Rather coincidentally, pretty much the last thing I wrote for The One (apart from the obituary!) was a Work In Progress for this little fella and jolly nice it looked too. Of course, the main problem was that we never actually saw the thing running, and as is always the way with racing games, success is down to the handling and playability. Well, if first impressions are anything to go by, this product could be in trouble.
As the game loads, the initial presentation screens are very nice indeed, accompanied by some excellent music, even as you select your car and driver, the graphics look very good. However (and here it comes) the moment you get to the track, even though things are still looking pretty, the lights go green, the cars start to move ... and it all goes horribly wrong. I will explain why in a moment, but first I feel it only fair to give you a bit of info.
Wheelspin certainly can't be criticised for options; with ten tracks on offer and eight characters to choose from. The drivers have been gathered from around the world: each one carrying a differing set of statistics and attributes. You might want to go for the sharp reflexes of the American, but then again you might fancy the excellent top speed of the Frenchman. The choice (as they say) is yours. The cars available also vary, with traditional racing game buggies along with off-road vehicles and sports cars. There's a World Car in there too (a sort of VW Beetle affair) but you won't be able to access that until you've completed the 'leagues' involving the first three cars mentioned.
The tracks themselves also vary dramatically, with icy conditions, forests, canyons, and all your regular favourites included. And, as if that wasn't enough, there are a variety of different game types to chose from, allowing the cars to be influenced by, among other things, lunar gravity for extra hilarious japes. There are also settings to make the cars |ump when hit, or voluntarily bounce when nitros are fired, allowing overhead overtaking manoeuvres.
Not in that colour
Another regular feature we've come to expect from racing games such as this, is the opportunity to earn dosh and upgrade your car as you work your way through the tournaments. Before each race a simple screen appears allowing you to change between engine, tyre, and suspension types (if you've got the budget obviously). Here you can also invest in additional nitro charges, which can then be accessed during the game by pushing forwards. And that sentence brings me (although you can tell I've been avoiding it) to talk about the actual gameplay. Oh dear.
Yes, everything's going great, and then you get your first chance to lest out the handling of the car, and it's time to turn the machine off. So what exactly is the problem? Well, imagine that you had a tiny car - albeit a very pretty hi res one - and then you stuck a pin through the very centre of the roof and into the floor underneath. Now turn left, but rather than turning with any sort of realism, it just spins around on the pin. Hmm, feels pretty good doesn't it. Well... no actually it really doesn't. And it certainty doesn't live up to expectations after all that lovely presentation.
Now I've had a chat with the top bloke at Black Legend, and according to him, this is deliberate, because the car is MEANT to start off best part of uncontrollable as "It's lots of fun skidding around". The idea being that your car is so uncontrollable that you want to keep playing until you can buy a car with better handling. Eh? Why not |ust show off the fact that you have a decent game and draw the player in with promise of a good time, rather than tease him with promises and hope that he can be bothered to play long enough to be rewarded. To be honest, if I wasn't reviewing this, I certainly wouldn't have lasted that long.
Just to ease off the 'whinge pedal' for a moment, it's not all bad news in Wheelspin, and once you do get the hang of the control method, there is some fun to be had. The main problem is that, while the likes of Skidmarks and Micro Machines exist, there's no reason to recommend Wheelspin. The CPU intelligence is good, and though the cars do tend to travel round in a gang, they monitor your skill level. If you're obviously crap, they'll slow down slightly to make it more of a fair challenge, and if you're hot stuff they'll put their collective cyber-foot down. The split-screen is a nice feature, but again, we've seen it done before - and we've seen it done better (with the tracks quite often too hard to follow in this mode).
Sorry chaps, but until you can produce a game that challenges the already well-established Skidmarks et al, don't expect roaringly high scores.
An ordinary arcade racing game, similar to Super Cars II but with much more simple gameplay. It uses the AGA chipset but the graphics is not so detailed like it should be in 1995. Anyway it's not a bad game, you can give it a try.
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