Racing games have always held a special place in my heart and it wasn’t until recently why that was. After viewing some old home movies and looking at family photos and report cards, all I ever wanted to be when I was a kid was two things. A fireman who drives the engine or a racing car driver. This must have been where the gasoline fuelled passion must have transpired from. But my love for everything motor racing wasn’t defined by bog standard driving simulations as I enjoyed the quirky racing games. Stunt Car Racer was one of those quirky racing games which, literally, took racing to another level.
I know technically this has nothing to do with the game but the artwork on the cover of Stunt Car Racer was basic at best but left you thinking there must be more to this game. The cover described the game more than anyone knew at the time and although the basic look and feel ran throughout the game, it still managed to deliver V12 throbbing playability by the bucket load.
As with all racing games, your goal was to win the race, collect the cup and celebrate by either a standard fist pump or your secret bedroom dance (yes I have the latter even nowadays). The real goal in Stunt Car Racer was to just stay on the track, winning was a bonus. At the start of each race your car is hoisted onto an elevated track with no barriers, no safety nets and, in most cases, plenty of gaps in the road. You competed in your division with the champion being promoted to the next division and the loser crying over his chassis bent wreckage of a car. Each division consisted of 2 other drivers and 2 tracks which got progressively harder the higher divisions you completed in. There are four races in a season with each driver racing the other drivers on each divisional track. In single player mode you raced two computer controlled cars but there was an option to play via a modem cable but I would be extremely surprised if this was ever used.
Every car was specced exactly the same and each driver was able to use nitro as and when they deemed it vital for the win. The twist was that you only had a certain amount of nitro for each race so the question was “Can I make that jump without nitro?” or “Do I take the nitro burn on the flat to open my lead?” This decision was crucial for not only a nice victory but also your survival on the track. You see Stunt Car Racer had to be played with a specific plan in mind just like Evil Knivel never turned up to do a jump thinking I am just going to hit the ramp as fast as I can. Your jumps and turns have to be planned and although you could have got away with it on the early tracks the later tracks would chew you up and spit you out (step forward the dreaded Stepping Stones). This is what made Stunt Car Racer different from everything else on the market at the time and not just I need to be fast to win. In this game you needed to be clever not to get damaged.
That brings me nicely onto the damage. In the game you can only every see your wheels and the front of the car but every time you fall of the track, oh and you will fall of the track; your damage is indicated by an unnerving crack in your chassis at the top of the screen or even worse a big hole. Once the crack or holes get to the other side of the screen your car is wrecked and the race is automatically over with you being the loser. The definition of suspense is nursing your car round the last lap with every bump cracking your chassis whilst your opponent is closing to gap with every second the goes by.
This game didn’t have the appeal of the quite brilliant Out Run, the multi-player appeal of Nitro or even the prestige of Pole Position but it worked on so many levels. Some days you didn’t even want to race and you just wanted to see how badly you could crash. Stunt Car Racer was a tactical racing simulation that needed a touch of precision and nerves of steel.
Verdict:- Stunt Car Racer is nothing special to look at and won’t amaze you in the first 10 minutes of play. Once you scratch the surface though you are treated to a classic gaming experience from MicroProse. This probably wouldn’t make it into most people’ s Top 10 of racing games but those people would be wrong.
People don’t celebrate when they win they celebrate when they have survived the infamous Drawbridge track or the afore mentioned Stepping Stones.
Every lap survived was a medal of honour which won’t suit every gamer but gives you such an overall sense of achievement that you always want to go back and improve your racing skills. Stunt Car Racer dared you to go faster when you didn’t even dare yourself.
Second Opinion:- Transbot was a much younger robot when he stumbled across this Amiga game during 1990 give or take a month. He was impressed.
For it's time it was way ahead of the curve and really helped put the Amiga on the map, because of this Transbot was pleased. He still is. Stunt Car Racer although nowhere near as in depth now as it was back then still is a lot of fun and to this day will make an older Transbot rip out his spikey red robot hair when the oh so familiar jumps occur... And go wrong.
A game that came from heaven so I'll give it a.....
Transbot Scores:- 6 out of 10