Wednesday 20 May 2015

Pole Position (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1983

Pole Position was the first racing game to feature a real life track, in this case the famous Fuji Speedway.

It was also the first to include a qualifying lap which you must complete within 120 seconds to advance. If you manage to do so you'll then take part in the main race which challenges you to complete four laps within the allotted time. Successfully reaching the finish line will net you bonus points based on your qualifying position, cars passed, laps completed and seconds left on the clock. To accelerate you hold the 3 or 4 button on the controller; the 1 button is first gear while the 2 button is second gear. On top of the vehicles you need to avoid you'll also have to watch out for rocks that randomly appear as hitting them will cause your car to slow down. The gameplay is surprisingly fast and the Vectrex controller works brilliantly; every movement feels very responsive and not overly twitchy like some early racing games. The animation of your car turning a corner is great as you get to see the side of the vehicle move alongside the track. There's a few other neat touches such as the short flashing lines on the tires to show rotation and the snow-capped Mount Fuji in the background. There are also billboards that are visible off the track and the striking vector graphics make them look like gorgeous neon signs! The main downside to Pole Position is that it only includes one track meaning it's only really useful for high score chasers or someone who just wants a very quick gaming session. The single track is fun to play but I just wish there was a little more here; even just one more track (perhaps this one reversed!) would have added some much needed content to keep me enjoying the experience for longer.

Pole Position is fun for a short while but ultimately it leaves you wanting more. While it was a massive influence on the genre (and rightfully so) it unfortunately hasn't aged as well as some other racing games like Turbo (1982, Colecovision).

Random trivia: Another version of Pole Position for the Vectrex was planned that would have used the 3D Imager add-on; unfortunately it was cancelled.

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