Toyota Celica GT Rally logo

Gremlin £24.99 * Joystick and Mouse

It doesn't take much imagination for a driver to see himself, and his vehicle, as stage leaders in a cross-country rally when he's got a piece of A-road to himself on a Sunday afternoon. Gremlin know this too. A good rally game is just what the car-racing game enthusiasts want and the Sheffield bits 'n' bytes bunch are only to happy to oblige.

Enter Toyota Celica Rally. You're offered a choice of either race or practice on three different courses set in England, Norway and Mexico. On the latter races are beset by harsh sand-storms but your vehicle's wipers can deal with these conditions. Controls can be toggled and, the first time I played, I opted for joystick and practice - never let it be said that reviewers don't dive at the deep end. Just for comfort, I set off on English roads.

Skid Marks
My navigator was strapped into the sound chip, a collection of cued sampled imperatives like, "Hard left." He didn't mumble a single over-sampled syllable before we set off. Thankfully, he didn't snort when I stalled either. But he was not much better at calling than I was at driving. Once I found fifth - and I was loathe to change down from it, even if I was only doing forty - I wanted to be given more detailed road data than just simply "left" or "right".

The problem with the navigator, it turned out, was that he would call directions at the same point on the route every time, regardless of the speed at which we approached a corner. What he should have done was call later if we were travelling too slowly, or earlier if the car was travelling too quickly. As it happened he gave me the calls at such inconvenient times, given that I was almost useful as a bad backseat driver's ear-ache.

Next time, can we have a navigator who gets nervous with reckless drivers? It ought to be easy. Even though you can take a look at a route prior to the start of a real race and prime your navigator to issue specific commands at certain points, it's a feature which doesn't help much.

On the whole, the Celica itself could really do the business, as you would expect. It gave a good, early impression of its road-holding characteristics and accelerated at a satisfyingly manic pace, though changing down proved to be a problem which continually made me lose time.

Write off
I wrote-off one machine, parking it in the front window of someone's cottage following a quick experiment in aqua-planing. This highlighted the most annoying factor of the game, the overly harsh time-keeping. If you slide off the road, the engine loses revs, you balletically spin and the wheels lose traction. All these factors consume valuable driving seconds. Yet when you are placed back on the road the game docks another 20 seconds for going off course. Real rallying is about getting from A to B quickly not about keeping perfectly on the road.

Toyota Celica Rally definitely requires acquired skill if you're going to get the most enjoyment from it but you may well be put off before then. The game itself does not give a clear impression of speed, and it's necessary to adjust to this before you can really get to grips with the rally-sim potential.

The sound is the only feature that comes close to capturing the atmosphere of a mad four-wheel dash through the country. Mastering control of the Celica is not beyond the wildest dreams of the hamfisted, but I imagine there will be much chewing bottom lips during the frustrating process of getting to grips with it.

A really good rally game is still waiting to be made but if you can't wait any longer, this should keep you happy. It has some problems but it also has the potential to keep would-be boy racers safely off the streets and on their Amigas and although the crashes are annoying they are definitely safer.

Toyota Celica GT Rally logo

Gremlin entwickelt sich schon langsam zum Spezialisten für flotte Autos: Nach "Super Cars" und "Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge" schickt die englische Company nun schon die dritte Rennsimulation in Folge auf die Strecke.

Das Hauptmenü der Toyota-Rally enthält neben den gängigen Standardoptionen (Maus/Joystick, Automatik oder Schaltgetriebe) ein paar recht interessante Features: Zum Beispiel läßt sich hier die Sensibilität der Steuerung bestimmen. Im "High"-Modus genügt ein vorsichtiges Antippen des Joysticks, um den Wagen zum Ausscheren zu bringen, bei der Einstellung auf "Low" muß man schon wesentlich kräftiger hinlangen.

Wer seine Anpassungsfähigkeit einem echten Härtetest unterziehen will, sollte die Option "Reverse Steering" anwählen - dann funktioniert die Steuerung nämlich genau entgegengesetzt! Außerdem darf man noch einen Kopiloten kreieren. Das geht so: Man sucht sich einen Kurs aus, der dann (vergrößert und in Draufsicht) in einem kleinen Fenster vorbeiscrollt: an besonders markanten Punkten gibt man "Rechts"- oder "Links"-Kommandos ein. Kommt der Wagen während des Rennens bei diesen Stellen an, sagt der Kopilot in schönster Sprachausgabe "Turn right" bzw. "Turn left". Wem das alles zuviel Arbeit ist, der kann auch einen fixfertigen Computerbeifahrer in Anspruch nehmen, aber er sei gewarnt: Bei diesem Burschen stimmt oft das Timing nicht, und falls man dann zu früh abbiegt und in eine Scheune kracht, kostet das 20 Strafsekunden!

