|Source // Lemon Amiga|
I simply could not picture Stunt Car Racer until I saw a screenshot of it and said "ah, yes, that one, the early 3D one or something. Wasn't it awfully slow?"
I don't know the answer to that question because I've not seen much of the game, I certainly haven't played it, and don't have any hope at all of correctly telling you which port of the game I saw. Maybe I've seen a few, I just don't know.
Stunt Car Racer, to me, is that almost throw away game in documentaries about modern racing video games, but if it's on the 1001 list then it must be there for a reason, so it's about time I found out why.
Luck wasn't with me in playing the better versions of Stunt Car Racer, but the ZX Spectrum port is available to play online, and it allowed me to get an idea of how the game plays. Slowly. But surprisingly quickly. But slowly.
You take part in a number of races across a number of tracks over four divisions of increasingly difficult competition. All the tracks are designed to show off the physics of your car, as you are introduced to jumping and boosting in the first track, or falling off the side of the elevated track and crashing if you're that kind of driver.
The more you throw your car about, the more damage you'll risk taking, represented with a crack forming across the top of the screen that will eventually result in a bad day at the track for you.
The problem I found playing this port, though, is that I wasn't bothered by that damage bar. I was hurtling through the tracks in an effort to speed the game up. If I took a hard landing from a jump, I didn't care - so long as my car still moved, I was going to gun it around the rollercoaster circuits in an effort to finish the race in less than a day.
But that was the ZX Spectrum port. For what it was trying to achieve, it was damn good, but it was nowhere near the Atari ST or Amiga versions (that I've not been able to play). Not only were those machines capable of more detailed - and useful - graphics, the speeds at which the game is able to run is almost phenomenal next to the other ports - night and day differences, which is why it's irksome to not be able to see what those versions are like.
Trying to forget about the graphics and speed of each version, though, we see that Stunt Car Racer has persistent damage that carries over from race to race, should you have done enough serious damage to your car in previous races. The more reckless you are in your driving, the easier you'll end up in a wrecked car, and the sooner you'll wreck it again in the next race.
Those wrecks come from not accounting for the in-game physics, which aren't perfect by any means but do give you an impression of your car bouncing around the track and crash landing from each and every jump you insist on turbo boosting over.
I always had this impression of 'oh, how quaint' when seeing footage of Stunt Car Racer. "They tried a 3D racing game on an Amiga, how quaint". How I wish to take those statements back...
For what it offers, when it offered it to players, Stunt Car Racer is great. It's obviously better on some platforms than others, but if you managed to get it at all, you'd get a 3D racer with a damage model and driving physics (or crashing physics) with enough tracks and difficulty range to keep you busy.
It might be negatively affected by how well it ran, sure, especially when compared to modern titles, but then we really shouldn't compare it to modern titles. Modern titles owe Stunt Car Racer a lap of honour, and so should you.
Just take care when boosting around corners.
If you wanted to lug your Amiga and monitor around to a mates house, you could hook two computers up for some multiplayer mayhem. Sounds like a bit of effort, but those are the hoops gamers went through back in the day.
Stunt Car Racer, developed by MicroStyle, first released in 1989.
Version played: ZX Spectrum, 1989, via emulation.
Versions watched: Multiple, 1989 (LemonTubeAmiga, Theshadowsnose)