C64, Commodore Business Machines (1984)
Rally Speedway is one of those games that is more fun than it probably should be. The goal of this simple top-down racing game is to complete laps with the fastest lap time possible. Despite the fact that the game features tons of tweakable variables and sports both one and two player modes, it’s probably best remembered as, “the game where your poor guy catches on fire.”
In one-player mode, there are no opponents to race against — it’s you against the clock. Using the game’s default control scheme, forward accelerates, left and right steer, and the button mashes the brakes — that last one is most important, as you’ll need to ride the brakes long and hard to make even the most gradual turns without exploding into a fiery death.
For the most part your car stays in the center of the screen and rotates while the track itself spins and scrolls by. The penalty for leaving the race track is sudden death — any collision with a house or tree causes your car to explode in flames. And yes, occasionally your driver will catch on fire as well, forcing him to stop, drop and roll before waving his arms wildly at you.
By default your car’s top speed is 60mph, but that can be bumped all the way up to 200mph. At 60mph I had trouble making turns without riding the brakes constantly, and at 200mph the game lasts merely seconds between crashes. Trust me — the trees won’t know what hit ’em.
From the main menu, players can configure road conditions (dry, wet or icy), top speed (40, 60, 100, 150 or 200), and acceleration speeds (slow, normal, or fast). You can also choose between “real life” (the normal setting) and “only in a computer”, which turns off all sprite collection detection and lets racers drive across houses, trees, and swimming pools.
In two-player mode, you and a friend can race one another at the same time. If one player leaves the other behind, a five-second penalty is awarded to the slower racer, and the cars are lined up again. This happens frequently — expect a normally 90-second track to take five or more minutes to complete in two-player mode.
Rally Speedway also allows gamers to create, load and save new tracks. The map editor is joystick driven and odd-looking at first, but with just a few minutes players will be able to create their own tracks, which are easily traded between racers.
There’s not much to Rally Speedway, but that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable. Once you memorize the basic tracks it’s fun to see just how quickly you can zip around them (fastest times are saved), and with a friend you can get some serious head-to-head competition on.