Monday 27 March 2017

The Dukes of Hazzard (Colecovision review)

Developer: Coleco
Publisher: Coleco
Released: 1984

The Dukes of Hazzard is a 3D driving game that requires the Expansion Module #2 steering wheel.

Your mission is to drive the General Lee car through Hazzard County and pass-by Jeremiah Stinge to catch him; however, you also need to keep an eye on the rearview mirror, as you can also be captured by Boss Hogg if you're not fast enough! The game uses a controller docked into the module as a gearshift (four gears in a H configuration) and the keypad buttons act as a handbrake to turn 90o. Waiting for the 'Get Ready' screen to disappear and then quickly slamming the analog stick into first gear to start your car is exhilarating, and by the time you've reached fourth the sense of speed is incredible. Considering the game's age and the rather primitive hardware it's seriously impressive how well the rearview mirror works; the graphics also do a great job of simulating a 3D environment, especially when you're hitting speed bumps, launching off ramps and spinning your car around using the handbrake. The SFX clearly let you know when to change gear, as well as conveying when you're airbourne. However, the game has one unfortunate problem which puts a huge dampener on the entire experience... the controls. Trying to drive in a straight line is nigh-on impossible, and right from the get-go you'll be swerving across both lanes while wrestling with your vehicle. The lanes feel extremely narrow (almost as if the road is the same size as your car!) and it's a complete crapshoot as to whether you ram into Stinge's bumper, hit the side of the road, or breeze past for a successful capture. This makes it difficult to drive with any consistency, and managing to pass a level is usually 70% luck, 30% skill.
The Dukes of Hazzard is a game that will make you sigh, as there's massive potential here that's so close to being realised. When you do get on a roll the game is an absolute rush, but frustratingly most of your time will be spent battling the controls and wondering what on earth it was that you supposedly just hit!
Random trivia: One of the designers was Jennell Jaquays who worked on the Colecovision versions of Donkey Kong (1982), Omega Race (1983) and WarGames (1984). 

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