Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
For some time there's been a gap in the market for a really realistic, exciting, challenging motorbike racing game. Well THIS ISN'T IT! Ha!
In the greatest example of misleading packaging I've seen for some time, the Spectrum version of Accolade's dismal Cycles - International Grand Prix Racing is illustrated with IBM-PC screenshots, which make it look great. Not only are the Spectrum graphics relatively naff, most of the elements of realism seem to be absent too.
It could have been good. You get five difficulty levels, practice rounds, international championships, competitors' tables, displays of lap time, laps remaining, route maps showing your position and that of your competitors, and a choice of machines. But in the fine details, things start to go skew-whiff. For a start, your three road-burning big thrusty machines - 125, 250 and 500cc - have different performance specs, but all look exactly the same! And once you get on the practice track, get this; the handlebars of your powerful road-eating racer don't deviate from the horizontal, so you've no idea how far you're steering and you tend to veer all over the road.
To make things worse, there's a broad black band across the bottom of the screen which cuts into the leading edge of the black roadway, so you can't make out where the edge of the road is. But it doesn't much matter, because even if you drive off the road you can't crash - you just get lost on the grass. On the practice rounds you don't have any opponents to crash into, but once you get onto the international tournament, racing at fifteen track including LeMans, Salzburg, Donnington and so on, you get nine riders to compete against. And they look awful; like big lumpy dispatch riders rather than sleek racers. You can't crash into them either - they just melt out of your way. The animation is fairly smooth and background details reasonable, but that's little consolation.
On lower levels, your gears shift automatically, so all you have to do is control speed and steering. On higher levels, you have to learn to use your gears to get the best performance out of the bike without burning out your engine. This is just about the only entertaining aspect of an otherwise mishandled game. If you accept the dubious claim that Cycles is "The only motorcycle game with a first-person perspective" - and SURELY that isn't true - then that's just about its only virtue.
As Barry Sheene would say - ooh, me pins.
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