It's that Sport Aid time of the year again, and this time the boys at Codemasters have taken it upon themselves to produce an original charity game, rather than the compilation effort that the industry usually manages to cough up.
The question that you all want answered is: is it easy to be charitable about The Race Against Time? It certainly has good credentials. Programming is by the Oliver Twins, and production by the Darlings. The packaging is nice, and gives you plenty of details about the worldwide marathon race planned for September 11th, where to buy your T-shirts, and how the money raised will help 218 countries to fight poverty, hunger and disease. The music for the game is based on Peter Gabriel's Games Without Frontiers, and the main character represents champion marathon runner Omar Khalifa.
So far you're probably thinking that I haven't managed to talk about the actual game. That's because there isn't that much of it. Your task is to visit 6 continents, searching for various objects which will allow you to raise a flag and light a torch on each. There are around 100 scenes, some of which feature famous landmarks such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Mount Rushmore and the Kremlin. Others, though, feature nothing at all. Not a sausage. Well, a couple of trees or a rock. The only functions these scenes serve is to waste your time as the clock ticks closer to zero.
You can pick up hourglasses which give you extra time, or objects such as stools, sandbags and coats, each of which serves a specific purpose. The stool, for instance, helps you to climb over obstacles, the coat, I think, stops your torch getting wet in waterfalls.
Some of the scenes feature little arrows, and by standing on them and pulling the joystick down you move 'into' the scene. Eventually you find the right objects, light the flame, raise the flag, and dash off to the airport to head for another continent (by moving the plane symbol around the world map).
So there isn't a tremendous amount to the gameplay. Now I could forgive that if the backgrounds and animation were great. But they aren't. The running figure (whose footsteps are strangely out of time with his running) is unconvincing, and some of the backgrounds are dreadful; the figures on Mount Rushmore look more like the members of Queen, and the Leaning Tower looks like a multi-storey car park.
Since it's all for charity, I suppose you really ought to force yourself. But bear in mind that it costs a fiver (not £1.99) and if you're buying solely on the principle that you're going to get a stonking good game, you're going to be a bit disappointed. However, if you're feeling charitable, go for it. What's a fiver between Friends of the Earth?
Author: The Oliver Twins
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Fairly uninteresting charity race game. Buy if you're feeling nice.