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                          REVIEW: Virtual Karting
                            By:  Jason Compton 
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When Steven Rennocks materialized on comp.sys.amiga.games, it was the
answer to a hope I never quite knew I had.

Steve was promoting his new Amiga publishing company OTM and their first
release, Virtual Karting.  For someone to pop out of nowhere into what has
been a shaky gaming market at best and release a new product takes
guts--the kind of guts the Amiga needs.  As publishers lose interest in the
Amiga, it is not so much important to "convince" them that they've made a
mistake as it is to make sure NEW publishers get into the business.  OTM
has done just that, and it's a good thing.

VK was hyped and hyped and hyped, given favorable previews in several
magazines, and finally released.

At its heart, VK is a racing game based around professional karts.  The
author himself is a kart driver and reportedly was striving for exceptional
realism when he created the game.

You take the place of a kart driver, with a choice of a 100 or 125cc
engine.  That may not sound like much, but when you consider the kart
doesn't have much weight you understand how it flings you across the track
at such high speeds.  Your view is configurable, with a camera either just
behind your kart (Pole Position style), with adjustable angle and horizon
settings, or a top-down view.  You choose your input device from among
digital or analog joysticks or the mouse, and can choose automatic
(recommended) or manual shifting.

The game itself can be summed up in one word--"difficult."  A pre-race
"helicopter" camera flying over the track is supposed to give you clues to
your racing strategy, but even with that in mind, the word of the game will
be practice, practice, practice.  You'll spend most of your first races
going off the track and watching helplessly as your opponents zoom past
you.  It is worthwhile to run yourself into the water, just to see the
race-ending result.  But the computer is a merciless (and unconfigurable)
opponent and you'll need to get up pretty early in the morning to have a
chance of beating it.

While I'm pleased with the attempt to make the race truly realistic, I
cannot accept the fact that going offroad even the slightest bit
automatically drops your speed to 15 km/h.

VK was designed in AGA, with the goal of providing realistic-looking 25 fps
performance on a stock A1200.  And author Fabio Bizzetti got it--at a very
high price.

Bizzetti discovered that if he dithered the screen in black, he could
generate an acceptable display and get the speed he wanted.

Acceptable, perhaps, to some.  But the black-gauze dithering technique
looked awful the first time I saw it, on a C-64 demo designed to give the
illusion of over 100 colors.  That was on a 1702 monitor, no less.  On a
1084 or multiscan monitor, it's positively annoying.  On a TV, apparently,
the effect is minimal.  But the option to enable a fully rendered display
just isn't there, which means the action flies by on our A4000/040 but
looks like the monitor is very dirty.

A VK demo is available on Aminet, and I highly recommend it to anyone
looking for a racing challenge.  If you discover that the thrill of the
chase, not to mention the adventure of learning to drive a different sort
of vehicle, is for you, then by all means patronize OTM and buy a copy of
the game.  I find the display extremely distracting, and find it takes away
from what should be a really enjoyable game.  However, I may just be overly
picky.

The manual, while extremely spartan, is printed in English,
German, French, and Italian.

Distributed by Guildhall Leisure and published by OTM:
Phone: 44 1827 312 302
Fax:   44 1827 670 10
e-mail:otm@otmltd.demon.co.uk