Street Racer logo AGA

A new racing game with a couple of tongue-in-cheek twists has just been released. Andy Smith's just the kind of clown to check it out...

Blimey. I thought with Andrea gone I wouldn't have to put up with such character assassinations in straplines. Some things never change it seems, especially Amiga racing games.

Let's deal with the quirky bits of the game first, starting with the soccer mode. This is just plain bizarre. You play on half a footy pitch (witch can be indoor, outdoor or outdoor covered in ice) and the simple idea is to charge around in your car trying to get possession of the ball from the other drivers (by crashing into them) before racing towards the goal and sticking it in the onion bag. It's bizarre and, frankly, not much fun. Your car moves as it it's in treacle while everyone else seems to be on greased rails. Still, it's something to play when you've exhausted the even less exciting Rumble Mode.

And it shouldn't take very long to exhaust Rumble Mode, even when there are up to four of you playing (with an adapter). You drive around a small circular course in which you go faster at the outside edge than you do at the centre. The idea is simple enough - drive around smacking the other players into the walls on the outside of the course. After a couple of hits, the walls disappear.

Should anyone then get smacked into the gaps they've been Rumbled and are out of the game. It's not hugely engaging. Hitting the other drivers is quite fun though, and is about the only thing that livens up the main part of the game, which involves racing over several courses in three different difficulty modes.

The racing then. At the lights, press accelerate and try to come in the top four to qualify for the next track. This is Championship mode, by the way. There's also a Head to Head mode in which just you and another driver are racing each other, er, head to head. Whichever you choose, you're going to have to avoid the roadside obstacles (more on them later) and try to collect the power-ups and avoid the power-downs as you whizz round the tracks.

Power-ups include turbo boosts and power-downs include turbo-boosts and power-downs include sticks of dynamite that, if you don't manage to give to another player by crashing into them, explode and send you into a spin.

When you are mixing it up with the other players a small tap on the joystick forces your character to 'have a pop' at the other drivers. Obviously this does their concentration no good and causes you to go past 'em (or them past you if they manage to get the first slap in). You've also got a couple of special moves that can be invoked and these range from turning your car into a magic carpet or WW tri-plane. Nice, but remember that these effects aren't going to last forever.

The idea is simple enough - drive around smacking the other players into the walls... It's not hugely entertaining

Nor does the enjoyment with Street Racer. It's not that it's a complete pig or anything, it's just that it promised so much and delivers so little.

This may have been a top SNES game but it seems like they've sacrificed good tracks for some decent speed. You zip around the place all right but you just don't really get a chance to drive the courses.

A lot, and I mean A LOT, of the time you'll be stuck at the roadside as you lurch from one side of the track to the other trying to get through a tricky set of corners. Taking your finger off the accelerate button and trying to be sensible about things isn't on because you grind to a halt in under two seconds.

To be fair you do get used to where you should be looking on the road ahead in order to anticipate the turns and after a bit of practice you do get better. But not by a significant amount. You still end up on the roadside too often for the excitement to remain.

It all looks very nice in the screenshots but the animation is on the jerky side in the actual game and it's curious to see your car going sideways round a relatively gentle corner. The backgrounds are very good though.

Well done chaps, you've made a crap racing game with some nice backgrounds. Money well spent on the development then. If this is sounding particularly venomous then I do apologise. It's a big game and it could have done a lot to boost people's confidence in the Amiga games scene. I could not recommend anyone shelling out the 15 quid or so they're asking for this.

Did I get to mention the dreadful music and crap sound effects yet? Oh good, that's worked out nicely because they're a fine sour note to end the review on.

Street Racer logo AGA

Price: £14.99 Publisher: Guildhal Leisure Supplier: Epic Marketing 01793 514188

Cross Street Fighter with Bump & Burn, and you'll have some idea of the chaos that goes off in this long overdue comedy race 'em up.

Here's a rarity these days, an Amiga version of a hit game. Street Racer progressed from its SNES origin to be something of a hit on the Playstation and PC a little while back, and now it is being released for our own little slice of gaming heaven by Guildhall Leisure on floppy and, thanks to their partnership with Epic Marketing, also on CD.

We are told that the CD version will have better music, which wouldn't hurt and the full intro sequence from the Playstation version. This version of the game, programmed by Vivid Image for French Softco Ubisoft, had been sitting on their shelves for a few months until Guildhall got wind of it and snapped it up. Something of a cross between a racer and a beat 'em up, Street Racer is a game firmly aimed at laughs.

