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A fearless heart and an animal hunger to win are what top racing drivers need. We've only got Andy Smith however...

You may mock Andrea, but I can be just as animal hungry to win as the next man (and I must have a word with you about these intro straps…). And I've proved it too because I've won the Flyin' High cup. Oh yes.

This racing game puts the player at the wheel of a kind of souped up VW Beetle (viewed from behind) and takes him through twenty races (five races on four different terrains: city, jungle, forest and snow). The idea's obviously to win the race by being the quickest and crossing the line ahead of the others after each race's five laps. Do that and you pick up some bonus money to spend on extras in the shop before the next race.

And here's my first problem with the game. After a few races you'll have earned enough money to buy yourself some goodies. The trouble is, there isn't much worth buying. The turbos are alright – press enter and then the fire button on your joystick to fire the turbo off and away you go – until you hit something and it stops. Annoyingly, this happens often, because each course is littered with obstacles that you're bound to hit.

There are road cones and oil barrels on the actual track while plants and snow drifts hug the roadside and, because each course invariably twists first one way and then the next, the chances of you getting round a series of corners without hitting something at the side of the road are minute.

...there's no way you're going to avoid that second road cone because your car just doesn't seem to want to steer.

Then there are the rockets. There are big rockets and small rockets and I assume the idea's to fire them at the cars in front of you. I say assume because even though I've fired dozens of the things I've yet to hit anything. They're a complete waste of money because none of the seven computer controlled players use ‘em.

When you're playing against humans (up to four of you can play if you've got a couple of joystick adaptors) things are slightly different, but they're still not that effective because they only go in straight lines and your chances of a strike are slight.

Then there are the spikey tyres. These are supposed to give you more grip but the difference they actually make is unnoticeable. The fast tyres are the only useful thing to keep buying. You need to buy a new set for each race but when you've got ‘em on your top speed is dramatically increased. Finally there's the one off purchase of a better engine. That's your lot. Once you've bought a good engine and you've got some fast tyres there's nothing left to spend your money on.

Have I mentioned how twisty and turny the later tracks on each level are? And how uppy and downy there are too? No? Well they are! Have I told you that you spend a lot of the race just at the side of the track because it's the easiest way to get round? Even when there are loads of bushes or whatever at the sides of the road it's still easier to just keep going in a straight line and let the car move from one side of the road to the other as you go through corners.

Once you've bought a god engine and you've got some fast tyres there's nothing left to spend your money on.

And controlling your car is the worst part of Flyin' High. For a start it's joystick only and secondly it's one of those push forward to accelerate and at the same time try and turn left and right. Your car's steering is a nightmare. It takes an absolute age to actually turn and once you've got past more than ten degrees of centre you're into a powerslide.

And the car's poor controls really become noticeable when you've hit something. Suddenly you spin round, lose all your speed and usually end up at the side of the road. Fine, press forward and try to steer right because there's a road cone just in front of you. Five minutes of playing this and you'll know that there's no way you're going to avoid that second road cone because your car just doesn't seem to want to steer – especially at low speeds. It's maddening. Hitting another car is equally frustrating. You just stop. Instantly.

Flyin' High could have been a much better game. The speed is most certainly there and the graphics are all well and good (if your machine can handle it, go for the 320x256 resolution) and even the sound's passable. What's really needed though is some simple playtesting. Surely someone could have come up with some decent tracks? The ones in the game are poor because they take away any element of skill. It's all very well going up and down and twisting all over the place but not when you can't actually use some skill to drive through them.

Frankly, I'm disappointed with Flyin' High. It's got a lot of potential but most of it's been wasted by some silly gameplaying errors.

Flyin' High logo

█ Price: £29.99 █ Publisher: Islona 0500 131 486

As we move further and further into texture mapped 3D territory, it could never be too long before someone came up with a racing title. And here it is.

We previewed this one last month, and we claimed that it looked good. We're reviewing it this month, and we are still going to claim it looks good. I'm more than happy to sit here and tell you how good it looks but unfortunately, like some many games that have come before it, looking good and actually ‘being' good are two things that seem to be mutually exclusive. Delve with me into the world of Flying High.

History Lesson
Many moons ago, and I'm sure some of you will remember this, there was a game called Out Run. It broke the mould of racing titles in the arcades by creating a new kind of realistic 3D effect that moved away from the simplicity of Pole Position by building the track out of horizontal stripes, layered in parallax and then scrolled ‘toward' the screen. The end result was an exhilarating turn of speed and – for the first time ever – hills and drops. The parallax could be scrolled in all directions, and those clever bods over at Sega knew exactly how to exploit it.

