1989
Arcade: Vehicle Combat
£7.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

30,31
Jim Douglas
Chris Bourne

Right. Let's get my major gripe about this game out of the way first of all. The loading system is very stupid. Even in 128K mode you continually have to rewind the tape when you've been killed, even if you have progressed to no further levels which may have filled up the machine (through subsequent level-loads). There is apparently no good reason for this and it is very stupid and annoying, especially if you haven't got a tape counter, as I believe most Plus 2 owners don't.

Unfortunately, nothing happened while I was playing the game to make up for this steaming error, and the longer I searched for the Big Redeeming Feature (I think we'll use BRFs more in future) the more frustrated and disappointed I became. Still, I'll try to remain calm and explain my gripes.

The plot. Biochemical Holocaust. Not much food. Doctor A. Noid (zzzz) starts distributing addictive expensive food substitute and taking over the world. Nomadic drivers scavenge for food and petrol. Doc's empire spreads, zombiefying most of the populace. You must track him down and destroy him.

The game is a little confusing at the start. Initially you're shown a plan view of the current city areas. Driving your car is straightforward and the screen scrolls in four directions perfectly acceptably. The control options are a bit naff, though. It's a rotate left/right accelerate/decelerate affair. On the ST or Amiga you've got an option of N.E.S.W. directional control, but on the Spec you're stuck with it.

While the graphics are certainly anything but spectacular, they're smooth and quick and you can tell - largely - what everything is. Having said that, I couldn't remember which was the front of my car, though, and kept reversing into things. It's similar to Ocean's Miami vice in style. The bad guys will ram you and damage your car. You can either avoid or shoot them. All the time you're looking for food malls and other buildings; one of which contains a pass to The Athena, where the Doc is to be found.

Once you enter a mall, the screen changes as you leap from your car into a Gauntlet-style run-around and shoot the hundreds of bad guys affair. This is a bit more like it! The baddies squish into the floor when you plug them and there are lots of keys to find and rooms to explore. Even if there is no Arena pass to be found, it's worth exploring 'cos you could find some scraps of real food which you can trade for auto parts at... The Gas Station.

Even in post/holocaust society the gas station attendants are very polite, so long as you keep them happy with food, and you can fix up your car with a host of extra features. Well, four add-ons. Almost half those listed in the instructions aren't available on the Spectrum. These make you go faster, shoot further and stop quicker. You get the idea.

The final stage involves a demolition derby around the arena, taking out enemy cars as quick as you like.

Motor Massacre is a perfectly reasonable game idea, horribly let down by some truly ridiculous flaws. The eternal re-loading is farcical, the controls for the Street section irritating and there are other annoying inconsistencies. Try to climb down the stairs which produce the bad guys in the malls prompts the message "You have fallen to your death." Presumably people forgot how to do complicated things like negotiate staircases during the holocaust. Pah.

Label: Gremlin Graphics
Author: Sentient Software
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

Good concept, let down by atrocious errors.

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