Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Great American Cross-Country Race (C64, 1985)

It's been a while! But not without good reason, I tell ya. Such is the dramatic impact of adult life that you find a new job (and a shitty new job at that), and it deprives you of valuable time for your hobbies. Count on Lemon 64's excellent gaming competition to get your fix of vintage computer-gaming then. And following what seemed like an endless barrage of shoot-em-ups, last month we played this interesting racing game from 1985.

When it came to publishers and racers, Epyx was all the rage back then, what with Pitstop 2 and Super Cycle instantly being declared as classics. And they still are considered classics today. I don't quite agree with that, but whatever. Let's move on to this cute little game from Activision. As the title says, what you got to do here is race your way from one American state to another. There's several races to choose from, and each race lets you follow the route you choose. Say, d' you go from Washington to Idaho? Or from Washington to Oregon? It's up to you, as long as you make it to your final destination.

What makes this one stand out of the crowd is that for a 1985 racing-game, it's got a lot of depth. Apart from the choose-your-own-route thing, Activision added lots of interesting features. You get to refill as you run out of gas. Speed too much and the cops are chasing you, costing you valuable time. Then again each route has it's own distinct features, from desert landscapes to city panoramas. Drive too long and night falls, making for a dramatic effect. Get the revs too high, and boom, there goes your engine. There's variable weather conditions etc. It's all quite charming actually.

Sadly, arguably the most interesting part, the racing itself, doesn't quite live to the promise. It seems as if you drive a Ferrari, while everybody else drives a Skoda, seeing as your speed is virtually unmatched. Also, and funnily enough, everybody else is driving at exactly the same speed. True, that's how it was in general with arcade-racers back then, but so what? I still don't like it.

The Great American Cross-Country Race is an interesting game, for about a week. Cause that's how long it'll take you to get the hang of it and complete all races. And after you've seen all routes, there's not much else to see. Historically speaking, this is an important game and an obvious influence on Outrun. But when it comes down to it, the racing itself just isn't that good.


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