Last week, we reviewed a futuristic sports game and today we’re going to review a futuristic racing game. Yup, you can’t tell me I don’t have a lot of variety in my reviews! Anyway, today’s subject is Space Racer.
Space Racer is a futuristic racing game released by Loriciels in 1988 for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, Thomson MO, Thomson TO and ZX Spectrum.
But as always, let’s look at the cover first:
Now, this is an interesting cover. It shows a hoverbike smashing through a sort of window with a race track full of skulls behind it. Both the race track and the hoverbike seem nice, but my only problem is that it seems the pilot is smashing into limbo because of all the empty black space. Was he supposed to smash the computer screen? If so, why is it circular? Or was all the blackness supposed to be outer space? If so, where are the stars? Well, at least the title looks nice.
And it’s time to boot this scooter:
The first thing you’ll notice is the fantastic title screen, which blows the cover art out of the water, not only because of the artwork but also because of the awesome digital music theme playing out of a PC speaker! This blew my mind when I was a kid. But then I realized how much the game sucks! The title theme is actually a mix of several music samples, arranged together. I have to confess that’s actually a very clever way to come up with a music theme, if successful.
Then a menu appears where you can choose between 3 racing tracks. And apart from the backgrounds, the tracks don’t appear to have any difference between them whatsoever, as you’ll find out. Then we go to the race screen and the 1st red flag appears: the title is very misleading because none of the races occurs IN SPACE! All of them occur in what appears to be alien planets. At least the backgrounds look nice.
We then see our hoverbike in the middle, and on top of the screen; the number of the level, the score, an energy bar that doubles as the timer and something on the upper right which I have no idea of what it is or its function.
The game is arcade-type racing where you don’t actually race against other racers but against the clock. Like I said before, the energy bar on the top is the clock, if it’s empty before finishing the race, then it’s game over (although you have an opportunity to replenish part of it once).
You automatically get points the more you stay on the race and I think you win the race when your score reaches a certain number. If you win a race, you move on to the next track, keeping your score, until the game over.
On the tracks, you’ll encounter several obstacles: traps, posts and other racers. Because of the race track (the white line) being very small, it’s very hard not to bump against one of the poles every 5 minutes. With enough time, any person could master the hoverbike and the tracks, if it wasn’t for the other racers. To bypass another racer, you have some options: the easiest one would be to blast them, but you end up using some of your energy. You can also put yourself alongside one and push him to a post or simply go over them. And there seems to be an endless supply of the buggers.
Now with the technical aspects: the CGA graphics have a very little colour and apart from the aforementioned title screen and the backgrounds, the rest of the graphics and sprites aren’t really that good. The animation, including the parallax scrolling, isn’t also anything to write home about.
However, the digitized music and sound effects in a PC speaker were a surprising and welcome addition, although the engine sound gets grating after some time. But the controls are a bit stiff, in both the keyboard and the joystick (although the latter is still the better option).
In conclusion, Space Racer is an outdated title for a late 80s game and apart from the title screen, the music and the tracks’ backgrounds, the game isn’t really that good. It’s very repetitive and after a while, it becomes rather monotonous. If it had better controls and more variation in general, it would be a better game. As it is, I can’t really recommend it, not even for a quick playthrough. If you want to try it though, you can go here to play it in your own browser.
The Amiga and the Atari ST versions appear to have better graphics and sound but I haven’t played them, so I can’t really compare. Also, there’s a version of the game released in the US by Broderbund Software that has a championship mode and some story with it, but I haven’t played it.
So, what is your favourite sci-fi/futuristic game? Tell me in the comment section below or on our social media. Next time, let’s leave the future and travel someplace else. Until then, keep on racing and playing.