The technology was ‘borrowed' by a thousand other titles (Afterburner, Power Drift, Enduro Racer to name but three) and possibly most importantly for Amiga owners, by Gremlin's Lotus series. These games were fast, enormously playable and hugely successful. Of course, looking back at them now they are a little dated – flat rectangles for a road and thousands of identical sprites whizzing past to create the impression of a cornfield are somewhat old hat, but it's worth remembering those games for sake of this review.

The title may not indicate so, but Flying High is a racer in much the same vein as the few I've rambled on about in the preceding paragraphs. In a nutshell you race as one of a pack of eight through a variety of locations (city, jungle and so on) to win, well, just for the hell of it really.

As you race around the enormous looped tracks there are bonuses for you to pick up, such as money to improve your vehicle for example (see the boxout) or other interesting items which update your car on the spot such as turbo boosts, for that little extra kick.

Of course, there has to be some balance in lie, and if someone is going to be good enough to leave nice things lying around for you, then it goes without saying that someone has to leave something a little less pleasant in your way. Traffic cones are bad news in this game – touch one and you'll go flying across the track to smash into the barriers on the other side. Same with oil cans and other cars. Best avoided really. So that's the run down of the game.

What's it actually like? – I can here you crying. Well, we'll start with the good stuff. The game looks great, although the still shots probably don't do it that much justice. It all works on the same principle of parallax layers that founded Lotus but this time everything is texture mapped – the road looks particularly impressive for example, and as everything is sprite based rather than polygon rendered, it belts along at a fair old crack.

There are three different resolutions to run in, and naturally the 320x256 is something that only accelerated machiens are going to be happy with, but in one of the two lower resolution modes it bangs along quite happily on your basic machine. Even multiplayer mode, where up to four people can play at once, runs at a reasonable frame rate.

At first glance, the 3D effects is a little disconverting. As you are working with sprite layers, and there is very little distancing, there is no real sense of perspective. Watching the buildings as they fly past is unusual, as they curve to follow the line of the road. Not that this unreal perspective on the world detracts from the game in any way. After all, once everything starts moving at speed you're far too busy watching the road and trying to stay off the barriers to worry about whether the buildings are mathematically correct or not.

The big but
You see, it's the gameplay that really lets this game down. The programmers seem to have come up with a very capable and impressive display engine, and forgotten to spend any time getting the game right.

There are so many flaws in the basic design of the game it's difficult to know where to start. So I'll start with something simple, such as the design of the tracks themselves. Very little thought seems to have gone into the actual line of the track. So much time and effort has been spent on making everything move as quickly as possible, and making the trackside objects as varied as possible that no-one seems to have noticed that the tracks are awful.

As I've said, there is no real distancing to speak of, so you would assume this being the case that the last thing you would put in as a track designer would be corners tighter than my school uniform – along with the kind of hills and dips you would normally only see on a roller coaster. Unfortunately that's eactly what the designer has done with the end result being even less distancing than before. You try avoiding a row of traffic cones when the first sight you get of them is about ten feet in front of your car!

All over the shop
And then we have the car handling. Surely the most funamental thing to get right. You can make the tracks any way you like it if the car handles correctly, and you'll have a playable and entertaining game. This game has the worst vehicle dynamics I've seen in a game. Take the steering… for reasons only known to the programmer, they've got for linear steering, which for those not in the know means that you're constantly steering. If you are steering hard right, then you need to steer left to straighten up, and this can take some time to get from lock to lock.

It takes so long, in fact, taht you do end up spending most of yoru time stuck to one side of the track or the other. You can't see the bends coming, due to the lack of distancing, and by the time you do see them, it takes so long to steer into them that you're scraping along the outside barrier before you're anywhere close to actually turning. See where the problem lies?

It's this basic lack of responsiveness in the controls that really destroys what should have been a fantastic game. After all, this kind of game has been done many times on the Amiga, and done very well indeed (although strangely enough, the Amiga conversion of Out Run was an absolute dog!). It takes a lot more than good graphic tricks to make a game, and sadly this game really is nothing more than a good graphic engine with a rudimentary game attached. Hopefully they will get it right for the sequel.

The on the road price?

In Flying High you drive a bizarre futuristic 3-wheel drive buggy through the most mountainous city streets you're ever likely to see, and if you are going to stand any chance of getting ahead of the pack, then you need a few optional extras, available to by between races. Things start in a more-or-less standard vein - faster tyres, more powerful engines and turbo boos accelerators to get your top speed up to something truly uncontrollable. Then you have what can only be called the 'Dirty Tricks' section. This is where you can get your hands on missiles, rockets and spiked tyres to give yourself the ultimate edge over the competition.