Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart's Super Off Road

by Jason Page, John Cumming, Steve Turner, David John Rowe, Words and Pictures Ltd
Virgin Games Ltd
Crash Issue 82, Nov 1990   page(s) 43

Virgin Games

Super Sprint style games have been around for a long while, and the newest addition is certainly a corker. Super Off Road in the arcade is a three player no holds barred game where you race around eight barren and pot holed tracks trying to beat your mates to the finish line. On the computer the aim is the same, but there can only be two human players (the other two are computer controlled).

When you've set the game controls it's straight into the first race, with all participants, both human and computer, beginning the season on equal par (ie with no dosh). The idea is to complete each race in as high a position as possible and thus earn loadsadosh.

Each race consists of four laps, and if jostling with three rival drivers isn't bad enough the state of the tracks is terrible. Huge mounds of earth, pot holes and watery obstacles stand in the way, but you do have some help. You start the game with 25 nitros: press the fire button and hold onto your crash helmet - and keep your eyes peeled because extras can be collected from the track. At the end of each race the prize money is distributed and you're sent to the spare parts shop to improve your 4x4.

It's then onto the next race to win the fame and glory that you deserve, plus a lot of money on the way.

All the coin-op's addictive gameplay has certainly been transferred to the Speccy conversion, and as always the best way to play is against a friend. Graphically the game is great with small but nicely detailed and fast moving car sprites. The backgrounds are also detailed and certainly cause headaches, especially when an opponent is on your tail and you end up at the bottom of a water filled hole! Full marks to programming team Graftgold for producing such a frustratingly playable game.

This is a racing game with a difference. You view proceedings from high up in the air, and the animation used on all the cars is out of this world! As each car goes over bumps and ramps on the track it tilts up and down and jumps very realistically. Each track is packed full of seemingly impossible obstacles for you to get around. Grills, water pits, domes in the road, they're all there to try and stop you finishing first. Racing against another three computer players gives the game a feeling of excitement as you attempt to get over the line first. Super Off Road Racer is a great game, full of road wrecking fun.
NICK [88%]

Presentation: 88%
Graphics: 90%
Sound: 80%
Playability: 86%
Addictivity: 88%
Overall: 90%

Summary: Wild race-'em-up with more action than a bag full o' ferrets!

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 59, Nov 1990   page(s) 58,59

Virgin Games
£9.99 cass/£14.99 disk
Reviewer: David Wilson

Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart's Super Off-Road Racer (phew) is without doubt this month's winner of the longest, most-difficult-to-say name award. (Congratulations.) It's also, like another game reviewed not a million miles from here (see below), basically a modern update of an ancient arcade classic (Supersprint in this case, not Spy Hunter). But that's where the similarity ends, 'cos whereas The Spy Who Loved Me seems only to have earned a cautious thumbs-up, Ironman is an absolute stonker!

Those wise Spec-chums who bought last month's YS should know quite a lot about the game by now anyway. After all, we gave away a rather spanking little playable demo on the cover cassette, as well as splashing the thing all over the front of the magazine. For the others among you (where were you?) what happens is that you, and a pal if you've got one, compete in a series of races around a set of twisty, turny off-road circuits, jumping over ridges, avoiding mud holes and trying not to spin off at the corners (if you can possibly help it).

The tracks are all rather small (small enough to fit into a single screen, so there's no call for any complicated scrolling or anything) meaning the trucks are tiny little things whizzing about the place. Tiny, but very well animated - there are apparently over 100 different little truck sprites which the computer keeps switching between to keep everything looking as it should!

And, erm, that's about it really. I could go on about the shop sequence which appears at the end of each race (allowing you to upgrade your truck with new shock absorbers, nitrous oxide injection and so on), or the eight different circuits you play through at random, or the credit system that can count as extra goes or upgrades for your vehicle but they're just icing on the cake - it's the thrills 'n'spits (lots of spills!) of the actual game that makes ironman so much fun.

And if you think it's fun on your own, just wait until you get your chum involved! This is one of those games that two-player mode was invented for (unfortunately they don't seem to have been able to fit in the three-player option from the arcades). The bouncy, up-and-down nature of the circuits and number of hazards (mud holes, pools, you name it) make for a sufficienty crazy anything-can-happen sort of a race on their own - you just can't help hitting other cars and bouncing about all over the place. But get another guy involved and the temptation to keep ramming him and/or running him off the road is irresistible. You can even (hee hee) decide to zoom off the wrong way round the track (!), ploughing head-first into the racers who are taking it seriously half-way round!

Of course, it's not just the simple, accessible game design that makes Ironman so good - the Codies, for instance, have done hundreds of similar things, albeit with a simpler perspective and none of the interesting bouncy up-and-down bits. It's the skill with which it's been programmed. Graftgold (last responsible for the Speccy Rainbow Islands) are the blokes behind it, and they've managed to incorporate lots of colour, very little clash, and get everything jumping around incredibly quickly. And it all loads in one go as well.

