Racing game from the 4th Dimenson. Reviewed by Glyn Furlong.
Note: This review was originally written for the Illusions disc magazine well before Acorn Arcade was born, so we make no guarantees that this game will work on more recent machines. Many thanks to Richard Goodwin, Phil Coleman and Rob Gibson for allowing us to reproduce this review on the site.
The original E-Type game was released in 1989. At this time it was widely regarded as one of the best games for the Archimedes. The sequel, E-Type 2, was released last year at the Acorn World show, under the wildly compeling slogan 'E-Type 2 has all the features of the original game and many new ones'.
The all-new tunnel sequence in action
The game can be played from floppy disk, or you can install it onto your hard disk using the supplied installation program. If you do install it onto your hard disk, you will need to place the first disk in the floppy drive before you load the game, as it is used for copy protection purposes. I much prefer this key disk approach to the 'find a word in the manual' protection. When you load E-Type 2 an icon appears on the icon bar. The menu which can be accessed from the icon includes options for changing the game's settings, which include volume, monitor type, player names and which tracks you want to use. It also includes an option to alter the game type, as E-Type 2 allows split screen two player games.
To start a new game you click select on the icon bar icon. The game then takes over the whole screen. As soon as you start to play the game the changes become apparent. You no longer have a passenger in your car; the bloke who was the driver in the original game still drives the blue car, but the young lady who was the passenger in the original game now has her own car - a pink E-Type. You can choose which car you wish to use for a single player game via the icon bar menu. In the two player game, player one uses the blue car and player two uses the pink one.
The idea of the game is to drive around the various tracks, within the permitted length of time. You are only allowed to crash a certain number of times. If you crash too often, your car will break and your game will be over.
There have been many features added since the original game. There are now tunnels, three lane roads, bad weather (on some tracks), and more importantly, police radar traps, overheating cars and various weapons which you can use to attack other cars.
If you drive 'flat out' for too long, your car will get a little too hot, start steaming and then grind to a halt. Once the car has stopped you can start moving again straight away. However, the process of stopping and then getting going again will have taken vital seconds. The police speed traps can also cost you a considerable amount of time. If you are travelling too quickly when you pass through one of the traps, your car will stop and you will be given a fine, in the form of seconds. Luckily you can pick up bonuses which will stop the radar from catching you. Unfortunately, the bonus can only be used once.
Other bonuses which can be collected include time (which also featured in the original), a laser, oil and 'blind'. You can only carry one of the weapons (laser, oil and blind) at a time. Another complication is the fact that oil and blind can only be used once. If you wish to use them again, you will have to collect another one of the appropriate bonuses. The laser allows you to blow up obstacles and other cars. When playing in two player mode, shooting at the other player's car makes it spin and come to a halt. Oil can be dropped on the road behind your car to add extra danger for any car which is following you. The 'blind' weapon is only really useful when you are playing in two player mode. If the other player's car is directly behind your car, you can drop this weapon (which is also know as a soot bomb). The other player's view turns black so that they cannot see where they are going. The soot clears after a while, but in the mean time, the other player will have probably crashed, losing time in the process.
On some of the tracks there is bad weather, i.e. rain and snow. This too causes problems; it affects your view of the road and makes the road slippery. As a result, you have to slow down, especially when going around corners, otherwise your car will lose its grip on the road. Fortunately, the bad weather only usually comes in short bursts.
When you reach the end of a track, you will notice that the rules have changed since the original game. In the original, once you had reached the end of track banner you could carry on going, providing you still had time on the clock. The level would not finish until your time had run out. This gave you an opportunity to boost your score. In E-Type 2, the level finishes as soon as you reach the end of the track. Instead of your score being measured in points, your average speed, in MPH, is used. I feel that this is a better system, as in the original game you could spend all day going round and round the same track, collecting more and more time bonuses as you went.
The two-player game
There are two kinds of two player game available to you in E-Type 2, normal 2 player and pursuit. In the normal two player game, you play the game in the same way as you would in single player mode. The only difference being that you have someone to compete with, and of course, to shoot at. In pursuit mode the finish line is removed. The aim is to keep going for as long as possible, and get a high average speed. The last car to be destroyed is the winner, and so, it is a good idea to shoot at your opponent's car as much as possible.
E-Type 2 is supplied with six tracks, track six being intended for use when playing in pursuit mode. Each level has different graphics, and the levels get harder as you progress further. When you get tired of the supplied tracks you can use the supplied track 'editor' to design your own. The track editor is not really what you would call an easy to use piece of software. To define a track you have to create a text file containing the track definition. This definition consists of a series of commands, such as W 180 to set the width of the road to 180 units. While this may be a suitable way for the programmer to create the tracks, I can't really see a six year old easily creating his or her own tracks using this method. If you wish to, you can also edit the sprites for use in your own track. But, this is also quite complex. Firstly you have to copy one of the existing sprite files into the directory containing your track definition. You then have to use Acorn's squash utility do decompress them. Once you have done that, you can load them into a sprite editor, such as paint. The only problem being, all the sprites are defined upside down. To be able to work with them sensibly, you need to flip them vertically, do what you want to and them flip them back when you have finished. Once you have finished the track definition and the sprites, you drag their directory on to the track compiler. This program then creates a track which can be used by E-Type 2. To use your tracks in the game you drag their directory onto the E-Type 2 icon bar icon.
E-Type 2 is quite a good game. Most of the changes which have been made from the original game are only really noticeable when you play in two player mode. The two player mode is a little bit jerky on an ARM2 processor,it is much more playable on an ARM3. There are some minor things which could have been tidied up in the game to make it slicker. The dialogue boxes and menu structure which are used within the desktop don't meet Acorn's style guide. Some of the collision detection is a bit strange - it is possible to crash into objects which have just been destroyed, and drive straight through other objects. The track designer tool is too much like a programmer's development tool for my liking. It is a nice idea to be able to design your own tracks, but it seems as if the Fourth Dimension decided at the last minute to include this feature. The instructions are adequate, but the use of a spelling checker might have been a good idea. You do not spell gauge "guage". In the instructions this misspelling is repeated three times in one paragraph. Also, caught is spelt with an 'a' not and 'o'.
In all, this game is an improvement on the original E-Type and it is quite playable. The two player modes are especially good, but if you've already played the original then it's doubtful whether this game is worth £30. Personally I think that, as racing games go on the Archimedes, both Lotus Turbo Challenge and Stunt Racer 2000 are better, and they are also cheaper.