At last, the long-awaited Spectrum version of one of the most famous arcade originals ever - Atari's 'Pole Position'. There were rumours earlier in the year that Atarisoft had released the game. It was seen at the Earls Court Computer Fair in September and almost immediately withdrawn after unfavourable comment from critics present.
The track picture is recognisably that of the arcade original, with the alternating red and white stripes on the road side, striped centre line, moving hills in the background and a long perspective which has the road moving from side to side depending on the car's position on it. Road signs also echo the original and provide a danger to those who go off the road.
You're up against lots of other racers on the road. The game commences from the start grid with a countdown. First you must qualify - 90 seconds in which you must achieve a lap time of better than 73 seconds to get onto the real race. If you hit another car or a hazard you explode and this loses you precious time. No matter how many times you crash you receive another car until the qualifying time has run out. Control includes left and right, brake and change of gears between hi and low. Scoring is by lap speed and 50 points per car passed.
Control keys: O/P left/right, 0 to brake, A to change gear, or use the cursor keys
Joystick: Kempston, AGF, Protek, Sinclair 2
Keyboard play: very good, attribute problems kept to a minimum
Use of colour: good 3D effect, detailed and large
Graphics: bit clicky, nothing special, nice tune
Sound: progressive difficulty
Skill levels: N/A
Special features: above average, but pricey.
'It seems ironical that the original game that has inspired so many versions on the Spectrum should be the last to appear (at least I expect it's the last - there may be more arrive ~yet)! It also means that Atarisoft have a big job on their hands because a few of the versions have been excellent (Full Throttle for instance). Pole Position has managed to look very like the arcade original, which is good, but it doesn't play anything like as well. Perhaps this isn't surprising, but I thought the control of the car, overall, was a bit rough. The inlay has strategy tips on how to use gears, brakes and the inside lane wherever possible, but this isn't reflected in what you see on the screen. The road, for instance, scrolls past at the same speed, whatever speed your car is doing, which isn't very realistic; and I thought the car handling was a bit sluggish, whereas in the original it was very skittish, and therefore more exciting. The graphics are of a high standard, especially your vehicle, and generally Pole Position is enjoyable.'
'At last, it's arrived! Since spring I've been waiting to see this game when it was first advertised - nearly eleven months later, I'm actually playing it. Was it worth it, you might say? Well, it 's the first racing game I've seen with multicoloured graphics that work and decent sized computer controlled cars to race against. 3D prospective is pretty good, I like the way the colours of the race track alternate from red to white to give an impression of movement. I'd hardly call this game 'Pole Position though, because it is only a race track and doesn't go through the various scenarios as arcade 'Pole Position ' does. I can 't see the point of having a speedometer in this game because no matter how high your speed is, the ground progresses at the same speed that you started at the only difference being that you slide further on corners. I don 't really think it was worth the eleven month wait, as in that time several other racing games have appeared that are equally good, if not better, and besides, it is totally over-priced.'
'The 3D effect in Pole Position is quite pleasing with the multicoloured mountains in the background creating a sense of space, and the road disappears satisfactorily. But the 3D animation of the other cars is a little bit jerky - signposts seem to hang around rather a long while before finally flashing past. On the other hand they are all very detailed, which makes it difficult to animate fully. Car control is not over-responsive - or perhaps it would be more fair to say that the trade doesn't seem to respond as well as your car movement! It also seems a shame that it takes so long to accelerate - surely this vehicle would never qualify on a real track? More could have been made of the use of gears for speed and control than has been. Overall, quite a good race track dame, but spoiled by the exceptionally high price tag - still, at least it isn't the £15 we originally feared it would be.'
Ross: "Atari puts you in the driver's seat! Pass cars like they're standing still, but watch for those curves! One mistake and you could go up in flames!" So says Atarisoft on the cassette sleeve of Pole Position. All the features of the arcade original are in the Spectrum version, from the qualifying lap to the vicious left-hand bend that appears just when you think you're doing so well. All the joysticks are supported and the controls are nice and simple... left, right, brake and change gear.
To qualify for the race you must first complete a lap within 73 seconds - and, once you've made the grade you get allocated a grid position.
Immediately the starting light turns to green, the other cars go speeding off - leaving you to do the best you can. The car accelerates automatically, leaving you to change into high gear at about 100mph. You soon start catching up with the other cars, though, and you'll get a satisfied feeling as you coast past them. Each time you complete a lap you're given a time bonus and the end of the race comes when you run out of time or complete three laps; you'll see a little chequered flag at the finish.
