Typing in the Fast Lane

Hot Rod logo

NOT very many people know this, but in my spare time I am a grand prix driver for Ferrari. I have even been known to combine my daytime job as an investigative journalist for The Guardian with racing by using a Z88 portable while tustling with my old mates Prost and Mansell at Monaco.

Not easy with thick gloves on I can assure you, but thankfully my excellent co-ordination, allied to 100 w.p.m. typing, produces error-free copy every time. Obviously with a background such as this the chaps at Amiga Computing had little choice but to offer me the latest driving game to come out of Activision for review.

This superb conversion of a Sega coin-op is the hottest speed sensation on the circuit (myself not withstanding) so I was eager to test my mettle against it.

Now, here is a little competition for you. There were only two accurate or honest statements in those opening paragraphs - can you guess what they were? No? I will tell you then. Hot Rods is the latest driving game to come out of Activision, and it is a Sega conversion.

Super Sprint players, or Badlands players if you want to be more up to date, will immediately recognise the 2D top down graphical style of the game, allied to four large cars, any of which can be human controlled. Yup, up to four can play if you have one of those Microdeal adapters that nobody stocks so you have to go to a computer show to buy one.

The objective is to race around the track (bit of a tricky concept there I know) and finish first or second to continue on to the next level. Running out of gas naturally precludes you from further competition. If playing against three computer teams, the gas factor is the only one to really worry about, as finishing first or (more commonly) second is relatively easy.

The difference between this game and the Super Sprints of old, and the Badlands that will be released next January, is that the screen scrolls in Hot Rod. Should you be at the back when the screen -which follows the race leader, of course - does another lurch forwards then you lose valuable gas (which can be collected from cans around the course anyway) and are dumped into second place.

Due to the proliferation of gas canisters, it is worth the sacrifice to get yourself promoted in the race order if you happen to be losing. With three or four human players you find people racing backwards just so that the can get repositioned in second place with the flag approaching.

In between these races of total silliness there are extras which can be added on to the car to help it hold the road in certain weather conditions, and basically make it go faster and sustain more collisions. Unfortunately, you cannot add weaponry to shoot people.

The trouble with Hot Rod, besides the idiocy of the repositioning business, the feeble squeaks from the speakers, and the depressingly bland graphics, is that it is just far too easy. After 17 or so levels, on only my second go at that, they start to repeat themselves as well.

With three friends taking part it does become more competitive in a brutish and crude sort of way, but as a one player game Hot Rod can only be considered as a cure for insomnia. Even if you cannot drive a formula one racing car while using a Z88 I think you will find this far too easy.

Hot Rod logo

ACTIVISION £24.99 * Joystick or Keyboard

If you are one of those people who hangs around in an arcade all day, you might just remember a driving game called Hot Rod from Sega.

The game is in a similar mould to Super Sprint. the only difference being that Super Sprint is better. The view is an aerial one of your own car and the three others that you have to race against. The object of the game is to get around the track as quickly as possible thereby obtaining loads of dosh with which to build your car. Once you have done this it is just a case of trying not to crash or run out of fuel because if this happens it is back to square one.

The gameplay suffers from a few flaws in conception: the screen is not centred on your car, so every time the leader pulls away from you the computer places you behind him and you lose twenty points from your fuel. When you run out of fuel you will find yourself saying 'hello' to the end credits. You also do not get a real impression of speed: but you can have a few friends along to join in the mayhem which partly makes up for it.

The sound is quite reasonable, adding something to the overall appeal of the game. The graphics are colourful enough, but again they are not amazing. Generally the game is unremarkable but if you did like the arcade game or you have a soft spot for racing games as a genre then you are likely to find it pleasurable for a while.

Hot Rod logo

Wer gerne auf vier Rädern über den Bildschirm rast, hat auf dem Amiga ja bereits eine stattliche Auswahl an Software zur Verfügung. Activision fügt dem jetzt eine weitere, nicht übermäßig aufregende Variante hinzu.

Bis zu vier Hobby-Rennfahrer (Joystick-Adapter vorausgesetzt) können sich auf 15 verschiedenen Strecken austoben. Wer den 64er-Oldy "Rally Speedway" oder den Automaten "Super Sprint" kennt, hat schon eine ziemlich genaue Ahnung, was ihn hier erwartet: Mit dem Feuerknopf wird beschleunigt, links und rechts steuern das Fahrzeug in die entsprechende Richtung, Matsch, Eisglätte, Polizeiautos und andere Nettigkeiten erschweren dann die Fahrt durch die uninspiriert gezeichneten Landschaften (Vogelperspektive) noch zusätzlich.