Hat man die Einstellerei mal hinter sich gebracht, geht es entweder zu einer kurzen Proberunde oder gleich zur Toyota-Weltmeisterschaftsrally. Dabei müssen insgesamt 30 Kurse absolviert werden, jeweils zehn in England, Mexico, und Finnland. Nur wer sich in einer Ausscheidung unter die 20 Besten gespielt hat, darf im nächsten Land wieder an den Start gehen.

Während man in seinem High Tech Reiskocher sitzt, kriegt man das Geschehen aus der Sicht des Fahrers zu sehen, ganz ähnlich wie beim Klassiker "Test Drive". Zwei behandschuhte Hände umklammern das Lenkrad, die Uhr läuft unerbittlich, draußen rasen kleine Häuschen in ausgefüllter Vektorgrafik vorbei - Es ist anfangs gar nicht so leicht, den Wagen auf der Straße zu halten, aber mit ein bißchen Übung sind zumindest die ersten fünf Kurse ohne weiteres zu packen. Es gibt Berge und Täler, Wüstenstürme, Eis, Schneematsch, Regen- und gottseidank auch einen Scheibenwischer!

Die grafische Darstellung ist durchaus überzeugend, abgesehen von einem kleinen Ruckeln geht es immer sauber und ordentlich flott durch die Landschaft; akustisch ist eine realistische Geräuschkulisse angesagt. Technisch ist also alles OK, ein Manko hat das Spiel aber doch: Es gibt keine gegnerischen Autos! Das ist zwar realitätsgerecht, weil die Teilnehmer einer "richtigen" Rally ja zeitlich versetzt starten - aber schöner wäre es mit ein bißchen Konkurrenz halt schon gewesen... (C. Borgmeier)

Toyota Celica GT Rally logo

We couldn't find anyone who's both a talented reviewer and a skilled driver, so instead here's Jonathan Davies. (He's neither one nor the other really.)

Seatbelts are funny old things, aren't they? For a start they're different in just about every car you climb into. And then there's that embarrassing moment when the occupants of both front seats attempt to plug in their belts at the same time. They can't, of course, so they both withdraw to allow the other person to go first. The other person won't have any of it, and insists on waiting till last. And so it goes on.

Luckily, in Gremlin's latest driving game all the hard work is done for you. You're sitting safely buckled into the driving seat of a Toyota and all ready to go rallying. Gremlin, you see, have been fortunate enough to pick up the exclusive licence to, erm, Toyotas, which means that's what you've been landed with. Bad news? Not at all. Although the word 'Toyota' is normally synonymous with images of a light blue S-reg Corolla, in reality you're presented with a gleaming new Celica GT4 which looks more like a space ship than a car (except that space ships don't usually have sixteen spot lights and cigarette adverts over them).

Hang on, though. Before you set off there are the usual options to run through (as well as joystick/mouse etc, you can also choose to practice individual courses if you don't fancy running through them all in sequence). And then there's your co-driver. Like it or not, you're supplied with the digitised equivalent of Auntie Vera who sits in the passenger seat giving you useful advice. Although this doesn't extend past shouting "left", "hard right" and so on as corners approach, it's actually quite handy (in fact, essential) to know what's coming up, especially when visibility's a bit dodgy.

But before any of that can happen, you'll have to work your way through a plan view of the course, marking on the points at which you'd like these warnings. This is actually quite a time-consuming business, so it's nice to know that there's an option to get the computer to do all this for you, although at the cost of a few seconds of time penalty.

Right, off you go then. You'll notice that the game kicks off in England, so there isn't much in the way of harsh weather conditions to worry about (just the odd spot of rain). Later on, however, you'll have everything from sand to snow to contend with (in Mexico and Norway), so just watch it.

Amiga reviewJonathan: I can't even begin to imagine what people see in driving fast, expensive cars at high speed around wet, muddy courses. Ordinary B-roads, even in broad daylight, are enough to give me the willies, and I tend to prefer as close to the motorway exit and walking the rest of the way. So while loading up this one I had more butterflies in my stomach than you could paint a fence with.

I kept my cool, though (what little I've got) and was pleased to find that Rally is actually quite an impressive chunk of software. From cosmetic touches like the windscreen wipers clearing snow and stuff off the screen to massively important things like the way the car handles, it's well put together without any rough edges. It doesn't look terribly impressive from a distance - the roadside objects are roughly hewn and don't actually appear on the screen until they're really close - but once you position yourself behind the joystick it gets a lot more appealing.

Once you've got the hand of slamming the car about on the road, success is a case of anticipating corners and taking them accordingly. As well as getting the steering right, you'll also need to keep an eye on your speed, as the Toyota gets staggeringly skiddy at times (especially in the snow). Luckily, coming off the track isn't too terminal unless you hit something, in which case the car explodes and 20 seconds go down the plughole.

So it's pretty good, then. Very much an arcade game, rather than being more of a simulationy sort of thing. Or is it? There's certainly lots of 'realism' in there. And it's oddly addictive. Hmm... (Any more thoughts?No? Okay guys, that's it. Ed.)