sexta-feira, 2 de janeiro de 2015

Dakar [Off-Road Rally] Games Overview - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#33

Every year, when the world’s greatest off-road race is about to begin, nostalgia hits me in an unimaginable way.

Back in the glorious Sinclair ZX Spectrum days, one of the most important games in my collection was Paris-Dakar, developed and released by the Spanish company Zigurat in 1988. 

When I finally got my hands on my brand new Spectrum +2A, few were the games that worked. That caused me some frustration. Never crossed my mind to return it for repair or replacement, such was the desire to play games. Maybe it needed just a slight adjustment on the head of the incorporated tape recorder.
Slowly and gradually, I was able to play the many games that I already had in my collection, but the infamous Paris-Dakar game persisted in presenting that "tape loading error" demonic message.

One fine afternoon, I placed the tape once more in the machine and hold the "enter" key just to see what could happen. I couldn't believe my eyes! The game worked! Total joy! Jumps, smiles, complete hysteria!

In short, Paris-Dakar in the ZED X Spectrum is, until today, one of the most absorbing racing games I've ever experienced.

It unfolds in three stages: Europe, the deserts of Sahara and Teneré bound for Dakar, being each step an incredible challenge. The Road-book had the correct directions to take; 5 km to the North, 2 km to the East, 15 km to the South, etc.. We must reset the partial kilometre counter after every change of direction to get it right. Much attention also to the level of water, state of the gearbox and the fuel tank! Along the way there are areas of supply and repair for us to stop. But even with all these precautions, reaching the chequered flag intact and well classified was almost impossible, but achievable!

Every time the game is loaded, the circuits are randomly generated. This means that we could never know to which way was the first curve. In that time, this simple feature was enough to keep me hooked to my Spectrum making its longevity almost endless. And even after a withdrawal, the mere label "game over" was not enough for the programmers from Zigurat. Thus, when we press the "quit" key, a helicopter appears on the screen, picks up the pilot and disappears in the horizon. Simply brilliant!
The game was also ported to the Amiga and DOS personal computers, but never grabbed as much attention as it did on the 8 bit machines, MSX, Amstrad CPC and, of course, the ZED X Spectrum.
A year later, in 1989, the arcade saloons received a 3D rally racing arcade game entitled Big Run, Jaleco’s attempt to take down Sega’s famous Out Run. There was also an Amiga and Atari ST port and, as well, a slightly newer version for the Super Famicom, in 1991 but I believe that this last one was only released in Japan. 

In this game we’re granted access to a Porsche 959 and participate on this six stage Dakar race. The other opponents’ cars that we can also find in Africa’s natural terrain depicted in this game, resembles the Peugeot 205 T16 and the well-known Mitsubishi Pajero.

There’s a little nice feature incorporated in the cabinet: a horn that we must sound when we’re planning to overtake other cars. That way, they will allow you to pass. Otherwise, Gandalf appears and “YOU SHALL NOT PASS”!! Just joking ;)

In 1990 there was a title for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, named Paris-Dakar 1990, that the only nice thing to watch a babe showing her nice attributes (watch the video)... 

Moving on, the next Dakar game that really deserves being brought up in this video, was only released 11 years after the last one that I’ve mentioned here.
From the developer Broadsword Interactive and publisher Acclaim came Paris-Dakar Rally, in late 2001, where we’ve got the chance to participate in this mythic off road event with a dirt bike, ATV, dune buggy or SUV. 

Press reviews were unanimous: what a piece of crap this game is. And that’s kind of true. Controls are painful, sound is awful with also some irritating music, but, there’s something of a challenge that makes me come back to it year after year right before the real race starts. I believe the reason for that is its difficulty that is what the real Dakar race is all about. The extreme and complicated riding engine implemented in this game, turns it into an awesome challenge even if the game is painfully horrible! Am I insane? Believe me, it’s like a drug! Every year I try to get to the top 10 after all those stages, and there’s a lot of them, but I simply cannot achieve that! And I just love those free roaming desert stages, where you must find the checkpoints and, also, pick up those repair icons in the form of wrenches.
Give it a try, only if you’re a fan of the real thing!

Two years later, in 2003, Acclaim decided to develop indoors and release another Dakar game. This sequel named Dakar 2, and also subtitled as The World’s Ultimate Rally in certain places of the globe, was a huge step up from its older brother. 

It has pretty nice Graphics and music, but sound effects could be better. Another not so good feature is the fact that, in one stage, our co-driver is a girl and, on another, she changes her voice and sounds like a man! Isn’t this kind of weird?..

Again, the desert free roaming stuff is what makes this game so enjoyable. Those are beautifully designed and gameplay on these special stages are so freakin’ awesome and we need to be extremely careful to avoid rocks, grass that hides nasty sand banks, etc. Unfortunately this good stuff ends really fast, ‘cause stages are quite short in length and the clock is ticking.

There’s the mighty trucks, SUVs and dirt bikes to pick and embrace the desert, but I found the SUVs and pickups the more suitable and an easy way to finish victorious in this 12 stage race that you can complete in about 50 minutes.

This game was intended to appeal to the arcade racer and simply accomplishes it very well.

Aside from some walls, in a couple of stages, that works as some kind of a magnet that insanely attracts our vehicle, this game is quite enjoyable to play, but don’t expect it to have a Colin McRae or DiRT type of gameplay. It’s really far from there.
Once again, play it if you’re a real fan of the world’s greatest off road event.

In 2005, French developer Asobo Studio was working on something big: Grand Raid Offroad. But, as part of the publishing deal with Codemasters, they ended up transforming the code to what we know today as FUEL. If you haven’t watched my thoughts about it, just click on the rectangle. 

But if you’re eager for some desert racing, you’ll be much more satisfied with 2XL’s BAJA Edge of Control, only on XBOX360 and PS3. It was developed by the same team that brought Motocross Madness 1 and 2, and MX and MX vs ATV Unleashed games. 

Will we see more Dakar games in the future now that the race is no longer a European and African exclusive event? Will the next DiRT game have some desert racing stages or championships? I would love to see these questions answered.

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