Am Ende eines jeden Levels kann aus einem reichhaltigen Angebot an Extras (bessere Reifen, Motoren usw.) das Passende ausgesucht werden. Ohne Moos ist hier nix los, deshalb sollte man auf der Strecke immer fleißig Geldboni einsammeln. Noch wichtiger ist natürlich der Benzinepegel, denn sobald der Sprit alle ist, ist auch das Spiel vorbei.

Die verschiedenen Punkte-, Geld- und Benzinboni fallen umso großzügiger aus, je besser die eigene Plazierung ist; hängt ein Wagen während des Rennens weit zurück, wird ihm dazu noch kräftig Sprit abgezogen.

Trotz der mäßigen Präsentation ist Hot Rod bei mehreren Mittspielern noch ganz spaßig - wer sich alleine davor setzt (und keine absolute Joystick-Niete ist), kann davon ausgehen, daß er schon sehr schnell alle Level durchgespielt hat. (Sönke Klettner)

Hot Rod logo

Price: £24.99

Converted from an unassuming coin-op owing a large amount to Atari's Super Sprint, Hot Rod combines the best in fast cars, hot upgrades and four players.

Control of the cars is simple. Hitting fire floors the accelerator and left and right rotates the cars in the appropriate direction. It is this simplicity that makes Hot Rod playable, so there are not any impossible turns.

The tracks are uncomplicated and easy to follow, though you need to keep your wits about you. Surprise junctions tend to throw unwary drivers into the path of trains or oncoming traffic, though the computer never seems to make any mistakes.

Dotted along the track are bonus icons which give you an extra hundred points and fuel pods. It does not matter what position you finish in as long as you do not run out of fuel. However your tanks will be topped up even further for finish first.

So that the slow pokes are not left behind, the computer moves anyone in danger of being out scrolled by the screen into first or second place, at the forfeit of twenty fuel points.

If either you or your mates have a dongle (remember, the two-way joystick adapter that plugs into the serial port and was nearly popular two years ago?), it works with this game, or the keyboard can be used for players three and four.

The arcade original was pretty simplistic and, as might be expected, the conversion is accurate. Sadly, the arcade machine was not much cop, and that also comes across in the conversion. The graphics and sound are mildly cheering, but the gameplay is thin and watery. Even with four people it palls after a short while.

Hot Rod is an accurate but dated conversion which lacks playability.

Hot Rod logo

Activision, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

Rev that engine! Power drift round those corners! Outrun those cops and turbo past the opposition! You're in the Hot Rod Championships and there's two other Hod Rodders (three on Amiga) vying for first place and the glory that goes with it - not to mention a kiss from Miss Hot Rod herself!

The races take place on 15 different types of scrolling course with obstacles ranging from oil drums to police cars. Lucky for you that you don't need to come first to get onto the next course. Don't lag too far behind though as the computer judge will push you back on screen, deducting 20 points of fuel in the process. Run out of fuel and your Hot Rod splutters to a halt along with any chance of qualifying for the next race. Gas can be picked up during the race and points too, there's even some rough terrain short cuts and runnels you can go down to sneak past the others.

A shop waits at the end of each race where tyres (improve road grip), engines (better speed and acceleration), bumpers (stronger car body) and wing sections (boost road holding) can be bought for extortionate amounts of money. Pick the right hardware for your Rod or you'll be eating the others' dust. Your reputation, ego and your bimbo's girlfriend's affection rests on you winning these races so get out there and burn rubber!

Phil King Erm... dare I say this looks just a tad like Super Sprint? Well it does, which is a bit strange since Activision have done both conversions. It also plays like Super Sprint, i.e. fairly playable in two-player mode but boring and repetitive on your own. Technically, the C64 conversion is the better one with a great attract mode and some typically brilliant Maniacs music.
The Amiga game features some tacky graphics (Miss Hot Rod looks like the back end of a bus!) and is also far too easy. Overall, it's not too hot.
Robin Hogg I had mixed expectations of how Hot Rod would turn out even with veteran Compunetters Ash 'N' Dave providing a quality programming touch to the 64 conversion. The final game is certainly a polished production with a neat attract mode, a great Maniacs of Noise title track (up there with Turbo Out Run) and some nifty in-game tunes.
Other than the four-player facility (using a two-joystick interface) there's not a lot that is particularly impressive about Amiga Hot Rod, but the pace of it is slightly faster and the graphics have more of a cartoon feel about them.
Like Sonic Boom the problem is in the original coin-op's gameplay, it's just not varied or interesting enough. Looks nice though.