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Virgin Games Ltd
Arcade: Race 'n' Chase
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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David Wilson
Chris Bourne

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.

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


Screenshot Text

Don't worry, Spec-chums! The little trucks aren't really as difficult to see in the actual game as they look here - once they get moving everything becomes clear.

If you look very, very (very) carefully indeed you'll see that these aren't all the same screenshots at all...

...but lots of different ones - it's just that I can't be bothered to do any more tracks (You're fired! Ed). Oops!