Tuesday 25 October 2016

Autocras (Amstrad CPC review)

Developer: Diabolic
Publisher: Zigurat Software
Released: 1991

Autocras is a bumper cars style game that was also released on the ZX Spectrum (1991).

The objective is to build up speed, hit your opponents' car hard enough so they eject, and then run them over as they attempt to enter another vehicle. The velocity of all vehicles on the track is displayed in the top-right and each time you're ejected you lose one of your six lives; however, being run over by another player while on-foot results in an instant Game Over. While the core concept is repetitive, there's some nice variety as you progress; for example, in some levels you need to target cars in a certain order (highlighted by an arrow over the necessary opponents' vehicle), while others task you with avoiding deadly electric generators around the outside of the track. The gameplay initially disappoints due to the choppy frame-rate, and the fact that your vehicle accelerates slowly. However, there's still lots of fun to be had and splatting an enemy as they desperately try to run away is always satisfying! Being able to see your opponents' speed adds a great deal of tension too, as it forces you into evade or stalk mode depending on how fast you're currently travelling in comparison. The developer did miss a trick though, as all 13 levels look the same apart from a palette swap on the floor; it's a shame more inventive tracks and environmental hazards weren't included to spice up the gameplay more. The most obvious thing missing from the game is a two-player death-match option; this would have been an absolute blast and the competitive nature of friends trying to run each other over holds a lot of wild promise! The graphical style is quite garish but I love the scaling effect when a driver is ejected and launches towards the screen!
Autocras is a fantastic concept that's fairly well executed and a modern day update with online play would be brilliant. While it does feel a bit half-baked (possibly due to the system's memory limitations), there's still just enough content here to keep you occupied for 30 minutes of mindless fun.
Random trivia: Diabolic also developed Formula 1 Simulator on the ZX Spectrum in 1991.

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