Tim seems hellbent on making sure we have an Amiga section… We hear you mate!! Anyway, here’s a lovely piece he’s done on the Super Cars games, yep, those ones, which also doubles up as a tribute to the late great Ben Daglish.
– Tough games?
The dark, thunderous sounds of Wagner greet you. Coupled with a pure, white light, “Magnetic Fields”, the Cathode Ray greets you. Such an intro, screams perfection. But can all of their games follow suit?
Could you recall the first time you saw the lightning fast, Lotus turbo challenge 2? Sparks would fly, as you see a friend grind the side of a tunnel, of which the sound would echo throughout the passageway. Arcade quality, in it’s purest form.
He was perhaps fifteen- five years older than myself. In his room full of Games Workshop posters, sat a fresh Atari ST. Beamed from the monitor, one attempted to catch a fly with chopsticks. He then passes me a Competition Pro, “Do you like racing games?” Another game would load.
Half a year later, I was a proud owner of an Amiga. From the love of RC cars, “Micro Machines” was naturally a favourite. Yet in the back of my mind, a memory of that top-down racer would keep burning in the back of my mind. Couldn’t you purchase … Missiles!? – Another game later introduced to me could have fit the bill, but it wasn’t until 1995 until I was reunited with…
By this time, many had already jumped to the PC. Car boot sales were full of cheap, older games. It couldn’t be?! Have I found it!? Upon returning home, the floppy disk- white label, red rim, blue ink from a fountain pen, “Super Cars 1/2” … Failed to boot. Well, Supercars II needed relokick (thanks CUAmiga!), maybe this one, too?
– I would continue to play both of these games, that would become one of my most beloved franchises to this day.
Today, messages were sent to Adrian regarding the Super Cars series. His response? “Tough games”… Were they seriously that tough!? Were they fair games? Were they even good games? Please don’t let this be only another wave of nostalgia!
Time to check them out!
The introduction to the original Super Cars is packed with gearhead love. The younger me only recognized the Lamborghini Diablo, but dang! Joining it, a Honda NSX, and the Alfa Romeo SZ. The Alfa became the mascot of this game and eventually, my heart! Seriously- That is one HOT CAR!
You’re then greeted to the game with some funds and a 1.6 “Taraco Neoroder Turbo”. We can enter the dealership to find a new car, enter the garage to purchase upgrade parts or repair your vehicle. Selecting the course (1-9) will start a race.
Main game-play is in the style of a top-down racer game, not dissimilar to Micro Machines. Races start with only 3 opponents, which can increase to 7 in the later stages. Cash is earned by placing highly, which can be spent in the shops.
Buying a car is very expensive, and near impossible if you don’t rank first a few times. The garage sells upgrades, each a one-time use item. Most of the time I only either repaired my car or tried saving for a new vehicle. Outside the standard upgrades, two weapons (forward/rear missile), and side rambars are available. Opponents also get faster cars as the game progresses, however it seems that they have ALL the standard upgrades at all times- oil anti-slip & EXTREMELY tight cornering- Check how the other drivers pwn each track!
Graphics and presentation is top tier. I’m still unsure what that brown stuff on the course is. Maybe it’s Bigfoot hair? – (upon checking the manual, it’s mud)
The music is created by Ben Daglish*. He created some greats- one is still set as my morning alarm (Take a guess as to which!). There are multiple songs, each using the same sample set, rocking distorted guitar in the way only Amiga made possible. Music constantly runs in the background, which changes dependent on course, and never gets annoying. As it’s quite an early Amiga game, we can see how the music sacrifices one of it’s 4 channels for in-game SFX. Later games use trickery to increase the sound channels dramatically.
So, was Adrian correct- is it a tough game?
OH, GAWD YES! The early courses are fairly easy, but the difficulty ramps up fairly quickly. Reason? Each new car you buy is much faster than the last, yet the handling doesn’t improve. So instead of taking nice tight corners, each curve will increasingly widen. The handling feels floaty and non-precise. “Why don’t you use the brakes?”, you may ask… Well … You only have a handbrake, each use slows the car to a grinding halt.
Repairs are immensly expensive, then if any bar reaches zero (Tyres, Engine, Body and Fuel), GAME OVER, MAN, GAME-OVER!.
Perhaps it’s this mix of great presentation and high difficulty that kept me coming back?
If I were to give it AA scores:
How about we throw Supercars II under the microscope?
This game was released only a year later, and seemed to have fixed most, if not all the issues of the first, whilst adding and refining to the title.
The in-game graphics seem to be smaller and more detailed. Much more of the track is visible. Variety abundant, with moving trains, gates that open/close, multiple routes, and other obstacles in the track. Movement seems more fluid and responsive to the user’s inputs.
The car dealer has been removed, as the lovely Alfa SZ is the only car in use. Witty dialogue encounters with a policeman, reporter, solicitor, and the DVLA will randomly appear. Players have a chance to gain, or lose either championship points- or funds.
Cash can be used to improve the car, with a comprehensive list of upgrades this time around… Faster engine, armor up, forward/rear missiles, mines, the passive/aggressive Super missiles, homing missiles, the “turbo” – which can avoid other attacks, or even *ahem* JUMP TRAINS?! Then get this, you can use it to buy low, and sell high- for extra funds! Added depth! Car repairs are still a thing, all adding up to one large “hp” bar- soon as this is depleted, game-over.
Two-player? Split-screen mode has been added, so you can fight for the championship with a buddy! YES, BOYO!! This feature alone sets the sequel apart from the predecessor. – I’ve yet to see a bright green Alfa. If anyone is offering to buy me one, please email and I’ll forward you my address.
Barry Leitch and Ian Howe are responsible for the music, which has been confined to the menus, avoiding any previous “channel” issues apparent in the last game. The main theme to this game has pretty much been given legendary status, many cover versions are on the OCRemix website.
… Tough game? Not quite.
They added a difficulty level selector. EASY, MEDIUM, and HARD. Each a different track set, starting at differing speed levels (similar to 50cc, 100cc and 150cc on that Mario Kart game y’all go on about.) Remember, the engine can be improved in the shop!
Even on the later stages, controls are reasonably tight- you feel that you’re responsible for losing, rather than a fight against the game itself. (I’m still haunted by vs. mode on Dr. Mario/ NES with the missus!)
Super Cars II… It’s lovely!
Super Cars II learnt a tremendous amount from the first game- and fixed everything!
Even though Super Cars has a spot in my heart, I’m certain that it has influenced games since. Death Rally (MS-DOS) was IMO a spiritual successor, and well worth a try. Grand Theft Auto even crossed over-head-action/racing with violence, much like Vector Racing, Hi-Octane, Wipeout, Mashed, and Ignition.
Supercars International (1996) – PC/MS-DOS
There was a release by Hit-Squad in 1996. I tried it, but it seems to be more of a work-in-progress or beta, rather than a full-fledged behemoth like the original two titles. The engine has been completely overhauled, yet the graphics and courses have been ripped from Super Cars II – which didn’t get an MS-Dos release.
“The Hit Squad budget label release might be the only release of this game. People claiming to be the original developers on internet forums have said that the game was never released (or finished) to their knowledge.” – eobet (Quote: Mobygames)
*Ben Daglish unfortunately is no longer with us, since Oct, 2018. Thanks for all your kind work, much love & RIP.