Review: Powerdrome

My video review – done about a year after the written one on a MiSTerFPGA box.

It’s likely you won’t have heard of Powerdrome, the EA racer from 1988. It’s not enormously well-known but it’s a little something different from the norm at a time where most of what was being released was platformers and shooters, with most racing games being Outrun-clones. 3D filled vector racing games were certainly unusual at this point.

ST Format Review

Before I start my review, here’e ST Format’s take on the game.

My Review

I decided to dive straight in, and on my first few floundering attempts using the mouse I managed to crash into every wall, floor and ceiling possible on the test track (a simple oval). I then decided to read the manual (http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=1272), which informed me that the mouse is preferable to the joystick. I then found the option to switch to the joystick and found myself profoundly disagreeing with the manual. The mouse suffers from similar problems to Elite, with the mouse moving around an area that represents the position of the joystick. Why on earth hadn’t they figured out better ways of doing things as found in games like Battlehawks 1942, where if you move the mouse left the plane banks left, move it right it banks right, and that’s it, with simple and immediate movement. To top it off, there’s lag. So, joystick it is, the proper control being sufficient to make the lag manageable.

Overall movement is smooth despite the lag, and this is of course because actually it’s not pushing many polygons around. That’s a sensible decision given the limitations of the machine, better to have smoothness and speed than prettiness. The problem however is that the controls are pretty bad. The game was notorious back in the day for being hard to fly and I can see why. Looking at the differing manuals for the ST and Amiga version (the Amiga version arrived later) it seems the Amiga version got an option to increase the centering strength which I presume was in response to complaints about the difficulty. If that is the case it is probably the better version. I tried the C button and got nothing so I presume that it never made it to the ST, which is a dreadful shame.

Sound isn’t particularly exciting, the ST can do better but I’ve heard worse.

Overall I’d call this a fantastic idea poorly executed. There were many such games early in the ST’s history as developers adapted from 8-bit machines of lesser capability to the vastly capable ST (though it’s fair to say some early ST games were less impressive than some of what was put out for the C64). It’s not something I’m pissed off about though – developers were still figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and taking risks. Where now even the worst games are at least basically controllable, mediocre but at least capable of doing what they set out to do, the life of the ST contained many absolute stinkers that would never see the light of day today, but those stinkers were the by-product of creativity unbounded by convention, a rich seam of enthusiast developers creating for fun, not profit. More power to them.

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