Review: Crazy Cars 2

Crazy Cars 2

ST Amiga Format Review

My Review
Crazy Cars 2 opens with a still image using stippling effects to give the impression of more colour than was actually present and a sampled tune rather than the usual beepy chiptune fare. However, that’s about as good as this game gets. This game is terrible (sorry for the spoiler).

Let’s start with a ridiculous decision to make mouse control the default. In fact, it is from there that much of the awfulness stems. So you start up and weirdly pressing your fire button accelerates (because the ST interprets this as the right mouse button) but then you try to steer and nothing happens. Eventually I figured out that it was defaulting to mouse steering. And it’s awful. With no interface to speak of before the race starts, it instead requires you to press F7 to change control mode between mouse, joystick and keyboard, with no indication on screen of the success or failure of this action.

Eventually I get the joystick working, and come to realise that the steering wheel you see is being controlled by the joystick. Now this is not the first, nor the last, game on the ST to make this mistake. Midwinter 2 is still the one where this particular feature most grates. The end result though is that instead of the muscle memory and physicality of feeling your joystick return to centre, you have to use the joystick to move the wheel left and right, with the end result that it’s impossible not to simply zig-zag down the road. Still, the developers foresaw that pain and instead present you with a straight road with no corners for large parts of the game (and not much in the way of roadside sprites). You can complete large chunks of it simply by holding the joystick forward, up until a cop car comes up and then you’re fucked becuase if you touch it your car explodes.

For the life of me I have no idea how this got 71%. Either the reviewer was a total dickhead or they were getting money. I notice that these early ST/Amiga Format reviews don’t have the writer’s name credited so maybe they got a work experience kid to review it. Either way, shit review and shit game.

Just so I can finish on something pleasant, here’s an advert from this issue of the magazine for an entirely different and probably better game.

Review: Dragon’s Lair

Dragon’s Lair

ST Amiga Format Review

ST Format Review (July 1990)

Cheating

As you can see I’ve included both the early ST Amiga Format review and the later ST Format review so you can get a sense of the evolution of the magazine and how it reviewed games, and also because I’m kinda cheating by reviewing this because there was so little quality in this month’s mag – additionally the Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace games are very much a category to themselves, for better or worse. To make things a bit fairer here I’m including a screenshot to show the ST vs the Amiga. As you can hopefully see, the quality gap between the machines is pretty big, the ST’s limited palette requiring duller backgrounds. Clearly ST Amiga Format got to review a better-looking game, but the content was the same and I think ST Format’s review does a better job of discussing the game.

When comparing the reviews and their scores it’s worth noting that in ST Amiga Format reviews VERY rarely go under 70%. It’s got to be a real stinker to get that low. As ST Format finds its feet however review scores start becoming more realistic. If we look at what is probably the peak of ST Format, issue 17 in which 50 games are reviewed, 8 games get under 50%, 2 get something in the 50s, and 4 in the 60s. That’s just over a quarter of the reviews, and indicates a shift in policy over time.

My Review
So Dragon’s Lair comes on 4 disks on the ST compared to 6 on the Amiga, and costs £44.95 on both. In today’s money that’s roughly £113 ($137). That’s a hell of a lot of money, so expectations are high. Reading the two reviews you’d be forgiven for thinking they were entirely different games, and while there are definite graphical differences I’m not convinced they matter too much.

The game is a port of the arcade hit, which had been fairly successful due to its incredible graphics, though it seems people overlooked the flaws in the gameplay as a result. Releasing in the arcades way back in 1983 and using laserdisc technology (think early CD) it wowed crowds and undoubtedly made many people part with their quarters or 50ps or whatever they had to hand, before sending them away disappointed at the lack of game.

Gameplay is relatively simple in that you watch a cartoon sequence unfold and guess what joystick direction or fire button is pressed, and you have to time it perfectly. Failure to time it correctly results in a messy death. In some ways those death sequences are a large part of what people have enjoyed about the game, which is good as if you don’t die it takes 12 minutes to complete the whole thing. Yep, that’s 12 minutes for a game that costs £113 ($137) in today’s money. Not the best value for money.

Now while the graphics are impressive in some ways (even if the palette is reduced on the ST such that the castle walls for instance are a mere 3 colours) they aren’t especially smooth, though neither are those on the Amiga to be fair. Sound is sampled but used sparsely, it would have been impressive at the time no doubt.

