Auto racing videogames have been early entries en almost every videogame catalog, mainly for the related adrenaline to that sport, and the eternal motivation to try to beat your rivals into reach the goal line as fast as possible.
Activision, company with already one title in its library in this videogame genre, broads a bit the concept, now instead of getting the lesser time possible, the main objective of the game is to surpass a minimum amount of cars in a certain time lapse.
We can discuss if auto racing can be considered a sport, but generally these videogames appeared in the same section of other videogame sports titles, so we include entries about them in this blog.
Platform: Atari 2600
The game has the traditional view of the track, from behind the car to drive. However, while most of the auto racing videogames at the time focused on finish the track in the least time possible, in this case you have to pass a certain amount of rivals. This maintains the feeling of finishing the track at first place.
The control schema is really simple: with the joystick button you speed up the car, while moving the joystick horizontally moves the car thru the track, and moving it down speeds down. This is extremely useful, because in a lot of situations, it’s better to go a bit slowly than crash.
One key feautre of the videogame is that the scenery keeps changing. At first is a green track, with the cars appearing at the same size than yours. Then it changes to a bright and white track, which actually gives the sensation of snow, and then your car becomes less responsive. Remember when mentioned that sometimes it’s better to go slowly? this is one of these situations. Then scenary changes again, and gives a new feature at the time: the feeling of day and night.
Then a bit later, you can only see the rear lights of your rivals and it’s easier to pass your rivals, but that does not last long. Because the fog arrives and then your visibility is reduced to basically the half, so it does not give a lot of time to react. Then the fog rises and the light comes up, until coming again to the green track of the start. All these stages is what the videogame calls one day.
As mentioned, the main objective is passing rival cars, while in the bottom part of the screen is indicated how many cars to pass remain. When you crash, the car stops at all, and all the others cars begin to pass you, so the amount of cars to pass increases. At first you have to pass 200 cars, but after that, you must pass 300. Quantity that it’s the same for the rest of the game. If you are not able to pass the quota of cars, the game is over.
But aside from that, how it’s pumped up the difficulty? Well, as you advance in days, more cars will pass you when a crash. At the first day there can be 5 at most, but at later days can be as minimum as 15. So, the probability of reaching the quota diminishes. This makes the videogame a really good challenge, specially when you leave the foggy area, an alarm starts to sound that you have not reached the quota. Then you have to emulate Niki Lauda just to finish the day.
During the 80s, it was common that many companies distributed unlicensed copies of Atari 2600 videogames sometimes sporting different titles, or changing slightly the company logo (or even name). This videogame was distributed with games like Auto Fantástico or Rally.
Some companies went to the extent of slightly changing the graphics, or even the gameplay, to not appear so pirates. In the case of this videogame, the copy with these “features” was called Super Ferrari. This game did not have all the stages, also did not indicate when you are reaching the finish of the day in case you’re far from filling the quota of cars surpassed. Sigh, a very limited copy.
Finally, the company Activision developed a sort-a-kind of sequel, called The Great America Cross-Country Race, for the most popular personal computers at the time: Commodore 64, Apple II y the Atari 8 bit line. As expected, it had better graphics, animations and sound, keeping the same playability.
This videogame, just like many of the earlier Activision ones, had a patch which the videoplayer can afford when meeting certain conditions in the game.
In this particular videogame, was to reach the fifth day. I made it, and this screen is the evidence of that milestone. Actually it’s really easy to spot in the videoplayer did it, because alongside the counter of remaining cars appears a trophy instead of a car.
As mentioned in previous entries, auto racing videogames are not my speciality. This one is really easy to learn the controls, but mastering the different techniques to control the different scenarios is really hard.
In my hometown, this videogame was really popular when it was included in an Atari 2600 package alongside other 4 Activision titles. One of these titles already had its own entry in the blog. Everybody complained about the snow stage, although I wonder if somebody hated that stage more than yours trully.
Console Icon taken from Retroarch.
Title and patch images taken from AtariMania.