Faults? There aren't any really. I think the fact that there aren't actually all that many circuits could cut down on life expectancy a bit (though you go round each one in both directions, making it seem like there are more). but apart from that it achieves what it sets out to do more or less perfectly. In case you hadn't guessed already, I love Ironman. For my money this is one of the most fun games of the year, and the best Supersprint-type game I've ever played (much better than the original was on our rubber-keyed chum, that's for sure). The business, and no mistake.

Life Expectancy: 75%
Instant Appeal: 92%
Graphics: 87%
Addictiveness: 93%
Overall: 91%

Summary: Updated Supersprint, perfectly programmed and bags of fun. Highly recommended.

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 77, May 1992   page(s) 58


And now, the moment a number of you have been waiting for. It's remarkable, it's resplendent, it's Replay!

£3.99 cassette
081 960 2255
Reviewer: Stuart Campbell

Off-road racing, eh? What a dumb idea. Not only do you mess up some perfectly nice fields by driving massive juggernauts all over them at dangerously high speeds, but you also get your truck all manky into the bargain. What's wrong with good old ON-road racing, that's what I want to know.

Anyway, stupid conceptual niggles aside, Super Off-Road is actually a completely spiffy little game. For any of you out there who've spent the last year asleep under a wildebeest, it's a racing game in the Super Sprint style. You view the action from overhead and drive around a selection of eight bumpy, hilly tracks littered with craters and big puddles against three computer-controlled opponents (or two computer-controlled opponents and one human competitor), one of which is always 'Ironman' Ivan himself. Beat Ivan in the race and you get to move onto the next track, as well as winning pots of dosh which you can spend on improving your truck to make it even more of a mad turbo nutter-death machine. Finish behind him and it's all over.

Luckily, this is something you won't have to worry about too much, because the game is really easy to beat. Perhaps a bit too easy, in fact, as even the most average player will almost certainly complete all eight tracks by their second or third game. (And this despite the fact that you don't just get them all in a row, you have to do some of the earlier ones several times in both directions before you get to the eighth.)

This puts a bit of a question mark over it lasting appeal. Even if you don't come first in a race, you'll probably still qualify cos 'Ironman' is so pathetic that more often than not he finishes last. Even if you give him a lap-and-a-half start. But then again, maybe I'm being a bit too picky here. If you're battling against a chum it doesn't really matter about seeing the different tracks. If you're not, the game is such a lot of fun to play that you probably won't mind too much that it never seems to end. But just for the hell of it, let's finish on another whinge. The tiny graphics, extreme speed and largely monochrome nature of things mean that it's sometimes hard to tell which truck you're actually controlling. Although ti's not as hard a you might think, so, er, forget I mentioned it. Just remember this instead: Super Off-Road is the best Super Sprint-type game ever seen on the Speccy, and you'd have to be several candy shrimps short of a pic'n'mix not to rush out and buy it at once. What are you waiting for?

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Overall: 89%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 105, Nov 1990   page(s) 22,23

Leap into the cockpit, turn over the engine, hit the gas and squeeze the pedal to the metal. Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart's Super Off Road has you racing up and down dale in Virgin's conversion of the American coin op of the same name.

And it's actually really rather good. You (and a friend if you have one) race around eight different tracks in a four wheel drive car adding nitro, new suspension and all sorts of add-on gizmo's as you progress through the tracks. The game is simple and straightforward. You must compete against 3 other cars over eight tracks. Seen from above, the two human controlled cars are shown with either a white or black pennant flapping from the aerial and you simply steer them around the track, trying to avoid axle-breaking rough terrain.

You start of each season with no money, and three lives and race for cash prizes in each race. $100,000 for first place, $90,000 for second and so on to fourth position but beware! Each time a computer controlled car comes in ahead, you loose one of your three lives. At the end of which you can spend your winnings at the awards screen to improve tyres, suspension, top speed, acceleration or top up your nitro.

As you race, money bags appear on the track. First car over it collects the cash. Similarly with the tubes of Nitro which you use immediately with a quick jab on the fire button, sending your car blasting forward for a wee bit.

Overall, Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart's Super Off Road Racer is brilliant. It's highly playable, addictive and has superb gameplay. The game shows what can packed into a Spectrum and is a must for all Spectrum owners as an example of Z80 programing at its best.

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Graphics: 86%
Sound: 85%
Playability: 94%
Lastability: 87%
Overall: 92%

Summary: The best overhead racing game about and a must for all racing fans.

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 121, Mar 1992   page(s) 57

Label: Tronix
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter

Hurrah! Yes, hurrah for Ivan Stewart and his Off Road Racer, otherwise we wouldn't have a decent budget race game to review this month.