The game is an undoubted technical marvel, but unfortunately it suffers from, as ST Format mention but their predecessors failed to, a complete lack of game underneath all the glamour. This game has somehow been incredibly successful, releasing on every god damn platform known to man, and yet it’s utter bilge. I mean it really is awful. I’m in no doubt that most people (and at that time it would have been mostly kids) bought it to show off to their mates how amazing their computer was (though how the hell they found £45 is anyone’s guess – my pocket money would never cover that and even in 1996 I was only making £2 an hour working in a supermarket) and perhaps for that purpose it’s worthwhile, but as a game it’s utterly worthless and without merit.

The game as a movie
save yourself the trouble of playing it, just watch this from the superior Amiga version instead.

ST/Amiga Format Issue 9

Issue 9 – Download

The World in February 1989
In Britain, with its most recent addition of a 4th channel on terrestrial TV back in 1982, Sky TV broadcast its first satellite TV service in Britain, eventually introducing the nation to WWF, The Simpsons and MTV and fundamentally changing the way we watch TV – now instead of only 4 channels of crap we had hundreds. Meanwhile, ITV got its rival to Aussie soap Neighbours, airing Home and Away for the first time and on the BBC Eastenders killed off Den Watts.. or did they? Following last month’s protests by British Muslims over Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, in Iran the Ayotollah placed a fatwa on him, condemning him to a life of uncertainty – the first high-profile case of what would become an ongoing pattern culminating on events like the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The last Soviet column left Afghanistan, and the first GPS satellite went into orbit paving the way for us to all become lazy bastards dependent upon Google Maps to get around.

The film charts were pretty good, with the utterly wonderful Naked Gun on top spot, Die Hard at 2, Arthur 2 at 3, Cocktail at 4 (ok so that’s not so good). In albums there’s a lot of movement week to week, but for the week I’ve picked we have a mix of the Fine Young Cannibals, Roy Orbison (twice), Gloria Estefan, New Order, Mike and the Mechanics and Elvis Costello. Definitely an eclectic mix, but overall vastly higher quality than you would find in the chart now. In the singles chart we find that Marc Almond and Gene Pitney have made it all the way to number 1, the excerable Michael Ball at 3, but some genuine bangers present like Bobby Brown’s My Prerogative, Morrissey’s Last Of The International Playboys and Holly Johnson’s Love Train.

The Magazine
After very slim pickings in issue 8 we come to issue 9 with its similarly slim pickings, but rest assured 3 of the remaining 4 issues of ST Amiga Format (before we move to ST Format proper) are absolute bangers. The big features this month include a discussion of emulators and a round-up of input devices (some very strange). News features some interesting discussion of grey imports (see page 7) and the announcement of the Mega ST 1 – a puzzling machine considering the existence of the 1040 and when one considers the Mega ST 1 doesn’t have the blitter chip etc.

Previews
Previews include the brilliant Battlehawks 1942 and Populous (I intend to cover both), along with some games I know less about like cybernoid 2 (shooter), Timescanner (pinball), Dragonscape, Thunderwing (shooter), Knight Force, Vindicator and Guardian Moons. Not an enormously exciting selection.

Reviews
Missing the cut were yet another strip poker game (this time from Infogrames), Phantom Fighter (shooter), Spaceball (breakout/tennis), and some absolute drek.

Games reviewed this month:
Dragon’s Lair (‘interactive’ cartoon – Entertainment International – £44.95 – 92% Format Gold) — this is the Amiga version – the Atari ST version would later get a score in the 40s if I recall, ST Format having wised up to the lack of actual gameplay in this tech demo
War In Middle Earth (Wargame – Mastertronic – £19.99 – 91% Format Gold)
Hybris (Shooter – Gainstar – £24.95 – 82%)
Crazy Cars 2 (Racer – Titus – £19.95 – 71%)
Sword of Sodan (Run and stab – Gainstar – £24.95 – amiga only so who cares – 76%)
Custodian (Jetpack shooter – Hewson – £19.95 – a very generous 73%)
Dream Zone (Weird adventure thing – Gainstar – £24.95 – 65%)
Last Duel (Shooter – US Gold – £19.95 – 63%)

I think I might cheat and review Dragon’s Lair even though the ST version was quite a bit later, as at that time there will be a lot more to cover, and I’ll probably have a look at Crazy Cars 2.

Reviews This Month

Review: Crazy Cars 2

Crazy Cars 2 ST Amiga Format Review My ReviewCrazy Cars 2 opens with a still image using stippling effects to give the impression of more colour than was actually present and a sampled tune rather than the usual beepy chiptune fare. However, that’s about as good as this game gets. This game is terrible (sorry…More

Review: Dragon’s Lair

Dragon’s Lair ST Amiga Format Review ST Format Review (July 1990) Cheating As you can see I’ve included both the early ST Amiga Format review and the later ST Format review so you can get a sense of the evolution of the magazine and how it reviewed games, and also because I’m kinda cheating by…More