Saturday, 2 December 2017

Coaster Race (MSX)

It's always impressive to see games on old computers do things that those computers just weren't designed for, like parallax scrolling, or, in this case, a pretty good bit of faux-sprite scaling, in an Outrun-esque racing game. It's even got hills and, true to its roller coaster theming, loops! Plus it plays pretty well, too.

So, on the title screen, you're presented with three modes: 1P SKILL 1 and 2, and 2P GAME. The 1P options are the single player game, but SKILL 2 starts you on the third track instead of the first. The 2P GAME option is even stranger, as rather than being a head to head race, or even a takey-turny time trail affair, it's a strange arrangement in which one player drives on a track using the joystick, while the other makes corners and loops appear by pressing keys on the keyboard. I couldn't figure out what the point of this mode was, as it didn't seem to have any obvious win conditions for either player.

The game itself is pretty standard for an arcade-style racing game of the mid-80s: you're racing against the clock to drive four laps each around five tracks. Hitting other cars results in your car exploding and a few seconds being wasted as you reappear on the track, and you get ten points for each car passed and a hundred for every second left on the clock at the end of each lap. The first thing that struck me when I started playing was how cute this game is: your car is a slightly futuristic, toyetic vehicle, with a big turbine on the back that spins faster as your speed increases. The tracks are cute too since they're all meant to be roller coasters, the backgrounds all look like theme parks. There's a lot of reused elements in the background, so I assume that all the tracks are part of the same park, and you can see differrent bits of it from each one.

The loops and steep hills on the tracks work really well too, which is impressive: you lose speed and accellerate more slowly when going uphill, and then go vastly faster going down the other side. Loops work pretty much the same, but with the added spectacle of the background scrolling vertically, coming back upside down, then coming back again the right way up. I haven't described it very well, but it is a really effective effect for an 8-bit game from 1986. Another nice little touch is that there's also differen times of day! Track one takes place during the day, two and three at sunset, and the final two tracks take place in the dead of night.

Coaster Race is a fun little game with a ton of charm, and I recommend you go and play it. There's even a little surprise waiting at the end of track five to look forward to too!