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A.P.I Review: INDY 500
Developer: Tomy OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: JVC 1-2 Player
Game Type: Racing Split Screen
Review Date: April 1998 Standard Joypad

Setting the Scene

When the Playstation was first launched Sony went to great pains to 
promote the point that they were aiming for a slightly older audience 
than had previously been accepted as the norm.  Their attitude was 
that while younger gamers messed around with Sonic and Mario on their 
8 bit and 16 bit systems, the older generation could revel in games 
that held a more adult theme and were perhaps a little too complicated 
for minors to get to grips with.  Thus a new generation of games 
appeared on the 32 bit console.

As time moved on and the rather expensive launching price of the 
Playstation was gradually reduced, the kids traded in their 
Megadrives and GameBoys and jumped on board the rolling bandwagon.  
This created a small problem in such that not everyone was brave 
enough to venture into that mansion on the outskirts of Racoon, 
nor tackle the CyberDemon with a measly pistol during the final 
Onslaught.  The same can be said when it came to racing games.  
I constantly receive email from readers who find V-Rally a little 
tricky, Gran Turismo far too technical, Formula 1 Grand Prix mode 
impossible and TOCA Touring Car just too damn hard.  Yes, it's 
those kids again.

Genre

Indy 500 is a circuit-based racing car game from global 
toy kings, Tomy and has been specifically aimed at the younger 
Playstation owner, as opposed to those who prefer the more 
complicated racers of this genre.

If you quickly become frustrated with racers that are designed 
more to spin you off the track than keep you on it, then this 
could be just what you are looking for.  Have I fitted the 
correct suspension?  Is my gear ratio too low?  Should I choose 
wet or slicks?  Not here, because straight from the off you 
will be tearing down those home straights at almost 300 kph 
with nothing more on your mind than having a ball.

Graphics

For a racing game that was developed by a toy manufacturer 
and is being promoted specifically at the younger audience, 
I half expected the graphics to lie somewhere between Namco's 
aged Pole Position and a home video of the excellent Scalextric 
in action.  Not so.  Indy 500 is a true next generation title 
and knocks the spots off the most recent kids racing effort, 
Formula Karts.  In fact the rolling demo at the intro would 
not look out of place as a warm up to the PSX Formula 1 
racing game.

In-game, the visuals are also rather splendid.  The racing 
surface looks solid enough and not grainy like so many other 
titles while the cars are quite detailed and even gather grit 
on their wheels when straying from the racing track.  This 
gradually spits off as you slowly regain your composure and 
gather momentum.  With the damage turned on a collision will 
result in sections of your cars flying up into the air before 
falling back down onto the racing surface to pose hazards for 
those in your trail.  Taking a corner too fast will lock up 
your wheels leaving behind embedded lines of burning rubber 
wrapped in a trail of smoke.

The scenery is rather pleasing to the eye.  High above in the 
clear blue skies a scattering of cumulous clouds calmly watch 
over a wide range of distracting flying attractions.  
Air balloons hover above the lush open fields seeking the 
perfect vantage point, high above cable cars can be seen 
crossing the mountainous regions while paragliders gently 
descend over the racing circuit.  Even the waves appear 
to roll up onto the beach on the seaside course.  On the 
home straight either side of the track is lined with packed 
grandstands to cheer you on while at trackside a team member 
stands and holds out your race orders and tactics.  You can't 
actually read them, but it's a nice little touch.  The rest 
of your crew wait patiently in the pit lane for your arrival.  
As soon as you issue them with instructions they set about 
their tasks hauling on a fresh set of tyres and topping up 
your fuel tank.

Other pointers that catch your eye are the large video screens 
that projects the track action to the crowd while almost every 
prime spot is lined with advertising hoardings and billboards 
offering further realism to the event.

The racing action can be viewed from three different angles - 
high above and behind your vehicle, low and behind and the now 
customary in-car view.  When racing with the in-car view you 
actually get quite a feeling of speed as the track rushes by 
at a commendable frame rate.  There is a small amount of pop-up 
on the horizon but not enough to affect your judgement of the 
track ahead.  Once a race is over you can sit back and watch a 
replay of the race from alternative camera angles.

