Platform: Commodore 64
Controller: One-button Joystick.
Early 80s, videogame developers consider auto racing fans an important share of the market. Titles as the famous Monaco GP and Turbo have been really popular at arcade alleys.
Of course, the personal computers could not lack this kind of videogames. The company Epyx develop a videogame where important teammates of the pilots enter the scene. The Pit crew.
Besides of the classic control scheme where the videoplayer takes the role of the car pilot. Scheme proven and mastered at the time with titles like Pole Position, now it adds up an element of strategy.
First, the videoplayer must select the skill level. Then, choose from racing in one track, a mini-circuit (3 tracks chosen at random) or running the 6 tracks available (the order is random). Finally, the number of laps in the race which goes from 3 to 9.
The control is a classic one: move the joystick horizontally, the car moves either to left or right. Vertically it affects the speed, moving up accelerates (also with the fire button) and down slows the car.
There are two other factors the videoplayer must be aware of: The first one is the tires, which get damaged when hitting other cars, or driving near the limits of the track. When the tiresare red, it’s an indicator that very soon, the car would explode and the game is over.
The other one is the fuel, which diminishes as the race goes on. In short races (fewer than 6 laps) it’s not a problem, but can be a key factor in longer races to finish the race.
Fortunately, the videogame provides the videoplayer a way to deal with these situations. At a determinate point in the race, there is an exit to pits. The exit looks like an extra lane in the track. There the capable pit crew can change tires and refuel the car.
This is not automatic. With the joystick the videoplayer selects the crew member, which must be moved to the tire to be changed, now it automatically takes it, then the videoplayer must move the dude towards a stack of tires where magically is repaired and back to the car.
Other crewmate fills the fuel, using a similar mechanism. Be careful, because if overfills the tank, must be refueled from the start, and it takes valuable seconds. Finally, the crewmates must me moved from the front of the car, and only then, the crewmate with the flag can be selected and raises the flag to allow the car to return to the track.
It’s not advisable to exit to pits at every lap. A relatively careful driver can require changing tire every 4 laps, and a full tank can lasts up until 5.
The videogame provides six tracks to compete. Every one with particular situations.
This port is practically identical to the Commodore 64 version. And that includes the instruction manual. The graphic colors are slightly different between these two ports.
Particularly I did not perceive it being more or less difficult to play during the race.
But the pits, and probably it was due to the emulator used, I struggled a bit more managing the pit crew. Probably, in this port, the collision detection is less forgiving.
Finally it was relatively common than a cartridge for Commodore 64, was also available for Atari 8bit computers, more or less with the same features and difficulty. We already saw that in Pole Position.
It surprised me to find an adaptation of this videogame for this videogame console. Which didn’t have shining sport titles.
However, the graphics quality of the Colecovision games were really good at the time. Unless the other two versions of the game, here the rival cars appear in different colors. It also is easier to detect damage in the tires.
The control is good enough, and in my opinion, it’s a bit harder than the other two versions.
As a funny note, the console sold a special controller to be used in car racing videogames. You can see an image of that controller in this link.
The game was succesful enough to conider a sequel, which is more known.
I wasn’t able to play this title at the time, and keeping the line of the blog of first writing about the titles that start a saga, well, it has its entry.
At the time, it was considered a clon barely acceptable of Pole Position, but the strategy at how to efficently use the pits was seen with a lot of potential.
Playing alone, only has the motivation of getting less time at every race, but between many players, can be really exciting.
Sport Icon designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.
Photo of the Colecovision special control taken from the wiki page of the console.
Title image taken from Stadium64.