Saturday 13 August 2016

Days of Thunder (NES review)

Developer: Beam Software
Publisher: Mindscape
Released: 1990

Days of Thunder is a NASCAR racing game that's loosely based on the 1990 film of the same name.

You play as Cole Trickle, a rookie driver attempting to win the eight-race Series Cup. The objective is to rack up points in each race by beating 15 other drivers; extra points are awarded for placing first in a lap, or for leading the most laps throughout a race. The polygon, 3D graphics look impressive and while races only take place in a small window it's a good trade-off for the smooth frame-rate. There's also a few interesting ideas here, especially the Slipstreaming where you gain more speed by tailing a car in front of you. Unfortunately, the gameplay isn't up to snuff and the difficulty is extreme from the outset. Turning corners and judging your spatial distance in relation to the barriers is tough, mainly because your vehicle is positioned far away from your viewpoint. This is problematic, as clipping the side of the track on just a handful of occasions results in you needing to pit for repairs; while this is realistic I found the unforgiving gameplay to be off-putting. Even trying to pit is a pain as you must be at a certain speed while positioning yourself perfectly in the assigned area; failing to meet these exact requirements sees you briefly entering the pit before being kicked back onto the track. This is infuriating when you're low on fuel or your car is damaged, as you'll need to complete another lap while trying to avoid complete immobilisation. If you do reach the pits you control each member of your team and position them to repair the necessary parts of your car. It's fiddly cycling between them but once you get the hang of it it's a decent diversion and I love that you can multitask to speed up the process.
Days of Thunder is an interesting attempt at a NASCAR style simulation but the action is too unforgiving and demands extreme precision at all times. Unless you have some serious patience it's likely to 'drive' you up the wall due to its infuriating gameplay that's devoid of any real fun.
Random trivia: The game was also released on the Nintendo Game Boy in 1992.

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