Saturday 12 November 2011

Indy 500

A film by George Lucas. With even more aliens and fridges.

Or could it be something worse? Indeed it can - it's Indy 500 for the! If you feel the need for more abysmal racing experiences in your life, this is the one to turn to. Provided of course you're turning left.

There will no doubt be many kids in the US who received a as a Christmas present back in 1997. Obviously, it will have ruined your day, but with so little else on the market at the time, chances are Indy 500 would have been taking part in the cruelty too. Indy 500 was a launch title, and served to demonstrate the power of Tiger's handheld. Worried yet?

I've sat through hundreds, if not thousands of games in my time, many of which could be considered unplayable. But in every case there's always something positive to say, even if in the grand scheme of things the point is fairly negligible. With Indy 500, I'm lost for words - it could be a contender for the worst video game to be put on a cartridge and sold to the general public.

There are many Indy 500s in the world, including a real-life event where drivers race their fast cars around in circles, but Indy 500 on the is a Tiger Electronics-bred exclusive. Or at least, this is what is assumed. Many signs seem to point that it was once based on an arcade game with the same name by Sega, but the version severs all ties with the Japanese powerhouse and seems to have its own thing going on.

Indy 500 is a third-person driving game with a pseudo-3D look, and at first glance seems to be a step above what the Game Boy was offering at the time. Watered down footage from this game was used extensively to promote the system, so I had reasonably high hopes for this one. I never expected it to be good, but I expected it to be... "reasonable". Why else would you market it so heavily?

The basic aims of Indy 500 are to drive forward and occasionally turn left, avoiding other racers and obstacles while attempting to finish in first place. If you crash, you take damage, and when severely damaged you can go into the magic pit lane (of which you can't physically see) and revive yourself, losing a few positions in the race as you do so. There are several cars available to you though I'm not sure if there's any significant differences between them. The box also states some are hidden, though I'll be damned if I'm the one who finds them.

Tiger Electronics decided to go for a realistic approach - just like the real Indy 500 event there are many, many laps (including one for qualifying) and quite a lot of time to complete them all in. This isn't like a good racing game, which might cap the number of laps at say, three, before moving you on to another stage - this one plays through tens if not hundreds of laps around the same oval track. Why yes, it is incredibly repetitive, thanks for asking.

But it certainly puts up a challenge! Keeping yourself awake and stopping the computer from overtaking you is a demanding task, not least because you can't see anything. Much of the scenery is pixelated and murky, and the choppy animations mean a short line of sight which leads to dangers. Even though it's has an incredibly simple circuit, you will likely crash into the track walls, which will lead to you being overtaken by the many computer opponents in the process. You're unlikely to make that time up, so the key is to simply drive a perfect race for however long the game wants you to.

There's little sense of speed, and rather than opt for nice music, Tiger Electronics fill your ears with horrible engine noises instead. Indy 500 boasts about is its inclusion of "real speech" - digitised voices which add nothing meaningful to the experience. Now, I don't know about you, but I think if an announcer's distorted voice is one of your best features, it's a clear sign a game's got some serious problems.

In short, this is certainly the worst game I've covered so far, and that's without taking into account the problems the real hardware might create. Avoid at all costs and seek the 1977 Atari 2600 version instead.

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