Dragon 32 Universe
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GRAND PRIX

The quality of driving skill games in arcades is now so realistic that you almost expect to see the machines lurch into gear and set off down the street, and while home micros can't compete at that level yet, it's inevitable that comparisons will be made.

Grand Prix is a long way from being an arcade-style game, where the road comes hurtling at you, but offers you a view of the race and is more like a computerised version of Scalextrik.

Objectives

The game is for one or two players, and you use your joystick control to move your dot of a car around a bird's eye view of one of the world's Grand Prix circuits. Your Fire button serves as accelerator, and if there's no opponent handy you can race against the clock, which is a constant real-time display at the top of the screen.

First Impressions

Salamander software is always well presented, in a sturdy plastic box, and Grand Prix comes with a fully detailed instruction sheet. Not that you really need it - as the game's about as hard to operate as a light switch.

In Play

After an introductory burst of music and a chequered flag, you'll be asked to choose a difficulty level (0-9), number of laps (1-9), number of players, and the track you want to race on.

There are eight of these, from simple circuits like Indianapolis and Monza, to trickier ones such as Monaco. An arrow at the starting line even shows you which way to go.

The difficulty level controls a number of factors. The harder it is, then the longer it takes your car to react to the joystick, so thinking ahead is essential, and there's also likely to be more oil on the track (blue patches), which may cause you to lose control completely for a while.

And if you crash the car, which is certainly more likely than crashing the program, then you stand a better chance of bouncing back on easier levels.

Having successfully completed the race, you earn points according to time taken, difficulty and track used, with a bonus for winning (tactical hint: this is easier with one player - but only just!) and with penalties deducted for crashing.

An amusing high-score table starts you off at the bottom and moves you up till you find your place in the rankings.

Verdict

There's nothing too much wrong with this game, but then there's not a lot to get excited about either. I did find the cars slow to react to the joystick, even when that wasn't meant to be the case, and it's also tricky to keep the Fire button permanently pressed for acceleration while moving the stick at the same time. A not-so-Grand Prix.