The obvious inspiration for this title is Mario Kart, although Amiga users are likely to be more familiar with Siltunna's brilliant Mario Klone XTR. Comparison are more in gameplay than technology, with Street Racer opting for a simpler, more 2D graphics system. The tracks don't have the same pseudo 3D complexity of XTR, adopting a game engine which is more akin to the traditional Pole Position layered track.

The result is a compromise, the tracks significantly simpler, but the game moves that much faster. Without all the heavy duty course rendering to do, Street Racer manages to be very nippy indeed on an unexpanded A1200. There is added value in the wealth of options and extras that Street Racer crams in, but does its playability live up to the superb XTR?

xhead: Initially impressive?
When you fire this up and get a race under way, you are likely to find that the initially impressive graphics just don't do as much as XTR. Being sprite based, Street Racer's cars are more detailed, and the artwork is very well done, but as the game progresses, you will find that they payoff is that the tracks are a lot less directly engaging than Siltunna's effort.

Running XTR on a vanilla A1200 means dithered 2 by 2 pixel mode, but give it a little extra CPU horsepower and it looks gorgeous. Street Racer's parallaxed, full coloured backgrounds look very nice, but the tracks are a lot simpler in comparison.

The camera is locked into a track following viewpoint, and distancing isn't great so you tend to veer off the road a lot. This isn't particularly important because as long as you are willing to hit the jump button every time a roadside object veers into view, you can happily drive around on the grassy verge. There are no crossovers, jumps or shortcuts, so race around the track needlessly and you'll rapidly find the game gets rather shallow. So is that it? Written of in 450 words? Luckily not.

Burning rubber isn't really what Street Racer is about. In this game getting ahead of the pack blasting down the course as if you're trying to break the sound barrier in a jet-powered car means missing the fun.

Where you really want to be is right there in the pack, where you can reach out the side of your car and give your opponents a big fat slap in the face. The tracks are there to keep the action going. If you pull too far ahead, there is a very fast reverse gear to get you back into the action. Even if you don't bother steering, you are held close to the track edges, and will keep doing the circuit regardless.

As you tussle your way to the head of the pack, except to be fighting for place quite literally. A quick tap on the joystick and your driver will reach out an arm and, if timed correctly, send an opponent spinning sideways. Another tap allows you to jump over your rivals, and if you get the right powerups you can use your car's special abilities.

Depending on which driver you have picked, this might result in blades coming out from the wheels, powerful bullhorns blasting other cars out of your way, storms of lightning, or in one case your car sprouting a set of wings and soaring over the heads of the other racers like a World War 1 tri-plane.

There are, as you would expect, all the normal options. Cups, head to heads, practice races and championships. There are also a couple of rather unusual options on the list which gives Street Racer and entirely different sort of challenge. Look down the list and you will see that as well as straightforward racing you can pick rumble and soccer modes. These are quite unlike anything XTR has to offer, and adds a lot of extra options for the easily bored.

xhead: Ready to rumble?
Rumble mode is Street Racer's answer to Mario Kart's combat mode, and true to form, it is a lot more in your face. In Mario Kart you spend a lot of time thinking tactically. The arenas are full of twists and turns and places to hide, and the game is all about keeping a close eye on what weapons you and your opponent have managed to pick up.

Here the arena is a very small circular course. You race around the course, choosing an inner lane to go slowly or moving to the outside if you want to go fast. With everyone packed into a relatively small space, the action is pretty intense as you try to cut inside the other cars and slap them right off the track. Getting the tactics right is tricky, as overtaking cars tends to mean going on the outside of them, but this puts you dangerously close to the edge and vulnerable to their attacks.

Soccer mode is perhaps even more manic. A direct head to head, you drive your car around a half football pitch, each car tussling for possession and position in an attempt to force the ball into the goal. Alas it doesn't work as well as it might, but it is a pretty reasonable distraction for keeping a few drunken friends from smashing up your furniture.

All in all Street Racer is a game for people who find XTR too serious. Some people especially those with an Amiga powerful enough to get the best out of XTR, are going to find the simplicity of the tracks poor compared to the well designed 3D tracks of XTR.

Coupled with the facility to add in extra tracks, XTR is a much better out and out racer. Chuck in Street Racer's extra options and lunatic gameplay and what you have is something which is less demanding but a lot of simple out and out demented fun. It is playable, and has a lot of variety to keep it going. With what pretty much amounts to three games in one and excellent multi player arcade action, Street Racer is a more than worthy waste of time for any bunch of computer addict.