For my book this is the best Atarisoft game yet. It's also the best racing game I've seen on the Spectrum and it's eminently playable. 4/5 HIT
Dave: With the possible exception of Full Throttle, this has got to be the best racing game yet... but it's far too expensive! 3/5 HIT
Roger: OK, I'm smiling! This is a great game... better than any race game yet. Buy it! 5/5 HIT
Rick: Stone me, if it's not another (if not the original) grand prix simulation game.
As the holder of no less than 9 provisional licences, I lapped up the idea. A golden oldie that pre-dates history lessons and is slightly more raunchy. Arcaders will either groan with the familiarity of it all, or welcome it as an old friend into the swelling cohorts of Spectrum games.
So what d'ya do then? Quite simply whizz your mighty McLaren around the mountain encircled track within the alloted qualifying time. Just feel the horse power throb in the grip of your joystick... the faster you qualify, the higher up the grid you climb. Then for the race proper. Avoid banging your comrades, (in any position, let alone Pole), or pranging the placards as you try to set a new lap record or get a high score.
This game has good, if not world championship graphics. Added to joystick responses this Pole's Position could be first past the flag, compared to say Chequered Flag. No matter how many times you burst into flames, your car keeps going. Whatever your position on racing games try the Pole one. 8/10
Ross: Hang on a minute, it may be 1 o'clock in the morning but I can still spot that this is a re-release of Atarisoft's Pole Position. The roadside signs may've been changed, but the game's the same. Might be cheaper to find the old version. 7/10
Dougie: I must admit that the first time I saw this game was on the Commie 64, but the Spectrum version is just as good, and addictive too. Lots of action here, and it's fast...! 8/10
68% Issue 12
MIKE: I suppose it deserves credit for being the original and all that, but the 68% rating was given three years ago, and I'm afraid Pole Position has aged quite seriously since then. One of the poorer racing games.
DOMINIC: I waited ages for this conversion to come on the Spectrum - and they did a reasonable job. The graphics may not be as good as in Out Run, for instance, but the feel of the game is definitely Pole Position. It's dropped tremendously in price, and is unchallenged in its class (at the moment!)
OH NO! Not another racing car game! Despite Pole Position being a direct descendent of the famous arcade game it is still hard not to be cynical.
The game begins with a qualifying lap to determine which one of the eight grid positions you take for the race. Score, time left, speed, gears and laps completed, are displayed throughout the trial and race.
You have a view of the race from the rear of your car and control the steering, gears and brakes. What about speed? That increases at a set pace only as long as you remain on the track.
Racing through the straights and chicanes, you must qualify within a set time. Your car will be replaced following each crash until your time runs out.
It always seems that you reach a respectable speed - 200 mph plus - when approaching a bend. Attempting to brake and pass a car usually sends you careering off the track towards a lurking roadsign. Crash! Ugh! Fun?
Having qualified you now compete in the main race. The same obstacles appear, although there are more of them.
Points are scored in both events for remaining on the track and passing rival cars. Upon successful completion of the race you are awarded extended play. To make the game more challenging, your time limit drops each time you finish a race, your car speeds up and more cars and roadsigns appear.
Generally the graphics are good; your car does look like a formula racing machine. Flickering red and white lines mark the edge of the circuit and give a realistic illusion of movement to the game. There again, that also makes for uncomfortable viewing.
What lets the graphics down is the untidy sequence following a crash. On impact, the car explodes and is slowly replaced by a new one. Vital seconds are lost.
Be warned. If you like to play games where 10 fingers are never enough you won't enjoy this one. So steer clear.
Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston, Cursor
This is an accurate computer version of the arcade hit of the same name, the graphics have been faithfully reproduced and, as far as is possible, the sounds are the same.
Pole Position is a race driving game. I say game rather than simulation as the only controls are left and right plus forward and back for Hi/Low gear change and brakes.
The first section has you steering your car, which you see as a rear view at the bottom of the screen, left and right as the track scrolls towards you, there are other cars which appear and have to be avoided as you over take them.
Provided that you get a lap speed of 73mph or better, you then go on to the actual race itself and do the same again in the main race.
Hitting another car or one of the billboards causes your car to explode. If this happens you get a new car and start from this position, the only real penalty is the time you lose.
It is hard to say why, but I wasn't too excited by this program. All the arcade features are there, but going round and round the track didn't seem too challenging - OK, I had my share of crashes, but I couldn't maintain a lasting interest.
If you are a fan of the arcade version then this will be a must for you, I suspect most Spectrum gamers will find there is not enough variation in the gameplay to keep them engrossed for long.
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