Buggy Boy / Elite 1987
Screenshots: play/stop



Buggy Boy (also known as Speed Buggy) was an arcade game released by Taito and developed by Tatsumi in 1986. It was one of a number of pseudo-3D racing games that started being introduced around that time. The arcade game came in both a standard stand-up version and a sit-down cockpit version. The Speed Buggy version (found mostly in Japan) also had an extended 3-screen cockpit version.

What sets it apart from "normal" racing games is that you're not racing against other cars. Instead, it's more of an obstacle course. You control a two-gear beach-buggy and your objective is to complete a course of your choice in the alloted time.

Along the way, you can amass points and bonuses. This is done in a number of ways. To start with, there are gates with points shown on the overhead banner. If you drive between the poles, you gain the number of points. Some of these banners also have "TIME" on them. These will give you extra time when crossing one of the checkpoints.

There are also normal flags: if you drive over them you will receive extra points. These flags have one of five colours – Red, Blue, Magenta, Cyan and Yellow. If you collect the flags in the order shown at the top-right of the screen, you will gain an extra bonus. The flags then become "wildcards" for a short while, and collecting any flags in this time will automatically count as being a flag in the colour order.

There is also a beach ball that appears in the middle of the road. Hitting it will bounce it down the road for some more points.

As mentioned, there are also obstacles to avoid. Fences, brick walls and rocks block your way and you have to drive around them. Tunnels and flooded lanes also restrict your movement on the road. Logs lie across lanes and, if you drive over them, you fly through the air. Sometimes this helps you overcome an obstacle; but, more often than not, you find yourself careering towards a brick wall, not being able to steer your way clear because you're in the air! Other buggy drivers are trying to navigate their way through the course. They don't bear you any malice but they can certainly get in the way when you're trying to avoid other inanimate objects. There are also stones in the road that, when driven over, tilt you over into a ski-mode à la Knight Rider. Although it looks impressive, and might give you some extra leeway when squeezing through two obstacles, hitting a log in this position will roll your buggy over. Steer your buggy in the direction you're leaning to go back to the more conventional four-wheeled driving.

Upon starting the game, there are five courses to choose from: Off-Road (which is a lapping circuit rather than a road), North (Monté Carlo), East (Safari), West (Paris Dakar) and South (Southern Cross). As is usual in a racing game, there are checkpoints to get through, positioned at equal points throughout the race – the exception being the off-road in which you have to complete 5 laps instead. When you pass a checkpoint, you get some bonus seconds to help you get to the next checkpoint. If you have driven through any TIME gates, you'll get some extra seconds on top of that. Hitting obstacles either slows you down (in the case of hitting gate poles), or rolls your buggy, making you stop momentarily and having to accelerate to full speed again. This takes up precious seconds.

The game is over if you run out of seconds before the next checkpoint, or if you successfully complete the race. Bonus points are awarded for completing the race. There are high score tables for each course, for those wanting to be more competitive.

The Commodore 64 version of Buggy Boy is an excellent conversion from the arcade game. The game runs very smoothly – very impressive for an 8-bit computer. The 3D perspective works very well. The objects coming towards certainly get bigger in "stages" rather than smoothly, but because of the overall speed of the game, you don't notice this while playing. Graphics are bold and colourful and are well-defined. Sound is pretty minimal – the incidental tunes are based on the arcade game. The engine noise of the buggy can get a little annoying, too.

There have been a few changes made in the Commodore 64 version. The buggy is a little smaller in relation to the size of the road, if you compare it to the arcade version. The bonus beach ball has been changed to a football, for no particular reason. There is less traffic on the C64 version, too. This is probably a good thing because there's plenty of obstacles to avoid.

Overall, the Commodore 64 version is a great little game. It doesn't have any resemblence to real driving, as you just go at full speed and steer past everything, not worrying about skidding off the road, so fans of "real" racing games will find it disappointing. Having said that, almost everyone will want to pick up the joystick and have a couple of races on this competent translation from Elite.

Reviewed by Boz.

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