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Street Racer a.k.a. Speedway II

Posted by , 05 October 2005 · 453 views

1977
Street Racer (a.k.a. Speedway II)
 
This is another type of game that I remember playing in the arcades. Steering wheel, gas pedal, green monochrome screen. It was fun in the arcade and I remember the rush I got weaving past the other cars with my foot pressed on the pedal as hard a possible. Thankfully, this hasn't translated into how I drive as an adult.
 
I think it's interesting that Sears called it Speedway II. They were probably naming it after a dedicated console which had PONG and race car games that they had distributed in 1976.
 
Street Racer is another good example of an Atari cart where they decided to not just put the game from the arcade on the cart, but to fill it with variants of said game for different numbers of players and for different skill levels.
 
There's "Street Racer", where, with a paddle, you swerve a car back and forth to avoid the cars you are passing. There are 1, 2, 3 and 4 player variants for this and for all five of the "steering" variants on this cart. It's so cool to have a game that four people can play, now I just have to convince my wife to join us.
 
There's a skiing game called "Slolom". (a word which I'll always remember as having heard first on an episode of the Flintstones.) In Slolom, instead of dodging cars you have to steer your skier through gates. The sound effects have a slight "sprayed snow" quality to them in this one.
 
"Dodgem" looks like a home port of a 1973 Atari arcade game originally called Space Race. (There was also a Bally/Midway version called Asteroid) From the description at klov.com it sounds like this is a big improvement over the arcade version. The idea is the same, each side of the screen has a player controlling the speed of a spacecraft. The home version adds the ability to steer. You move up the screen and avoid the asteroid coming down it. When you reach the top of the screen, your score increments and you start again at the bottom. If you hit the asteroid, you start again at the bottom and your score stays the same.
 
"Jet Shooter" has you shooting enemy aircraft as they come towards you. It's funny, but I think it would've also been fun to shoot at the cars I was passing in Street Racer, but maybe that's just me.
 
There's also a game called "Number Cruncher" where you run over numbers to add to your score, but you've got to run over their centers or it counts as a crash. This one's different because you're actually trying to run over something as opposed to avoiding it. You also happen to be riding a motorcycle, just for that "Easy Rider" feeling.
 
Finally, there's "Scoop Ball" which adds another twist to the steer and avoid theme: you have to catch some things (balls) and you have to avoid others (um, the "non-balls"). When' you've caught the "balls" (which are actually "plus" signs) you have to deposit them in a "Computer Scooper". If you crash before depositing your captured balls you lose them and the points you would have received for putting them in the Computer Scooper.
 
The best part about these games is the fact that I can play them with my son and soon with my wife and little girl, all four of us at the same time. They're extremely simple, but fun with the right company.
 
That's the last of the 1977 games. I'll give a run down of 1977 in the next entry.
 
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Not a great game, but still pretty impressive technically for 2K. Even today, writing a kernel for that game would pose some interesting challenges (enemy cars etc. are drawn using an assymmetric playfield, two sprites get repositioned mid-screen, playfield data probably has to get shifted on the fly, etc.) No problem in 4K, but getting the whole game into 2K would probably be tough.

BTW, I wonder how the game would look if the two players and two missiles were swapped and the playfield left in "SCORE" mode? Would probably have to swap color registers at the top of the screen, but could be interesting having the left and right halves of the screen colored differently.
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Not a great game, but still pretty impressive technically for 2K.  Even today, writing a kernel for that game would pose some interesting challenges (enemy cars etc. are drawn using an assymmetric playfield, two sprites get repositioned mid-screen, playfield data probably has to get shifted on the fly, etc.)  No problem in 4K, but getting the whole game into 2K would probably be tough.

BTW, I wonder how the game would look if the two players and two missiles were swapped and the playfield left in "SCORE" mode?  Would probably have to swap color registers at the top of the screen, but could be interesting having the left and right halves of the screen colored differently.



I'm glad you brought that up. I am a VCS programming neophyte, but I was thinking it must have been tough to do the whole fourplayer AND enemies. There's not a lot of flicker if I recall correctly, either.
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I'm glad you brought that up. I am a VCS programming neophyte, but I was thinking it must have been tough to do the whole fourplayer AND enemies. There's not a lot of flicker if I recall correctly, either.


There is no flicker in Street Racer. Flicker hadn't been invented yet (seriously--I don't think any 1977 titles used it; I think it first appeared in Home Run).
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All these early games are technically incredible. Not only the technology was very recent (microprocessors had just been invented) and limited (128 bytes of RAM in the Atari 2600, half of that in the Channel F), but game programming itself was a novelty. There weren't many other games or professionals they could get know-how from. Even arcade games had only recently started to be programmed, instead of being built with discrete logic implementing a single game.

I didn't enjoy Street Racer that much. I liked Indy 500 better. Still it wasn't bad, and an obvious improvement over other racing games.

On my first run on "Scoop Ball", before reading the instructions, I thought it was kind of a "Tetris" racer (quoted because Tetris hadn't been invented yet, of course). Wouldn't it be fun if you had to drive into cars compatible with the current shape of your own and avoid the others? That would be an interesting concept, I think.
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