There's a new approach to racing with the latest release from Activision. Tour De France is a cycling game (could it be anything else, one asks?) and it challenges you and up to seven other players to complete and gain record times in what must be one of the world's most gruelling cycling races.
When you first start the game you are asked to select the number of players and input their name and country. Once that is done, you can select the sort of race you'd like to compete in.
Firstly there is the single stage race where you can select one stage of the race and try it. This is a good option if you want to practise a certain run or don't want to have to bomb all the way around France.
The other option is the Tour De France itself; this is the proper race taking you all the way round France in a series of stages. Once this option has been selected it's out and out cycling to try to break those record times.
When you race you'll find that you're in fact the only rider, a bit of a pain if there are eight of you racing because you each have to wait your turn.
Control of the bike is like a rather leisurely Decathlon, just move the joystick left and right to speed him up. Once you've reached a good speed it is possible to coast along, only needing to waggle the joystick occasionally.
Steering isn't so hard either; it just takes a little while to get used to it. To move left or right round a bend you have to keep your finger on the fire button and then move the joystick in the appropriate direction. This causes the bike to rotate Asteroids style. There are also gears on your bike - tapping up or down will put you in either high or low gear and these have to be used when going up and down the many hills.
The scenery is particularly good, although the roads are a bit thin (when you start going really fast you'll find yourself going off the road and crashing). The landscape contains all sorts of buildings, loads of people, advertising hoardings and of course the twisting road with lots of hills and corners, there are signs along the way to warn you of approaching hills but none to give warning about the corners though.
The screen scrolls along with your bike in all eight directions making the game look really good to play. After the race or practice, you can have a look at the score tables to see how well you've all done. Also, as you're racing you're given your time up on screen which changes colour so you can gauge how well you're doing.
I was beginning to hope that these joystick-waggling games had been given up for good, alas this is not to be. I dare say that having acquired something of a hatred for these type of games my opinions on it will not be well founded. Just to confound you, let me tell you what I liked. The music was OK, not that I am partial to having renditions of the French National Anthem rammed down my ears while I am asked to make team selections. The music that plays in the background of the game is reasonable, if a little strange. Well, the crowd certainly seem to like it; they all seem to be dancing to it. The general appearance of the game is helped by the high quality of the graphics and scrolling. My dislike? Well, just the game itself - there simply isn't enough to hold my attention.
I found the whole thing somewhat less than convincing, even after I had become quite adept at steering the dude round the seemingly endless roads he still managed to look like a drunken onion seller.
When I first saw this, I was very impressed - the graphics and scrolling routines are really superb. Whizzing along Decathlon-style was great, the only trouble is that I was the only contender. There's no head-to-head option, you have to race one after the other if you want a multi-player game and the scores are registered afterwards. Setting the game up takes yonks and I suspect that this was originally a disk game.
These quibbles aside, the game is great fun to play, with lots of separate courses to bomb around. Control is a bit tricky, but easy to master and after a while you'll find yourself hoofing round France as fast as your legs will go. The music is really fitting to the game and adds to the 'must go faster' qualities. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it and the time targets will take a while to beat.
Tour De France isn't really much more than just another joystick waggling sports game, but with a new twist in that you cycle round France. The backgrounds are superbly detailed and they scroll wonderfully. There is a great deal of attention to detail on both cyclist and shadow, matching that of the backgrounds which gives the whole thing a very realistic and picturesque look. The music played constantly throughout the game is very good and drives you on effectively as you play. Problem is the game is quite repetitive with all the waggling required and it does become monotonous to play after a while.
Plenty of bikes to choose from and sixteen different courses.
Superb scrolling technique, detailed scenery and likelike cyclist.
Good tunes as you pedal frantically.
Cycling around France proves addictive.
Doing it in record time is no mean feat, but you may get bored of the same old thing.
Value For Money 71%
Quite expensive, but a novel game.
Great, especially if you like biking and waggling.