BMX, SFX, MSX - it's all the same to me

Super Scramble Simulator logo

ARGGGH! What have we here? A defection from the Code Masters naming department? An update of one of the oldest scrollers of all time? A tutorial on cooking eggs? A game about motorbike scrambling? The latter is nearly correct. Super Scramble Simulator is really motorbike scrambling with one player. As everyone knows - or at least should know - that scrambling is a massed-start race, the game would be better called Super Trials Simulator.

Great attention to detail has been applied to this game, so much so that all of the actual game data lives on the second disc, with all the intros and tunes on disc one. Instead of being purely two-dimensional, SSS dabbles with the other in a split screen display. The majority of the screen is the side on display, where the actual tricky bits are done, while a tiny strip underneath shows the overhead position.

This is only of use where narrow obstacles do not take up the full width of the course; unfortunately that is the time you need your eyes glued to the main display. And as Gremlin has been incredibly lazy, the screen is 22 per cent smaller than it should be, so each display is depressingly weeny.

The game is fairly standard stuff, much the same as KikStart gave us all those years ago on the C64. As in real trials, making mistakes (falling off) costs time, and the time limit is short enough as it is.

At least we are not left mystified by why our homunculus has just made like a projectile - SSS dispenses with the animation and pauses with the animation and prints up exactly why your time limit has been shorn of seven seconds.

What really annoys is that the SSS does not quite behave like real life. You land on the back wheel, time loss. Land on the front wheel, no time loss. Back in the real world you usually lose first steering, then control followed by balance and several ounces of flesh, by landing front first. Ouch.

The graphical detail almost merits description in graphic detail. The scoreboard has a collection of bystanders who have a large repertoire of moves, each subtle and easy to miss.

The background hoardings have a strong green feel to them, which is strange for a sport where one rider can cause more erosion than 20 adrenalin-crazed mountain bikers ever could.

It is strange, but virtually every racing game has a phenomenal tune - or at least a good 'un - and then a variable pitch rasp for the engine note. SSS tune-wise, is phenomenal, but raspwise, tends towards vanilla.

Assuming for the moment that all the preceding criticism had not happened, there is still one serious fault. It is infuriating. You think that you have got the hang of a sequence of moves, and you are really beginning to have some industrial-grade fun, when a tiny slip of the stick loses you time and confidence.

This we do not need. We could always weigh this against the intelligent decision to read both discs simultaneously with two drive systems. OK, so why do we ever have to stare at a blank screen while the data loads? Your guess is as good as mine.

SSS impresses the senses - there is no doubt about that. But it is either too badly planned or is too difficult to get into. The gameplay is stiffer than an up rated monoshock, which is a pity, because with a little more freedom, SSS would have been good.