Prime Mover logo

As a kind of apology for Red Zone, Psygnosis get their motors running once again to bring us another helping of two-wheeled action.

Psygnosis have built up a real head of steam of late - their last half dozen releases have all been excellent, and I must admit that Gamer feared that record was coming to an end when we learned they were dabbling in the motorbike business again.

Thankfully though, it is noth another sim but a traditional racer - and make no bones about it, it is out to be number one.

Prime Mover was developed by Danish boffins Interactivision, and if the pre-release hype fuelled by themselves and Psygnosis is to be believed, we are faced with the fastest bike game ever. If this is the case then why the title? Surely an exciting barnstorming speed king of a game should be rewarded with a decidedly more catchy name. I mean, I personally cannot think of anything syitable, but then that is not my job is it? But not to worry - Prime Mover it is and Prime Mover it is going to stay, and besides, it is how the game plays which matters most. So without further ado, let us investigate.

Armed with your best leathers and sporting your favourite tattoos, you are very courteously provided with 12 tracks on which to race, and only one of these can be chosen at random when in another generally added feature - the practice mode. First though, a choice must be made as to which of the 12 riders you want to represent.

Now I do not know what it is with games of this sort, but whenever this kind of choice is offered, the motley array or riders always seem to comprise of an assortment of genetically mutated, inebriated extra terrestrials on acid. I am sure there must be some bikers who lead quite normal lives. But we digress... Choice of rider made - personally I prefer the woman with the muscles and the purple hair! - and it is off to the bike shop to select your machine from a choice of six.

All the bikes are quoted as having different weights, top speeds and handling abilities, although there is little advantage or disadvantage to detect when out on the track. Full race mode entails taking part in 12 races in various locations around the globe, with points for the winners and an overall accolade for the ultimate champion.

And indeed it is fast! Not sufficiently so to be hailed outright as the all-conquering, fastest ever bike racer, but plenty fast enough to coax the odd "ooh" or "aah" from onlookers.

The race locations range from the deserts of Australia and the rainy streets of England and Sweden to the cities of Mexico and the USA, and the programmers have done an excellent job in maintaining the game's speed while managing to pack a fair amount of detail into the screens.

One of the best features of top games such as RVF Honda, No Second Prize and even Road Rash to some extent, was that the number of competitors on the track made the whole affair a real challenge, with genuine satisfaction when a manoeuvre went right, and it is on this point where Prime Mover loses marks. Only seven competitors take part in each race, and although races are reasonably short - around four laps usually - relatively long periods of time can pass without encountering a soul.

Admittedly, the speed of the passing landscape and looseness of control ensure that complete concentration is a necessity for the most part, but it is the one-on-one competition in any race that raises excitement levels, and Prime Mover could and should have contained more, although the challenge is instantly doubled by selecting manual gears.

For example, it would be nice to have genuine selection of tracks, including hill climbs, motorways and others, and a two-player split screen option, if done properly, would really set a game apart.

Prime Mover is undoubtedly a quality product, sure to provide race fans with another few months of entertainment, but it will take another release of this kind, including some of the features mentioned above, before I sit up and begin to drool.

Prime Mover logo

Most of my memories of riding motor bikes involve breaking down on country roads in sub-zero temperatures, running out of petrol and falling off.

So what a joy it is to be able to race around 12 of the world's most famous circuits in the comfort of a nice warm room, without a care about running out of fuel or grazing your knees. At least it would be if only Prime Mover was just a little bit more exciting.

True, you can zoom around the circuits at breakneck speed; yes, you have a choice of five bikes with the suitably daredevil names of Firebird, Hellcat, Hurricane, Nitemare and Rogue; and certainly the graphics and sound effects are impressive enough, but despite all this, Prime Mover somehow fails to get the adrenaline racing.

You go round the tracks, you overtake other bikes, get overtaken, hit things (but never, not ever do you fall off), finish the race, and, if you score enough points, you progress to the next round.

You can choose your rider from a gallery of mugshots and enter his or her name, age, weight and height and you can also take various options for acceleration and changing gear, or you can go for automatic shift.

A word of warning here, if you are using the joystick Up and Down option to change gear, it is all too easy to jump a cog when you are banking into a corner. Not that this is a fault of the game, it just takes a bit of getting used to and making a judicious choice of joystick would alleviate this minor inconvenience.

Prime Mover lacks a two player option and spectacular crashes, but other than that, it is a perfectly ordinary racing game.

