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STAR WINDER

Developer

Mindscape

Options

Distributer

1 Player

Game Type

Racing

Mem. Card

Review Date

Nov 1996

Setting the Scene

Yo! Already defeated WipEout XL?
Got post-WipEout depression?
Need another challenge?
Look no further, because without a doubt Starwinder is the game for you!

Starwinder takes place in another galaxy, in another time... Objects thousands of miles in length floating around in random pockets of space have been discovered. What they were intended for is unknown. Who constructed them is unknown. All that is known about these mysterious objects is that as you get closer to it's surface you gain momentum and speed. The objects are given the name "rails" and special vehicles are designed that will enable the pilot to race from one end of these rails to the other. To date, 43 of these rails have been discovered. At the end of each rail a crystal was found. When combined with the cyrstals of the other rails, a near perfect orb is constructed... with one piece missing... After thousands of years of searching, rail number 44 has been discovered. While the final crystal has not yet been found, this is easily the most difficult of all rails. Racers are instantly drawn to it to test their skills and prowess... unknowingly, the race for the final crystal has begun.....

Genre

Futuristic racing

Graphics

Man, where has Mindscape been all my console gaming life... the graphics are gorgeous! Everything is texture mapped to perfection. The rails are presented in a mind-blowing array of colors and styles with generous use of light-sourcing throughout. There are scenes when you pass in front of a red star and the screen gradually turns color to match the reflection of the star. The vehicles are nicely modeled too and come in a large variety of shapes and sizes.

The refresh rate has got to be 30FPS or higher and never slows down, unless of course slamming into an asteroid is your idea of slowdown! Very nice Full Motion Video is also put to good use throughout the game and with humorous effect. I would rate the graphics right up there with WipEout, but a little below the mind numbing graphics of WipEout XL... It's that good.

Sounds and Effects

Holy Sh!+!!! Turn on the surround sound, crank up that sub-woofer and be prepared to get rocked. You are treated to a wonderful array of explosions, spacey sound effects and a driving atmospheric sound track. I was amazed at the variety of sounds going on around me. Slamming through tunnels at breakneck speed and hearing the whoosh of your vehicle really took me by surprise. Sound is top notch in all areas.

Playability

Ah, the meat of any game... When I received Starwinder, I popped it on my PlayStation thinking to myself, "oh well, might as well take a look at the newest WipEout clone and get it over with"... I was immediately treated to a wonderful FMV depicting the discovery of rail 44 and a brief history of the games... Okay, I said to myself, so the FMV is nice... but hell, it's glitz. The gameplay will probably suck and I'll be back to WipEout XL and play a REAL hover craft style game.

I get to the main menu and begin to analyze my options... I immediately notice that there are at least 40 tracks that I will need to race through... FORTY! Geese, this is starting to look interesting. Okay so I go to the ship select screen and notice that I only have access to the first two of five displayed ships. I notice that each ship has different characteristics (rail speed, cornering, recovery, acceleration, etc.), so of course I choose the fastest (although not the best controllable) ship.

You start the game on rail 4 in a race against the clock and drone ships. So I press the start button and again I am treated to a FMV scene. The scene comes on like a news breaking broadcast featuring Barlow Lenz as the host of this racing event. The FMV is crisp and clear and pretty funny! By now I have thoroughly convinced myself that this game is all production and no gameplay what-so-ever.

As the rail is loading up I am given the opportunity to solve a puzzle. It's one of those move and match the pieces puzzles that form a picture. You are given about 10 seconds to solve the 16 piece puzzle... I fail miserably.

Enough!! I shout, bring on the game! I am now treated to a rather futuristic countdown with my ship hovering above the rail and enclosed in a tunnel. 3...2...1...go! I instinctively push the directional pad up and immediately I dive down towards the track. As I get closer, I can't help but notice that nothing is pixelating... the track is still nice and clean and beautifully detailed... oh man, this is getting good! I begin to get as low to the rail as possible to gain speed (I love speed!). Oh baby, I'm really cruising now, zipping through the nicely lit corridors of the rail. I notice a drone ship just ahead and decide to waste him. Bang! I am almost knocked off my couch, the missile and resulting explosion hits the lower registers of my sub-woofer! Giddie yup!!!

The next rail is similar to the first, breaking you in nicely for the challenges that lay ahead. Okay...onto to next quadrant and rail three...my objective, place in the top three. I am now going up against another alien in addition to the drone ships. I also notice something new, at the start of the race my ship is now hovering a considerable distance above the rail...oh well...3...2...1...dive and pass the alien scum...hey, wait the bastards shooting at me...I also notice that this rail only has walls (like wipEout) and no top...it's also a lot more twistier and bendy. I rip around a corner, climb a hill and don't pull the nose down in time...it's about this time my jaw drops...I discover something that I had always wished was possible in WipEout...you can leave the confines of the rail!!!! And guess what, it's damn hard to get back on the track. While I was enjoying the freedom to cruise around in open space, I realized that my vehicle wasn't designed for this purpose. It gets it's speed from the rail itself...damn!!! I lost the race!...three more attempts.... And that my friends is a little glimpse at this gem.

Right from the intro you are sucked into the beauty of Starwinder. You have full six-axis control of your ship. Hell, you can even do barrel rolls through the rails if you are good enough. All this is done with an exceptional frame rate and graphical displays. As you cruise the rails you have to watch out for asteroids littering the tracks (this is outer-space after all!) and avoid collisions with mines. These are various power-ups that you will encounter also...My favorite is the wormhole that transports you either further up or further back on the rail...You are treated to a humorous "news brief" at the beginning and end of each race.

There are several FMV scenes for each race, depending on the outcome, pretty neat. I am up to rail 12 and it's really getting hard. I need to finish first against four of the quadrants best racers. Plus there are now those damn drone ships that are shooting at me...at some sections of the rail there is only a bottom...no top...no walls... Ship four is now available to me but it's just not enough...need more speed to win... I suck at putting the puzzles together at the beginning of each race, so I can't tell you what you get if you complete it in time (a new ship perhaps? a hidden track?). There are at least 8 different puzzles that I have seen...Even the ones that repeat themselves are scrambled differently. DAMN! You even have an option to watch each race in a replay mode with insane use of camera angles.

My only gripe? You can only temporarily cripple another ship, you can't destroy it. At least I haven't been able to yet, but everything moves so fast, I can't get more than three or four shots off at a time.

Value for Money

This game has "sleeper hit" written all over it. Believe me when I say I haven't picked up WipEout XL since I got this game...Is it better than WipEout XL??? Well, no I wouldn't go quite that far, but it IS SO DAMN ADDICTING! I found it much more challenging riding a rail from point "A" to point "B" compared to doing laps over and over again and learning each and every curve and angle...You get three tries on this bad boy and bang your gone. Remember to save often. You have that option at the beginning of each rail. You may want to use it...

Opinion

TOM

GRAPHICS:

Good

Where can I find a surround sound receiver that goes to 11??? Damn I love this game!

SOUND:

Good

PLAYABILITY:

Good

VALUE:

Good

OVERALL
8/10

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