John Anderson has packed a pickel barrel-and-a-half's worth of variety, action and cute graphic quirks in Rally Speedway.
Rally is a virtual role model for games of this type, with the most extensive graphics and menu selection ever seen in this format. Also, unlike the first-player contests, two gamers can race head-to-head.
This, alas, brings with it a built-in drawback. Since the screen must scroll in all directions at a pace with the lead car, unless the two racers stay close together, the computer can't track both autos. So, if one auto skids off the road or falls too far behind, the program assigns a penalty. Fair, of course, but this also stops the action dead. The situation can't be avoided but it does make the average gamer yearn even harder for a perfect world.
Visuals are presented with studied realism, including every type of topography (with the exception of a bridge over troubled waters) imaginable in such a contest. The cars putt along smoothly, steering in true fashion (that is, the player must always imagine himself as sitting inside the car). Moving the joystick controller to the left will not produce a compass-west maneuver but simply a left turn, determined by the car's present direction and position. The action button serves as the all-important brake, transforming high-speed turns from impossible to negotiable with skill.
There's even a twisted-but-amusing visual stroke that will find most players laughing in spite of themselves. After a spill into a tree, house or whatever, the car cracks up and the driver leaps from the wreckage and quickly douses any burgeoning flames licking at his jumpsuit. After particularly nasty mishaps, however, the poor pilot comes out of the gnarled vehicle aflame! Discovering his situation, the driver quickly goes into a tuck-and-roll along the ground, finally arising to beat out any remaining fires!
Where Rally Speedway truly rises above the competition and sets new standards is in the incredible menu selection. Talk about life in the fast lane - Rally also offers an optional set of existences in the slow and medium lanes as well!
After determining whether one or two players will compete, road conditions are preset, opting for dry, wet or icy. Top speeds can come at 40, 60, 80 or even a realistic 160 mph, with selection for slow, normal and fast acceleration.
An especially neat feature is the "Real Life" vs. the "Only in a Computer" option. Real life is just that - hit a tree and your car gets bitter and twisted, and so, in all likelihood, does your driver. Try living life in a computer, however, and you'll be amazed at how deftly trees, houses and other natural and manmade obstacles can be navigated. There is a good reason for this: in this version, the car becomes a phantom once it departs the track, zipping right through wood and metal as if they were air!
Players can also construct their own track, load it onto disk and save it - or simply amuse themselves by obliterating portions of the gamefield. This should keep Rally Speedway on the road long past the point where other versions would crack up from memorized formats.
Once this lavish menu is selected, players can reset their best lap time before moving onto the next screen, where the computer offers two choices: "Fer Sure" (everything is kosher and the player is ready to gun the motor) or opt for the "Emily Littela" mode, better known as "Never Mind", meaning a last second revision is requested.
So there it is. Overall, Rally Speedway not only passes inspection, but should break some land speed records in terms of player enjoyment as well.