Review: Stunt Car Racer

Stunt Car Racer

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. This is from Automation Menu 117. The menu has a cool picture of Garfield, but more importantly some rather excellent chip music, along with the traditional scrolly message.

I fired up the menu, enter my name and I’m in a single-player league. I could have chosen to race two Atari STs linked together with an RS232 cable, but then I’d have to find two Atari STs, an RS232 cable and someone else who likes ST games.

I decided to start with practice, and found my car being airlifted onto the track and then dropped unceremoniously to its surface. Graphics are basic, with the rather plain outer panel disguising the small 3D rendered area which chugs along at a fairly sedate pace. That said, controls remain responsive, and when I crash it’s my fault. This is of course to be expected because this is the creation of the legend himself, Geoff Crammond.

For those who don’t know, Geoff created the F1GP games for Microprose, and they were legendary. However, Stunt Car Racer is what he made before embarking on his F1 journey. Where his F1 games were fairly pure simulations, SCR is a bit more arcade, though it is among a fairly select few early games to use vector 3D to create a real world, things which tended to be a hallmark of simulation vs arcade racers which tended to use a sprite and rolling road (think Outrun or Super Hang-On).

Kicking off the career mode I faced my first race against Jumpin Jack. In this race I would be tasked with racing a track with a jump and a ramp, against my single AI opponent. Controls are simple enough, with the stick controlling acceleration, braking and steering and fire enabling the boost (which lasts for a limited time and sees flames come from your engine),

The race began with him hurtling off into the distance, leaving me in the dust. I did however fight back and on the 3rd and final lap it seemed I’d passed him, only for him to pass me on the final sprint to the line. As has become tradition in these reviews, I had failed.

This failure screen gives an early hint of how Microprose (MicroStyle was one of their labels) would go on to become one of the best companies for pixel art scenes – you can clearly see it’s a conversion from an 8-bit image where we’ll get more impressive work later more tuned to 16-bit graphics, but the techniques and the house style are starting to take shape.

Stunt Car Racer is a decent early effort at a 3D vector racing game, and one with fairly unique subject matter due to its peculiar tracks. That might itself be recommendation enough for some, as it’s a solid game. For me however, I’d rather play Geoff’s F1 games.

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