[Midnight, San Diego, Gas Station, Status Screen] [Dawn, Bakersfield, Rest Area, Interstate 5]
"What an interesting idea for an Intellivision game! This game is truly unique among the Intellivision titles. There are two games in one. One or two players can either race against time or against each other in a road race where the player must visit eight cities in the shortest possible time, or play a simulation game where the player tries to earn as much money as possible within a certain number of days by making deliveries to different cities throughout the country.
"One or two players can play either game. Like in Utopia, it is technically for two players only, but not both players have to play. The entire game is seen in split-screen. If only one player is playing, the inactive player's side will display the status screen by default so the active player can simply glance over to see the status at any time.
"The most outstanding feature about this game is that it has a very steep learning curve. I read the entire manual several times when I first got the game, but even then I had to play many times before I got the hang of it. Although the manual includes a sample game session near the end, there were still many things that I did not understand or had a difficult time getting used to.
"Whether playing the Road Race or the Simulation, the player can select one of 59 routes, each of which consists of eight cities, one of which is the Flag City where both players begin if playing the Road Race. In the Simulation, the number of days, from 1 to 60, can also be selected. When the game begins, both players start at the Flag City (or San Diego in the Simulation) at midnight, June 1, with $1,500 (in the Road Race) or $500 (in the Simulation) and no fuel.
"Obviously, the first thing is to get fuel. Gas stations can be found in cities and in oilfields. While at a gas station, the truck will automatically fill up with gas until it is full. The cost of gas is $30 per quarter tank. If a player runs out of fuel, the truck will automatically come to a complete stop. If that happens while not in a city or oilfield, the player will simply be stuck until midnight, when an unseen passerby will sell a quarter tank or simply give it away if the player cannot afford it.
"The Road screen is where the main action takes place. Drive to the desired destination while avoiding traffic. Here is where I have one of my biggest gripes about the game. The traffic consists entirely of other delivery trucks, the majority of which stagger between both lanes. Remember the Racing Cars game on Triple Action? Avoiding collisions with the other truckers is difficult and makes the game far less enjoyable. In my opinion, the other trucks should just drive in a straight line. The fun of the game is in racing to visit all the cities on route in the Road Race or quickly deciding which city to go to next to make a delivery, not constantly worrying about not hitting the next oncoming truck.
"Of course, since there exists a network of highways among which the player travels to get to each city, the player also has to learn how to steer and make turns. Steering takes only a little practice, as the truck continues to drift to the left or right until the player presses up on the disc. Turning, on the other hand, is much more difficult. At intersections, the player must slow down to a speed of less than 24 mph and drift off the side of the road just as the intersecting highway is alongside the visible truck cab. Touch the side of the road too early and the truck will quickly decelerate as it hits the curb until the speed reaches 0 mph, causing the truck to reposition itself in the center of the road (Why?), and the player will be unable to steer to the side of the road in time before passing the intersection. Touch the side of the road too late and the player will miss the intersection entirely. Fortunately, the player gets two to four chances to make the turn before passing the other interstate. Making a U-turn on the other hand, which in real life should be more difficult, is done simply by pressing down on the disc regardless of the truck's position on the road. Just be careful to decelerate to a speed of less than 24 mph or the truck crashes.
"In the event of a crash, the windshield will shatter and the player will lose $100, the cost for repairs, and a little bit of time. The player's fatigue level also increases automatically with every collision. The fatigue level also increases once at midnight, and affects the player's maximum speed. To recover from fatigue, the player must come to a complete stop and take a rest. Rest stops cost $30 unless the player is at a forest or park, where sleeping is free. While at rest, the fatigue level decreases by one at the beginning of every hour. The player can end the rest at any time.
"There are also speed limits everywhere. Violating the speed limit for an extended period of time will make a police car appear in the rear view mirror. The player must slow down to a speed below the speed limit before being pulled over and being fined, not to mention losing time. Besides, the faster the player travels, the faster fuel is consumed.
"In the Simulation, the player must drop off and pick up cargo in each city. The player can 'radio ahead' before reaching the next city to find out what cargo that city has available to pick up and what cargo that city needs. While at a city, come to a complete stop and make the appropriate transactions. Dropping off cargo to a city that needs that cargo will earn money. Take whatever available cargo you want. The truck has a limited payload.
"As I said earlier, the learning curve is tremendously steep. After getting used to all the controls and the general feel for the game, it is very enjoyable, with the exception of constantly dodging traffic. Honking the horn does nothing as far as I can tell, and the 'ghost trucks' bug -- ahem, feature -- is somewhat annoying (Oncoming trucks simply disappear when the sky changes color.). Watching the changing sky with the passing of time and the changing landscape while driving is quite relaxing and really adds to the 'tour the USA' mood of the game. I especially love to travel through the Midwest and see America's Heartland and the Great American Desert. The ocean coastline is pretty as well, and the 'rest' scenery is serene, almost to the point of making me sleepy.
"Obviously time is simulated and progresses much faster than in real-time, an entire day passing every two minutes; five minutes pass every half-second. However, I think that the passage of the simulated time should fluctuate when only one player is active. Observant players will notice that it takes nearly an hour of simulated time to make a turn (Where did these drivers get their licenses anyway? Certainly not at the Lockport DMV!). The sound effects are not bad but I don't like how the sound of the motor simply becomes silent. Steering, turning, and making U-turns could be more realistic, and I think the fatigue level should increase every eight hours (Maximum fatigue is 5, so the player would be totally exhausted after 40 hours of steady driving.) as opposed to every 24 hours.
"With all that aside, I still think it makes a pretty good game. Playing head-to-head is probably a blast for the very few who have climbed the learning curve and have a friend who has done the same. Of course, not having the accompanying road map makes the game considerably more difficult. Learning to play without the manual or overlays is all but impossible. This game could have been one of the greatest Intellivision games, hands down, but it leaves quite a bit of room for improvement. If you can find it, get it, and if it is loose, don't think twice about downloading the manual and a scan of the overlay, not to mention a scan of the road map if you can find it. With a lot of practice one can really get into this game." Rating: 3/5 -- Mike Hayes
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