Ocean Software Ltd
1986
Arcade: Race 'n' Chase
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

46
John Gilbert
Chris Bourne

Two red lights. Yellow, green...

Thrust down the firebutton and plunge the handle forward. And your car lunges forward at a speed more in keeping with a Formula One machine than a rally-prepared Escort embarking on a gritty sideways-drifting ride through one of the most nightmarish landscapes Ocean has yet created.

Don't hit the trees. They cause the most damage and you've got to reverse before going forward again. Mounds are bad too - they send you spinning wheel-over-roof.

It's a wild obstacle course weaving between the red and blue flags.

Your Demon-1 trubo has five gears which can be controlled in either manual or automatic. Manual gives better handling but you have to press the joystick button every time you decide you want to change gear.

The turbo's dashboard includes a speedometer, tachometer, engine temperature and fuel level dials. A timer, next to the speed indicator, tells you how much time you have left on the current stage and two arrows between the speedo and tacho show which direction you should take to run round the courses' blue and red flags.

A full screen display shows the length of the stage in miles, your maximum brake-effectiveness speed, and your skid hazard speed.

Keep to the right of the blue pennants and left of the red ones and you notch up bonuses. Stray outside their fluttering boundaries - even for a few seconds - and you'll lose your car and have to start the stage again. That's blatently unfair! In a real rally you might have time to get back on course.

On the second stage, for instance, you have to race through a tunnel of flags which bend out of perspective so you can't tell which flag is in front of another. It's probably not a problem the programmers deliberately introduced into the game but it hampers most attempts to get through that second stage. Rivers slow you down even more and if you hit a river at anything over 20mph you'll have to start again. Makes good sense, I s'pose, but even my red Ford Fiesta Popular Plus can take a shallow river at 40mph - the only danger is if it's too deep and the water comes in over the windows.

Fogbanks pose navigational problems which make the colour clashing flags look like a luxury. The banks in Nightmare Rally black out the road in front and you have to rely on the direction indicators on the dashboard to get you out of trouble. The arrow indicators point left and right. When one of them lights up red you turn the wheel in that direction.

After Stage Two you'll start running into water-logged fields, roads and tracks where your turbo skids if it's in anything but first or second gears. Ocean obviously hasn't consulted the Highway code. You deal with skids by gently applying the brakes and straightening the wheel. Sound's like a recipe for instant oblivion if tried in real life. Still, who said simulations were supposed to be accurate.

Or plausible. Try this - to score bonuses you drive over traffic cones, fly over trees or obelisks, and jump or somersault over a hill. The hill flip is the easiest stunt to perform but you'd better do it while you can as there aren't many mountains in this game.

Pi gates - like formula one finish gates - recharge your fuel but nothing's that simple in Nightmare Rally. Some of the gates will turbocharge your car while others will supercharge it. Your Demon-1 is a gas guzzler so the effect doesn't last long but it gives enough boost to jump over rivers and to get beyond the normal 120mph speed limit.

It's a tough game to complete and there's no way you can store intermediate stages and continue them later. You have to finish every stage and that'll take you hours. It's also impossible to play with anything other than a joystick. Stick control is best for swift changes in direction and you won't need to look from the road to the controls - a fatal mistake when driving any car.

Nightmare Rally is part arcade, part simulation.

Great fun for rally fans who won't be put off by the fantasy elements. Anyone who tries braking into a skid in a real Escort won't need to buy any more games after this one! End-over-ending a real car isn't a cool thing to do!

Label: Ocean
Author: Ian Morrison and Alan Laird
Price: £8.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: John Gilbert

****

Four-wheel fun with an accent on fantasy. Easy to score but difficult to progress past Stage 2.

4/5