Sounds and Effects

The engine sounds are quite high pitched and although not 
entirely realistic they hit the standard set by most other racing 
games... noisy.  Collisions offer a quick thumping sound and skids 
a prolonged screech that sends your reactions into panic mode.  
Actually if you hang around long enough to watch the after race 
replay the sound effects seem vastly improved.

The style of music used in Indy 500 has become quite synonymous 
with the racing genre being a mixture of acceptable rock tunes 
and something else that I can only describe as elevator music.  
I think I normally explain it as Sim City music because that's 
the game it always reminds me of.  The 'commentary' is quite 
horrendous and thankfully he only pipes up when you do something 
wrong.  Oh, and he counts you into the race in a style that is 
normally reserved for TV WWF wrestling.  Don't ask me what is 
said during the race because I haven't got a clue.  It sounds 
like 'have you had any breakfast yet!'  For some reason he 
also shouts GOAL when a race is finished.  Strange person.

Playability

On with the race.
For what is designed to be a fairly simple arcade racing title 
there are a few tweaks and turns available in the options.  
There are three modes of play which are Time Attack, 2 Player vs 
and Indy 500.  

Time Attack is your everyday 'practice the circuits against 
the clock' mode that includes the option of breaking the boredom 
by racing against a ghost car.

The two player mode is viewed in horizontal split screen and 
chugs along at a fair old rate.  Unfortunately it is only available 
as a head to head but you may use the catch up option by selecting 
to switch the handicap on.

Indy 500 involves a solo qualifying period of one warm up and 
two laps against the clock to determine your starting position 
on the grid.  Before you begin you must choose one of the three 
difficulty settings and decide on the length of the race from 
6 to 40 laps.  Yellow flags may be switched on along with the 
car damage while the weather options include rain, fair or random.  

There are initially three courses available.  Indianapolis 500 
is the giant oval where speed is essential.  Strangely enough 
this turns out to be one of the tougher courses because of the 
slight gradient and apparent sharpness of the curves when 
travelling at high speed.  Once you get your brake timing correct 
it is all a matter of judging your overtaking maneuvers. The 
Mountain course has one or two tricky bends but should pose little 
problems after a few laps.  Most of the track is lined with gravel 
pits which upon contact will grind you to a sudden stop leaving you 
to carefully crawl back onto the racing surface.
The Park is a winding, testing circuit with many bridges to cross 
and tunnels to pass through. There is also a series of very tight 
corners to negotiate.  Even the straights have the occasion barrier 
jutting out onto the track. 

Your car selection is basically a chance to pick your favorite 
color but each may be tuned at the Car Settings option.  
Auto and manual transmission is available.  There are four 
grades of acceleration and the same number of tyre options.  
Up to 40 gallons of fuel may be loaded while the front and rear 
downforce each have five settings from low to high.  Every time 
you activate a change your pit crew will pick up their tools 
and carry out your instructions.

Once qualifying is over you take your place on the starting 
grid among twenty five other competitors.  The camera gracefully 
rolls over the impressive line up of racing cars and then with a 
rolling start your off.  The controls are fairly straightforward - 
accelerate, brake, rear view and gears (optional).  I wasn't 
entirely convinced with the handling when I first picked up the 
control pad but then I had only just pushed aside a copy of Gran 
Turismo which was slightly unfair. When cornering it appeared 
that the entire vehicle moved with one single action rather than 
the front moving first and the rear following it.  It actually 
reminded me of when I was young and not being able to afford a 
Matchbox car so I pushed an empty box of matches around the chair 
legs on the living room carpet.  Strangely enough if you persevere 
you quickly get use to this problem and learn how to adapt.  From 
then on it is only a matter of time before you are chalking up a 
victory on each of the circuits.

Value for Money

Don't be so selfish.  Buy it for your kids.
Opinion
MARTIN
GRAPHICS: 16/20 I suppose with so few tracks longevity does come into question but bearing in mind that I recently acquired my A International driving licence in Gran Turismo then perhaps I was overqualified to judge this racer. Had Indy 500 claimed to be on a par with Formula 1 '97 then I would have seriously marked down this game. But it's not, so I didn't and judging by the reaction of my young son to Indy 500 then perhaps Tomy may have found a nice little niche in the market.
Now for my rating kiddies.
If you had 100 lollipops and took 15 away. What would that leave me?
Probably a black eye.
SOUND: 6/10
PLAYABILITY: 45/50
VALUE: 15/20
OVERALL 82%

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