First of all from Psion comes Chequered Flag - a game that will find you lapping away on some of the world's most famous motor racing circuits - from the relative safety of your own living room. It also features a choice of three cars, and for those who feel a little uneasy about gear changing, an automatic has been included. Intrepid participants will have to watch the dashboard instruments carefully to make sure they're not going too fast, running out of fuel, overheating, or about to encounter any of the other hazards involved in grand prix racing. As well as watching out for mechanical failure you'll need to keep an eye out for oil, water and glass, any one of which is likely to lure you into untimely disaster. But the most impressive feature of Chequered Flag is the view from the car as you hurtle like a maniac around the track.
So here we are. The official First-Ever Driving Game. So what's it like then? Well, it's one of those where you get the view from the driver's seat as you race round the track (with a choice of things like 'Micro Drive' and 'Psion Park' as well as genuine ones like Silverstone) in your McFaster Special (or Psion Pegasus or Ferrati Turbo). There are obstacles to avoid, like oil, glass and water, but not much in the way of competition from other cars. In fact there aren't any other cars at all. It's just you out there, and it gets damned lonely at times. All you can do is race against the clock, trying to beat your lap record. On the plus side, the car handles extremely well considering its vintage, and the road is one of the best around (although there are no hills). There are gears to fiddle about with if you choose the second or third car, and there's a great crash effect too. (Even better than the one in Flight Simulation.)
A good first attempt then, but it won't hold your attention for long.
Hunched behind the wheel of your Formula 1 racing car the endless ribbon of tarmac unreels towards you at an incredible rate - well, quite fast. This is an impressive simulation of Atari's Pole Position, although for some reason the trees appeared to be red. Perhaps it is autumn.
Rocks, warning arrows, lakes and other landmarks zoom convincingly towards you over the horizon. The engine strains as you go up hills. Instruments require careful monitoring to achieve maximum performance and avoid skidding or overheating. You also get a choice of cars. The Feretti Turbo, the Psion Pegasus and the McFaster Special Each has its own characteristics - the McFaster has an automatic gearbox, so is ideal for beginners; the Feretti is turbocharged and develops 640 bhp between 8,000 and 10,000 revs per minute.
The dashboard display has fuel and temperature gauges, a gear selection indicator, a rev counter, a lap counter and a full analogue speedometer. Real-life hazards such as skidding on oil patches and coming off the road are well-simulated. Running over glass on the road causes a tyre to burst. You wobble violently and the car slows till you can reach the pits.
Ten circuits have been programmed in: anywhere from Psion Park to Saturn Sands, or more terrestrial venues like Silverstone or Monza. There is even a circuit whimsically entitled Micro Drive.
An impressive array of keys are used to get the fine control required, at least eight for actual driving, plus a pause and an abort key. You can turn fast left or slow left for example by pressing different keys, which is great for your co-ordination; however, this is a game which cries out for a joystick option. Nevertheless, this is one of the most effective usages yet of the Spectrum graphics facility.
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