Jupiter's Masterdrive logo

UBI SOFT * £24.99 Joystick

Would you buy a used car from this man? This was a question asked about Richard M Nixon and the answer may well have been no. But what if the salesperson is a three fingered green beast with no patience? Well, it's a matter of having to, if you want to win Jupiter's Masterdrive, an all shooting, all turbo spectacular set on the big J and its nine moons.

Plot is unimportant, as racing is the heart of the game. Watching from high above the track you have to guide a racer around a twisting, power-up strewn, course. The aim is to finish first, the reason being money. Then, you're able to soup-up the car so it's the meanest maternal motorcar this side of the Martian Grand Prix.

JM looks like the old coin-op Hot Rod, with the car staying central to the screen and the track rolling around it.

Three cars are in the competition, two can be controlled by humans while one always stays under the Amiga's guidance to make sure you don't get cocky. Initially, the cars aren't that quick and victory depends on possession of the racing line and using the forward-firing cannon not speed.

The winner after three laps gets oodles of cash, second: a fair wad and the third place driver: his busfare home. Accumulated credits are spent at the friendly Jupiter Used-Spares Shop where the three fingered fellow lives. Better parts can be bought for both defensive and offensive purposes, in a bid to heighten your chances of victory.

The alternative way to smarten up your speed machine is by grabbing the icons that lie on the road. Cash, repairs, speed boosts, mysterious letters and countless other stuff is there, begging to be run over. Ad that's about it. The game progresses from three-way race, to bonus section, to race.

The vehicles change from dune buggies, to hot rods, to hovercraft, all with their own little foibles. When you trash the car - by repeated collision - or lose too many races then it's game over. Carry on winning and you ca go on collecting cash, and beefing-up the motor...

Jupiter's Masterdrive is deceptive. The concept is hardly new. The controls are simple and the power-ups predictable. The graphics are far from inspiring. It should not be anything but average.

Curious craft
Once you've entered into the game however, it starts to bite. The races are bumping, blasting, bashing, battles to the finish. The strange courses are complex, making survival hard, as does the introduction of the curious race craft. You've no time practice with these vehicles, the first time you see them is on the starting grid. All these add tension and the tension lifts the game.

Competitiveness is the secret behind Masterdrive. Computer cars screaming past goads you into trying time after time for the title. The cars travel just too fast, when boosted, to be controlled easily and the tracks are unpredictable enough to keep drivers on the edge of their seats.

Effectively the sum total of the various parts of the game: design, graphics, sound etc - belie the fun it is to play, making JM a pleasant discovery.

Jupiter's Masterdrive: Parts Shop
Buying spares is a dodgy business especially when the salesman isn't even the same species! The goodies he offers though are enticing for would-be boy-racers. There are two categories of each bit of kit on offer. Obviously the more cash you collect racing, the more you'll have to spend, but nothing compares to the rewards on offer to winners. This means those who start the tournament with a victory are likely to have a strong shout for the whole game, because they can afford higher-grade kit than those who finish last!

Jupiter's Masterdrive logo

Ubi Soft are attempting to re-vamp the overhead race game - by setting one on Jupiter.
The basic idea, of course, is nothing new. With its three player mode and compact but monochrome, graphics, Indy 500 was an arcade smash for Namco back in 1982. It spawned many clones on home computers and in the arcades, the most notable being Atari's Supersprint. The last Indy style game to appear on the Amiga was Psygnosis's recent Nitro.

Masterdrive is par for the course. Race around a track collecting tokesn while trying not to finish last. Earn a number of credits for each completed race and spend them on improving your vehicle. Despite the fact that it's basically a re-hash, Masterdrive does contain several features new to this style of game.

All cars come equipped with cannons, which are useful in slowing down the opposition. At the end of each level, the winner and runner-up go head-to-head on a bonus stage. The objective - collect ten randomly located tokens before time runs out. Come first, and there's bonus money to be had.

Select the two-player mode and the screen splits down the centre with player one's car taking the left half while player two drives on the right. This makes for a really good head-to-head confrontation with both players forgetting about the race in an attempt to knobble each other.

Between stages you enter the speed shop where you can spend your hard earned cash on souped-up engines, body armour, extra weapons, and a host of other things. Saving cash is not the best tactic - the computer car soon catches up with an uncustomised vehicle.

It's a neat little game, but the small graphics used for the cars and landscape make the game seem rather archaic. The scrolling, however, is smooth and very fast, improving the gameplay no end.

Jupiter's Masterdrive is an excellent two-player game, but may become boring if you play it on your own for any stretch of time. Don't bother with this if you've got anything similar; if you haven't, check it out.

Jupiter's Masterdrive: Engine icon
Engine - increases a car's top speed.
Jupiter's Masterdrive: Cannon icon
Cannon - used for blasting the opposition out of the race.
Jupiter's Masterdrive: Turbo icon
Turbo - boosts acceleration. Essential for fast starts.
Jupiter's Masterdrive: Brakes icon
Brakes - for slowing down at corners and obstacles.
Jupiter's Masterdrive: Armou icon
Armour - protection against crashes and enemy fire.