Name: Street Rod
Format: MS-DOS PC
Genre: Racing Sim
Region Reviewed: NTSC
Year of Release: 1989
The magic of floppy disks. Was there any magic at all when you were all excited installing a game only to find out that the 7th diskette out of 8 was corrupted? You bet there was!
I have played many MS-DOS games back in my day. Like many of you, dear readers, I had to memorize something that many now don’t know: command lines. Yes, stuff like “CD..”, “B:”, “dir”, “play.exe” was basic knowledge for kids of the pre-windows era. During those years I wasn’t able to afford a PC, I had my Genesis and I was happy with it, but had many friends who were PC owners, and going to their houses allowed me to play games like Stunts, Monkey Island, B-17 Flying Fortress, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, the first Gabriel Knight titles, and many more. Although I enjoyed all those games, I fell in love with one the moment I saw it. That game was Street Rod.
What is it about Street Rod that makes it unique? First of all, how it properly represents a moment in time in the United States when muscle cars were all the rage and kids spent every single dime they had tuning them, racing them, fixing them afterwards and when fuel was a few cents per gallon. Second, the gameplay; it’s so simple and yet it requires the right amount of time for the player to learn the game´s tricks, to get to know the car, to master all the different courses and finally to defeat the last boss.
P.Z.Karen Co. Development Group, Logical Design Works and publisher California Dreams managed to take the player back to the sixties with just a few screens and stunning graphics for its time while telling a story that it is not very clear, and doesn’t necessarily have to be, after all, it’s all about racing here, people. The player is supposed to be a high school student that has an entire summer to get a decent car and steal a girl called Becky Sue from the bad ass guy in town, a bloke nicknamed “The King”. Why would the guy want such a tramp that’s only interested in a car? Nobody knows! But that’s not the point, so let’s start the engine.
You will begin this journey with 750 dollars. That’s the amount of cash that you will have to use to buy a car (used of course) and fit it for racing purposes. You may buy a cheaper car and use only some 400 dollars and use the remaining money to buy a new carburetor or replace that dusty manifold you have or spend more money initially and buy a faster car that doesn’t need too many repairs, the decision is yours to take.
Once you have got your car, you might as well tune the engine to obtain the best performance. The garage is the place to do that. While it may seem basic by today’s standards, the amount of things you can do here seemed endless for a young Miracleman who was constantly in awe when playing this game. The garage allows you to pop the hood, replace the parts of the engine one by one unscrewing the bolts and screwing them back again, tune the engine to get the best performance, change the transmission, lower the chassis, remove the bumpers, etc. Here you can also personalize the aesthetic part of your ride by adding stickers to your vehicle and changing the paint for total coolness and a sense of uniqueness. Once the car has been taken care of, it’s time to try it. Where? All the cool people hang at Bob’s Drive In, so there’s where I’m heading next, after all, I’m a Highway Star, right, Deep Purple?
At Bob’s Drive In you will see a lot of guys with their rides just cruising next to you. When you see someone you feel comfortable to play against, challenge him. You may win (or lose) some cash or if you are brave enough, you can take their car out of his hands. But be careful, if they win, they will take your ride and if you don’t have money to buy a new one, then it’s game over, my friend. The higher stake you can place in a drag race is only 50 dollars, but drag races are quick, so if your car is good enough you will be able to make some loot real fast to keep on investing in your car and ultimately beat that King and get the girl. You can also challenge other drivers to run in a road race, where the stakes are higher, so is the difficulty and the price the challenger may pay no other than his car. The road is full of perils, even the wind affects the way your car turns and it is a long way to the goal compared to the drag race.
With enough cash, you can go back to the newspaper and buy a better car, more parts or simple browse the different ads to see if something interests you. If you don’t like your old vehicle any more or you‘ve just won a ride and don’t want to keep it, you can sell it and get some good money for your wheels.
When you have beaten several opponents, you will be able to challenge “The King” to get his girl and live together happily ever after, or until someone shows up with a better car, I suppose.
The graphics on this game are spot on considering its release date. Everything seems to be a perfect portrait of the 60s, from the garage to the drive in passing through the gas station. The colours are bright, powerful and really immerse the player into the atmosphere of the game. Though I have played mostly the DOS version of the title, I reckon that the Amiga port is the one that has the best graphics of all, so kudos to that marvelous system.
The music and sound effects do certainly accompany the game, but are in no way the best sounds out there. Even for the time it was released, I think this is the aspect where Street Rod falls a bit flat, but it is a minuscule aspect if you consider how good the whole product is.
California Games did a wonderful job with this title. Not only did they recreate a period in time, but they did it in a fun detailed way. Everything from picking a car from a newspaper ad to pump gas and remove screws, to replace the car’s parts is utterly original and interesting.
To this day, 25 years after the release of this title, I have not found a similar game that resembles Street Rod in all these aspects. A few indie projects have been done throughout the years to sort of bring Street Rod back to life; while some of them were very good, there is one I’m very interested in that I hope I will cover some day in the near future. Let’s hope eventually, the new generation will receive a game like this whether released by an indie studio or a major publisher. With the technology available today, this could be a huge success. Can you imagine taking the car from another player across the globe? Or people challenging you online? If you do, then you probably enjoyed Street Rod as much as I did.
Verdict:- In my opinion, Street Rod is ultimately a must play for all racing fans out there. An awesome experience for those who like to customize cars, race them and keep on improving them.
Playing the game now may require some basic knowledge of MS-DOS emulation if you don't have an older PC to hand, but the smile on your face you’ll have while accelerating your Ford..? Well, that makes Street Rod worth any/all of the trouble!
Second Opinion:- Street Rod represents a time when kids did more on their PC's than just utilise it as another option for Facebook, Twitter and the like. Some could argue good times. Transbot would agree!
The fleshy humanoid that is Miracleman is pretty bang-on with this review. A true cult classic with lots of cross-generational appeal. Transbot approves.
Though Transbot would say don't be shy on the Amiga port!
Transbot Scores:- 8 out of 10