Platform: Commodore 64
Controller: Keyboard or one-button joystick.
During middle 80s, the videogames industry fluorished in personal computers, being Europe one of their main markets, and a really tight competence between different companies. One of the more successful ones was the Commodore 64, with presence in North America.
A traditional sport event in Europe during summer, which also is really popular is the cycling competition known as Tour de France, and making a videogame about it is not totally farfetched. So Activison, a company with experience developing games for this psersonal computer, tries its luck with a videogame for those willing to imitate the antics of Greg LeMond, Eddy Merckx or Pedro Delgado.
The videogame offers a highly recommended training mode, where the videoplayer can practice different stages (there are 16, remember this number) of the Tour. The controls are curious, and it can be a bit challenging to grasp at first, but when you understand it, really fits the game.
For the virtual cyclist to advance, the videoplayer has to move from left to right the joystick, and moving it up or down can change speeds, which I did not find useful mainly for not knowing much about cycling. OK, we have it covered how to advance, but how to turn? well, here enters the button of the joystick. While pressed and moving left or right, the virtual cyclist turns around asteroids-style to its left or right. Remember that the turns are according to the virtual cyclist perspective, if you forget that, it’s likely to unwillingly crash a lot.
And believe me, it can happen a lot at first, mainly because the collision detection can be a bit unforgiving, for not telling a bit strange. If the virtual cyclist fall, don’t worry, because it’s easy to get up pressing the button once, then change a bit the orientation of the virtual cyclist and continue to race. It’s interesting how, even when there is no one else at the route, the good vibes coming from the virtual attendance can be felt.
In competition mode, up to 6 videoplayers can compete taking turns. I was sort-a-kind disappointed by this, because I was hoping for a least two player direct competition, but after playing a few games, well it’s understable it was probably too hard to program that feature. In a similar way to the 1500m event of the previous videogame of the company, Decathlon, for which we have already wrote an entry, first is a player, finishes the stage, then the next one, up until all of the players registered to compete.
Every turn in a stage, can go from 3 to 5 minutes. And here comes a situation if there are many, like 5 or 6 players competing. Let’s suppose there are 6 players competing. Every videoplayer will probably wait 30 minutes for the attempt at the next stage. Remember the number of stages? 16. Well, multiply 16 to 30 minutes, and probably you’ll finish the whole turn in 1.5 hour per player.
Aside that detail, in every stage appears a record that the videoplayer must try to beat, so the challenge is finishing the stage with a time lower than the record. Of course, this mechanism is what defines who wins in a multi-player competition. After every player finishes a stage, the one with the lowest time overall will appear with a yellow jersey, which indicates who is leading the Tour in the next stage. Of course, if ther is only one player playing, well, it always wear the yellow jersey.
The graphics are quite good for the time, and how the scenary changes as the virtual cyclist advance is great and smooth. Oh la la, the music can transport you to France and changes according to the stage (although if you reach the finish lane of every stage, it changes to cheers from the Atari 2600 time), which can also vary in difficulty with curves, mountain attacks and downhill. The colours change, even when the stage is plain. The towns are great and there are always attendance to receive the cyclist.
When you play in competition mode, it’s possible to choose a country for which to compete for. The countries available at the game are:
I was quite surprised by this game. Definitely it has a lot of replay value trying to beat the record times for each stage.
When the learning curve to control the virtual cyclist, it’s a new challenge trying to finish the Tour. I would have liked to see games about the other Grand Tours: the Giro d’Italia, or the Vuelta a España.
A really good and surprising videogame, if you want to emulate, even in a virtual way, the amazing feats of Miguel Induráin. Finally, at some points in the game you can see a France map really well done, where you can see the stages.
Console Icon created by Ciro Alfredo Consentino for the program EmuLoader.