Tuesday 22 September 2015

Hyperchase Auto Race (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1982

Hyperchase Auto Race is one of only two driving games on the Vectrex; the other being Pole Position (1983).

You play the role of a Formula One driver and the singular track on offer takes you through city streets, tunnels and country roads. Two modes are available, the first being Game 1 which tasks you with completing the course in the fastest possible time while avoiding other drivers. Each crash wastes precious seconds but there's no limit to the amount of times you can do so. The controls take a bit of getting used to as each button is used to operate your vehicle; Button 1 shifts up, 2 shifts down, 3 brakes and 4 accelerates. They're unbelievably twitchy and just lightly tapping the analog stick makes your car veer aggressively to one side. The road is also very narrow leaving you with little room to manoeuvre which results in frequent and unavoidable crashes. As you race the viewpoint shifts from side-to-side and while it looks cool it makes it harder to judge the distance between your vehicle and the other drivers. The action moves along at lightning speed and while the scaling effect is good cars enter the screen so quickly that it's difficult to react to them when you're in fourth gear. I also noticed some ghosting and the collision detection can be spotty at times, especially when the camera angle changes. The graphics are impressive though with lots of different scenery including trees, cliffs and tunnels. The second mode is Game 2 and the goal is to accumulate as many points as possible. Points are awarded for speed and distance travelled but you're only allowed five crashes. Extra lives are awarded for each 15,000 points you earn. It's really not much different to the previous mode except there's more frustration as you'll likely lose all of your lives in seconds and never make it to the finish line!

Hyperchase Auto Race gets many things right but it forgets the most important aspect which is gameplay! It's certainly an impressive tech demo but the controls are so sensitive that it's impossible to play to any skilled degree; my advice is to stick to Pole Position for your Vectrex racing fix.

Random trivia: This is one of only two original games to use the analog capabilities of the Vectrex controller; the other is Star Hawk (1982).

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