This re-release comes to the newly launched Tronix label and it's one of the best racing games ever. Play is one or two players and is viewed in a 3D overhead perspective and you take one racer. The other cars are computer controlled and boy can they race! You however must try to beat them, avoid damaging your car on the rough terrain and pick up the odd can of nitro to use when needed for a quick blast, whilst picking up any money bags that appear in order to buy tyres, faster engines, higher top speeds and new shock absorbers.

There are several different tracks to choose from and the action gets racier and pacier as you progress from track to track as you make your way through the season.

I can't place higher accolade on Off Road. It's a seriously excellent game, brilliantly programed and more playable than a one note xylophone.

I'd not seen this before so imagine my surprise to find a budget game that'll knock spots off any of the full price games on release at the moment. Off Road Racer just leaves all opposition standing!

Overall: 94%

Summary: This is Spectrum racing games at their ultimate best. Off Road has good graphics, blistering gameplay and on 128K, excellent sound and music.

Award: Sinclair User Best Budget

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment) Issue 41, Feb 1991   page(s) 54,55

Virgin Mastertronics's 'Ironman' or Domark's Badlands - Which is King of the Road?

Who is Ivan Stewart? I've never heard of him! (Then read the box, you ignorant devil!) But if this game is an accurate representation of the sort of antics he gets up to, he certainly deserves the epithet "Ironman". These are not your usual high-speed gentlemen-of-the-road events - each is a gladiatorial struggle for survival on a rugged earth track. The trucks jostle and wrestle for first place whilst plunging into gravel pits, climbing steep slopes and ploughing through water-filled craters.

Your aim (and your friends') is to finish ahead of all the computer-controlled cars in a set of courses - fail and you lose one of your two credits. After each race you're awarded prize money, the amount depending on where you finished. This can be used to buy various upgrades which, for once, have a noticeable effect on your car's performance.

Control is simple: rotate left/right and accelerate. Each car is equipped with a limited number of Nitros, which can be kicked in at any time to give you that extra spurt of speed to take you into the lead or if things are going badly, just back into the running. It's hugely satisfying using one at the last minute to blast you past your mate's car and over the finishing line!

Reviewer: David Upchurch

Amiga, £24.99, Out Now
Atari ST, £24.99, Out Now
IBM PC, £24.99, Out Now
C64, £10.99cs/£14.99dk, Out Now
Amstrad, CPC £10.99cs/£14.99dk, Out Now
Spectrum, £10.99cs/£14.99dk, Out Now

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 4/5
1 hour: 5/5
1 day: 5/5
1 week: 5/5
1 month: 3/5
1 year: 2.8/5

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Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 7/10
IQ Factor: 3/10
Fun Factor: 9/10
Ace Rating: 830/1000

Summary: All are excellently presented (the instruction booklet is excellent and very informative), with the 16-bit versions having all the attract and between-game screens of Leland's original coin-op. It couldn't be easier to pick up and play, but the tough opponents and courses pose a long lasting challenge. The game sensibly introduces new tracks gradually so the urge to see what new ones are on offer isn't extinguished too soon. Add the excellent multiplayer option and you've got a smashing game you'll still be loading in a year's time.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 107, Oct 1990   page(s) 46

Virgin Games
Spectrum/C64/Amstrad £9.99, Amiga/ST £19.99, PC £24.99

Three... Two... One.... And they're off! Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's truck has the pole position, but on the Super Off Road Racer tracks absolutely anything can happen! The 4x4 vehicles are certainly being put through their paces on these dirt tracks, and the stakes are high. For the winner there's fame, glory and a juicy cash prize. For the loser things aren't quite so inviting - it's back to the drawing board in Skid Mark Alley, and worst of all, the loss of a credit.

As the Off Road season progresses, the opposition get tougher and tougher to beat. To keep up with their speeding trucks. you're going to have to become a regular customer at the Speed Shop, buying new tyres, engines and nitro boosters.

But it takes skill as well as equipment to complete these unforgiving Off Road courses. Mud holes, pools and even the terrain itself are all there to slow you down, and only the fittest drivers will survive!

There's plenty of thrills and far too many spills on the Off Road circuit. Witness the mid-air collision between two trucks as they both nitro-boost across the mud pool crossroads! Thrill as all four vehicles try to squeeze through a gap intended for one! Laugh as one complete pillock starts driving around the track in the wrong direction! It's excitement all the way in this kind of race, and it could be you in that truck facing the mighty "Ironman" himself!

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Overall: 94%

Summary: Loads of colour on all the tracks with the minimum of attribute clash makes Spectrum Off Road Racer a bit of a looker. Like all the 8 bit versions, everything has been crammed into a single load, and even though only two players can participate, this still ranks as a great Speccy release.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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