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Arcade: Race 'n' Chase
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

Other Links

Linda Barker
Chris Bourne

Right then, Days Of Thunder, eh? Er, well, it's a film. Top Gun with stock cars apparently (though no one in the YS office has actually seen it), all about a bloke who's an ace racer, has an accident and falls in love with his nursie. (Or something.) I can't tell you very much more about it actually. In fact, so many people claim never to have seen it that I'm beginning to doubt if it ever really existed at all, so it's straight onto the computer game version I'm afraid. (Sorry and all that.)

Days Of Thunder (the game) is actually a massive shoot-'em-up with lots of mutant Robin Reliants and strange three-headed balloon monsters. Or alright, it isn't really - its more your (you'll never guess) standard driving game. Yep, another one to add to The YS Definitive Guide To Driving Games (courtesy of YS November 1990) and (by consulting said guide) I can tell you that this isn't one of the "looking-at-it-from-on-top-ones" at all but instead falls squarely into the "looking-at-it-from-behind" category. It's also, I'm afraid to say, one of your "not-exactly-going-to-set-the-world-alight" ones (which means it's a fairly accurate representation of the movie, I guess, ho ho)

Actually, perhaps that was a bit unfair. This isn't an awful game by any means, it's just that it pales a bit in comparison with the super-fast Lotus (for instance) which is also reviewed this issue. There's certainly some neat stuff in here - take the animated opening sequence, with Cole Trickle (the character Tom Cruise played in the film) pulling up on his Harley outside the stadium. Very jolly. Or the opening shots of each stadium - they're rather nice too.

Anyway, skip past these bits and you're straight into a driving sequence. There's your little blue car on the track (already moving - these races having rolling starts presumably) and your first job is to try and qualify for the first race of the season. Though the track is a vector graphics thingie, the cars are actually little sprites wobbling about in the middle - it's an unusual combination. though we saw something similar in Snow Strike recently.

At first things can be a bit disconcerting when the vectors flick round sharply on corners, though get used to it and it starts to give a fairly accurate representation of a fast banked circuit. (It takes some time though.) What also takes some time is qualifying - absolutely ages in fact, though at least it gives you a chance to find the best line around the corners, get used to changing gears and so on. Pretty soon though (hurrah!) you're into a real race, which is much more exciting. This is where it gets fast (sort of), furious (sort of) and fun (sort of) - unfortunately, Days Of Thunder never really manages to give the impression of severe speed that marks the best driving games. That's not to say it can't be quite fun though - when you've got a big field of cars all jostling together and some pretty sharp corners to cope with it all comes much more alive.

It's not all straight driving skills though. Every lap during a race there's a 'Pits ahead' message that flashes up on screen, meaning that at this point you can choose to pull over to the left, change your tyres (a little car diagram at the bottom of the screen shows you which ones have been getting most wear), refuel or whatever. Fail to keep everything ship-shape and bristol fashion and you're much more likely to crash, at which point the viewpoint switches to an external view of your motor spinning hopelessly along the track.

What else is there? Well, there are a fair few neat little touches dotted about the place which help add to the atmosphere quite a bit. For instance, if you keep crashing you'll receive an irate telegram from your manager, one Harry Hogge, telling you that he won't stand for any more of this nonsense - he can't afford to have all his cars smashed to bits. (And he's got a point.) For another instance, if you bump into someone else a few times your car will burst into flames (though it'll keep going for a bit). It's all stuff that adds life to the game.

So, what's the conclusion? Well, I have to admit I didn't go a bundle on this game at first, though after a while it started to grow on me quite a bit. Some things could have been better done - I'd have liked to be able to tell my car apart from the field of identical blue sprites, for instance - and I'm doubtful about how many people will really get all that excited about American stock car racing in the first place (where there are just lots of boring steep banked corners and very few interesting twisty bits at all).

Still, within its limitations Days Of Thunder has been pretty well done - it's just that lots of other driving games have been done a lot better before.

For those who've seen the film only, I'm afraid (if, indeed, there are any).

Averageish driving game about a fairly boring sort of racing. Not massively thrill-packed, it has to be said.


Screenshot Text

Oh no! I've trashed my car! (Harry Hogge won't be pleased.)

The external view you get when you do something wrong and spin out. (Wheeeee!)

And here's the normal view you get of the race. You're the big car at top right there, and your opponents are all the little ones. (They're little because they're in front, curses!)