Computer Gamer

Tour De France
By Activision
Commodore 64/128

Published in Computer Gamer #6

Tour De France

Bonjour mes enfants, c'est moi again. Sorry, I promised the Editor to drop the Franglais for this one. The scene is the opening day of the Tour de France bicycle race and the aim is to win as many of the etapes (stages) of the race as possible to become the supreme champion. Categorising this game is difficult because although up to six players can join the fun; only one can play at a time. Each player takes a turn at each etape trying to beat the other players and the record time given at the beginning of the race.

The game has a host of options within it, the first decision being whether to go for the practice mode or the competition proper. If practice is selected, only one player can take part and no score table is produced at the end of the game giving a breakdown of your performance in each etape. Competition mode allows you to enter the player's names and each can select the flag of the country which they wish to represent.

In both versions you can elect to go for the full Tour or just select a few etapes for a shorter game. Each etape differs in length and difficulty but this is a suck-it-and-see program so you only find out the levels by playing the game. You must also select the bike which you will be riding and this selection is made on the same basis as the choice of etapes, apart from being told that each one has different properties you must play the game to find out what these are. Fortunately, you can choose a different bike for each stage so a bad selection can be changed at the next stop over.

Tour De France

From the start I was impressed with the graphics which give a very realistic 3D representation of the route whch snakes around the screen with a smooth scrolling action. As the bike turns left and right, the character shape alters accordingly and even the shadow changes, giving credibility to the motion.

Movement can be achieved using either single or double-handed keyboard operation or with the joystick. This does not mean that a joystick is optional because it must be used on the selection screens. I found the keyboard options to be the most flexible mode of operation allowing higher speeds to be reached and making it easier to steer. In the tradition of sport simulations movement is achieved by waggling the joystick to and fro or by pummelling two keys to make the cyclist pedal harder. Thank goodness this does not require the kind of frantic work that the 1,500 metre event in Decathlon needs. Steering is achieved by two different keys or by pressing the fire button whilst leaning the joystick in the direction required. Each bike has two speed gears which may be used as circumstances demand to get the best possible speed.

I found the game to be extremely boring at first but once I had developed my cycling skills the hooks went in and I was shouting 'zoot alors' and 'hopla' as I crashed into the kerb for the umpteenth time. The game is like a drug, the more you play the more you want to.

The only drawback with the game lies in its flexibility. It loads each etapes from tape individually so that selections can be made other than the Grand Circuit. Once completed the game must be totally reloaded to replay which is time consuming. My overall advice can be summed up in the misquoted phrase attributed to Norman Tebbitt: "On your bike". You won't regret it.