radioactive surface". You are then 2km from base and have to find your way around the complex. The complex was in fact designed by King Micro, and is the labyrinth. Having no ball of string I decided to try to follow what the computer did in the demo. I kept getting lost, and eventually my shields came down and I died. Several other times I reached the base complex and have always got lost. A few times I have been 0.7km away rom the base but that was in a dead end (How I wish I could cheat here!). An interesting point is that the demo has never completed the game, so I reckon there is no way out and if I find out that that's what Mastertronic has done I'll...
In the game, the screen is divided into three sections, a small section at the bottom has a picture of you standing under a tree admiring your car, spoiler and all. The middle section is the control panel, with speedometer and tachometer shown as quadrants of a circle in a box. The time is displayed as a bar chart, as is fuel and another line depicts whether you are using Turbo or not.
A final bar shows your shields, used in the base. Next to these is a computer, showing how far away you are from base and any danger message, and a loudspeaker is plugged into your computer. Also shown is your steering wheel and your in-car stereo.
The top part of the screen shows an overhead view of the car and the background of trees, shrubs, bushes, houses with swimming pools, rivers and other such wonders. The game is controlled using the joystick, you push in the direction you want to go and continue to press to accelerate and pull in the opposite direction to decelerate, though if you slow down completely you go through a 180 degree turn.
This is a very hard way of controlling it, almost to the extent of being unplayable to start with, but after a while you get used to it and the game holds the fascination of the inability to complete. If you've got three quid, buy it, you won't regret it.