Saturday 15 January 2011

Crazy Cars (DOS)

Look, I've found some tat. It's CRAZY CARS for DOS, circa 1987. Published by Titus, it's the first game in a trilogy, and it's a completely unremarkable and pointless title. Perfect for this blog then.

The pseudo-3D racing genre is a dying breed. Of course, there are many good reasons for this, notably processors that can handle three-dimensional graphics, but still, you're quite happy to save the Panda and those things are useless, so why not save this inferior type of third-person racer?

Of course, if you were looking for a good way to defend the genre you wouldn't use a game like Crazy Cars. Despite the fact the series managed to gain a couple more titles before it was abandoned, Crazy Cars is nothing to write home about. It's surprising it got any sequels at all.

I must admit though, I do find CGA DOS games strangely interesting. It's amazing what you can do with four colours, especially in this case when two of those colours are bright green and bright yellow, so before I point out the numerous problems with Crazy Cars, I think it's right to say that considering the restrictions, this game doesn't look all that bad.

Of course, it still doesn't look good, and there's very few reasons to ever want to buy this version for the then overpriced IBM PC. Crazy Cars was ported to every other computer under the sun, including the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, MSX and ZX Spectrum. By my reckoning, that makes the DOS port the fifth best version on the market, though I suppose it might traverse its way up the scale if tape loading times become an issue. I'm not prepared to find out if they are.

Crazy Cars has you drive a Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC down a road across North America, attempting to get as far as possible before your time runs out. There are occasional jumps thanks to uneven road surfaces, and plenty of other cars to avoid. That's... pretty much all there is to this game. There's no hard-coded speed limit, so it'll run stupidly fast in DOSBox unless you turn the clock cycles down, and it can be played solely through the arrow keys... with one hand.

I don't think there are gears, I don't think there are any special moves. It's just a bog standard "avoid other cars" scenario, except it's very difficult to avoid other cars because they hog so much of the road. Hitting one from behind will reduce your speed significantly (I should probably point out at this time that this isn't how the laws of physics work), letting all the cars you've previously overtaken rush ahead of you again. Having said that, it's impossible to come off the track, so at least something works in your favour.

Apparently the trick is to not go full speed over jumps, as you travel slower through the air. All sounds are produced via the built-in PC Speaker, and the results are horrible, so as you can imagine, there's not much to keep you playing once you inevitably lose. Also, though the graphics look nice from still screenshots, the scaling of the cars isn't too pretty, and has them often dot about all over the road as they come close to you.

On the plus side, it has a wonderful Game Over screen. But that's probably the only redeeming quality of this title... and you can get the same fix by reading this review.

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