Commodore User

Space Racer

Author: Gary Whitta
Publisher: Loriciels
Machine: Amiga 500

Published in Commodore User #60

Space Racer

Remember that bit in Return Of The Jedi where Luke and Leia jump onto speeder bikes and chase the Imperial biker scouts through Endor Forest at over 200mph? Of course you do, it was probably the best part of the film. The Atari coin-op however failed to simulate the action as the viewpoint was all wrong (you had to look diagonally down on the bike, making control awkward). A step closer to simulating that kind of high-speed action was Cascade's Sky Runner for the C64. It put the player right behind the speeder and made the game infinitely more enjoyable to play.

Now Loriciels have jumped on the bandwagon by producing the feebly-named Space Racer. Anybody at Loriciels who says that they weren't influenced by the scene in Jedi when producing this game tells a porky, methinks. The player takes control of a floating jet bike with which to race over a trio of futuristic racecourses. Rather than an entire road to race over, you are given only a thin segmented strip on the landscape to indicate where you should be going. Just to make sure you don't stray off the beaten track, the track is fenced off on either side by a series of roadside obstacles such as signposts, telegraph poles and so on.

Before the race, the rider is shown standing beside his bike. "Hello!" he exclaims, in the campest voice available, and mounts his bike which coughs and splutters into life. He then rides up to the starting line, flanked by two computer racers and the race begins.

The controls are weird to say the least. Forward and back will adjust the bike's altitude, while left and right is used to steer. The weird bit comes in when you hear that the fire button is used to accelerate, and so firing your laser means you have to hit the Space Bar which is the most inconvenient thing ever. Mike P found a way of contorting himself so he could control the bike reasonably well whilst hitting space with his elbow, but it didn't work for me. I have to take a hand off the joystick, resulting in loss of control usually round a hairpin bend.

Should you collide with one of the roadside obstacles, one of two things will happen: if you just clip the obstacle, you'll lose control of the bike momentarily while it spins and rolls before correcting itself. If you hit the obstacle head-on, the bike explodes and loses you valuable time. Not that time is an important factor. The only thing that'll cause the game to end is running out of fuel, just like Roadblasters. Fuel is scarce and represented by a series of lights in the status section which slowly go out as you progress. There are two ways of expending fuel. The obvious one is simply by riding, and the second is by firing on opponent's bikes. The reason for this is that the energy bolts you fire are taken directly from the bike's fuel store. Each shot uses up one unit of fuel. It may not sound like much, but riding slaughters the fuel on its own, and considering it's very difficult to shoot down another bike, you can lose a hell of a lot of fuel in a very short time.

Fuel can however be replaced by running over blue sphere-like objects in the road. Unfortunately, they hardly ever appear, and when one does, it's normally on a bend so you'll have to steer read hard to catch it.

Space Racer is an enjoyable game to play. Although initially it seems far too easy to crash, you'll soon learn to moderate your speed and take corners safely. In terms of graphics, it could have been better. The bikers are quite well defined but the road doesn't scroll quite as well as it could, and it isn't very fast.

A quick look at Super Hang-On on the ST will show just what a 16-bit machine can do with a race game. The so-so graphics are made up for by the sound, which comprises a reasonable soundtrack, excellent engine revving effects and the camp "Hello!" at the start of each game. I do have doubts about the game's lastability however. The gameplay is very samey after a while, and that's why I can't recommend it.

Gary Whitta

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