If you want an adequate motorbike game, look no further, but if you want a white-knuckle inducing, speed-freaking, adrenaline-pumping, turbo-charged experience, you may be disappointed.

Prime Mover logo

Als wir diese Motorrad-Raserei vor drei Ausgaben im Preview hatten, versprach uns Psygnosis ein gnadenlos gutes Gameplay - jetzt ist die Endversion da, nur das versprochene Gameplay fehlt...

Ehrlich, selten hat man sich auf den Digi-Pisten so gelangweilt wie hier! Dabei legt der Optionscreen noch einen ganz brauchbaren Start hin, läßt er doch die Wahl zwischen verschiedenen (Stick-) Steuerungsvarianten und manueller oder automatischer Gangschaltung; gegnerlose übungsrennen stehen ebenso zur Debatte wie fünf Feuerstühle.

Bloß unterscheiden sich die Bikes in ihrer Leistung effektiv genausowenig voneinander wie die neun anschließend zu Gebote stehenden Fahrer. Letztlich ist das aber ohnehin belanglos, denn ohne ein Kännchen Espresso wird jedes Rennen zur Schlummerfahrt: Ein Großteil der Konkurrenz läßt sich gleich zu Beginn abhängen, alle übrigen Kontrahenten heizen erbarmungslos davon und lassen sich nie wieder blicken.

Und so düst man ebenso ungestört wie unmotiviert über die zwölf (nur im Practice-Mode frei anwählbaren) Kurse, bewundert immer dieselben Schilder, Bäume und Brücken und wundert sich über nichtgeahndete Crash und allzu locker erzielte WM-Punkte.

Tatorte wie Hockenheim oder Australien sind höchstens anhand der scrollenden Landschafts-Silhouetten im Hintergrund unterscheidbar, ansonsten bringen nur gelegentliche Berg- und Talfahrten Abwechslung in die optische und spielerische Einöde.

Kein wunder also, daß die anfängliche Begeisterung für die pfeilschnelle 3D-Grafik und die nette Musikbegleitung alsbald verfliegt - was Prime Mover fehlt, ist all das, was Biker-Hits wie "Super Hang On", "RVF Honda" oder "No Second Prize" haben: Dramatik, Rasanz und Laune. (rl)

Prime Mover logo

This Prime Suspect won't get any rewards.

What is it about racing games? After issue 30's fantastic violation of the laws of time in F17 Challenge, Psygnosis have picked up the gauntlet of ridiculousness and come up with something even more astounding - the amazing moving mountain. In Prime Mover's Japanese racetrack, the hilariously-named 'Nontendo'-course, most of the scenery is dominated by a huge snow-capped mountain, looking not at all unlike the legendary Mount Fuji which appears in most Japanese racing-track games.

As you crest the long hill coming up to the start-finish line, this imposing peak lies dead in your centre of vision, providing a strangely stirring backdrop to the action. Until your second lap, that is, when you notice with puzzlement that, as you climb towards the line, Mount Fuji (or, as it is probably actually called in the game, 'Mount Fudgy' or something equally side-splitting) has curiously and almost imperceptibly shifted a couple of screen inches to the right, leaving it halfway to the edge of the screen.

Do another lap, and you will probably be only partly surprised to discover that several million tons of earth and rock has somehow disappeared from view altogether. Oh dear.

I could go on, but you would only get depressed

Sadly, that is not the worst flaw in Prime Mover, only the funniest one. For a game that has been about two years I development, there is a stunning lack of almost anything at all in it. It looks like something from 1988 (Super Hang-on, which was more or less the Amiga's first motorbike racer, leaves this a mile behind graphically), there are not any new or exciting features of any kind, the control is rudimentary skidding around, the sound is the usual drone combined with tuneless music, and the now-ubiquitous weather effects are simply a poor imitation of the ones everybody and their dog has already done.

You rarely see any opponents after the start, there is not any indication of where they actually are on the track map, when you smash into a roadside barrier at 140mph and suddenly drop to 50, you do not actually, visually, appear to be going any slower at all, the roadside scenery is the same all the way round most of the courses so there is no way of really learning the track layouts, which is the only way of getting round without hitting things (the incredibly shifting scenery hardly helps), and... I could go on, but you would only get depressed.

The Amiga motorbike racing game market has long been dominated by two truly excellent titles. Super Hang-on is lovely looking, arcade-fast and intensely exciting (and eight quid), while No Second Prize is beautiful in a different kind of way, equally speedy and thrillingly realistic. Prime Mover is not fit to wax either of their leathers.