Space Racer logo

Price: £19.99

Remember that bit in Return of the Jedi where Luke and Leia jump onto speeder bikes and chase the Imperial bikr scouts through Endor Forest at over 200mph? Of course, you do, it was probably the best part of the film.
The Atari coin-op however failed to simulate the action as the viewpoint was all wrong (you had to look diagonally down on the bike making control awkward). A step closer to simulating that kind of high-speed was Cascade's Sky Runner for the 64. It put the player right behind the speeder and made the game infinitely more enjoyable to play.

Now Loriciels have jumped on the bandwagon by producing the feebly-named Space Racer. Anybody at Loriciels who says that they weren't influenced by the scene in Jedi when producing this game tells a porky, methinks. The player takes control of a floating jetbike with which to race over a trio of futuristic racecourses. Rather than an entire road to race over, you are given only a thin segmented strip on the landscape to indicate where you should be going. Just to make sure you don't stray of the beaten track, the track is fenced off on either side by a series of roadside obstacles such as signposts, telegraph poles and so on.

Before the race the rider is shown standing beside his bike. "Hello!" he exclaims in the campest voice available and mounts his bike which coughs and splutters into life. He then rides up to the startling line, flanked by two computer racers and the race begins.

The controls are weird to say the least. Forward and back will adjust the bike's altitude, while left and right is used to steer. The weird bit comes in when you hear that the fire button is used to accelerate, and so firing your laser means you have to hit the space bar which is the most inconvenient thing ever. Mike P found a way of contorting himself so he could control the bikes reasonably well while hitting space with his elbow, but it didn't work for me, I have to take a hand off the joystick, resulting in loss of control, usually round a hairpin bend.

Should you collide with one of the roadside obstacles, one of two things will happen: if you just clip the obstacle, you'll lose control of the bike momentarily while it spins and rolls before correcting itself. If you hit the obstacle head on, the bike explodes and loses you valuable time. Not that time is an important factor. The only thing that'll cause the game to end is running out of fuel, just like Roadblasters. Fuel is scarce and represented by a series of lights in the status section which slowly go out as you progress.

There are two ways of expending fuel. The obvious one is simply by riding, and the second is by firing on opponent's bikes. The reason for this is that the energy bolts you fire are taken directly from the bike's fuel store. Each shot uses up one unit of fuel. It may not sound like much, but riding slaughters the fuel on its own, and considering it's very difficult to shoot down another bike, you can lose a hell of a lot of fuel in a very short time.

Fuel can however be replaced by running over blue sphere-like objects in the road. Unfortunately, they hardly ever appear, and when one does, it's normally on a bend so you'll have to steer real hard to catch it.

Space Racer is an enjoyable game to play. Although initially it seems far too easy to crash, you'll soon learn to moderate your speed and take corners safely. In terms of graphics, it could have been better. The bikers are quite well defined but the road doesn't scroll quite as well as it could, and it isn't very fast.

A quick look at Super Hang-on on the ST will show just what a 16-bit machine can do with a race game. The so-so graphics are made up for by the sound, which comprises a reasonable soundtrack, excellent engine revving effects and the camp "Hello!" at the start of each game. I do have doubts about the game's lastability however. The gameplay is very samey after a while and that's why I can't recommend it.

Space Racer logo

Loriciels, £19.99 disk

The year is 2132. There's been a sharp increase in population (causing overcrowding) and with little to excite the populace, a general lack of vitality. A solution? Easy: increase the risk factor in the popular sport of motor racing. Obvious, really.

Zzap's Nose

Participants race their hovercycles over a winding track, dodging marker posts (don't collide with them or you'll do yourself an injury), avoiding mines and planting the odd energy bomb up your opponents' tailpipes.

You can practice on one of three systems or go for the championship option: all the practice levels plus several more difficult tracks.

Kati Hamza I can't say I'd trade in a year's supply of Mars bars for a game as mediocre as this. For a start, it doesn't taste as nice and there isn't more than a week's gameplay (at the outside) in three fairly uneventful levels. Clever move that, making it sound like there's a really big selection of championship levels when, in fact, all you seem to get are the first three over and over again. Dead clever. Still, what there is of the gameplay is quite enjoyable and if you're a really hard race-ace, not too bothered about making the most of the Amiga's graphics capabilities and just happen to have 20 quid to spare, why not? Just don't expect too much...
Maff Evans Hmmm! Looks suspiciously like the ST version this. All the programmers have done is use the Amiga's power to generate nicer backdrops and intro screens. Where's the extra sprite shading? The smoother hills? The improved sound? Left out, that's where. At the end of the first three tracks of Championship mode, the screen informs you that this was just a practice and you now have to race for your life, only to return you to level one with no apparent changes. Three levels for 20 quid? That's just not on. If you really want this type of game, then wait for it to appear on the bargain shelves.