Powerboat USA: Offshore Superboat Racing
Copyright/Publisher: Accolade, Design: Rick Banks & Paul Butler, Programming: Lise Mendoza, Graphics: Grant Campbell, Release Year: 1989, Genre: Water Sports, Number Of Players: 1 or 2

'I want people to look at her and be aroused,' claims Don Johnson, talking about his Scarab powerboat rather than girlfriend Melanie Griffiths. Yes, for real excitement 'you need huge throbbing MerCruiser 420s that eat a gallon of gas every three-quarters of mile'. There's certainly no denying the awesome speed - and cost - of powerboat racing.

The game opens with an impressive options menu. There's six courses and four boats on offer, all with plenty of statistics and some great pictures of the boats. A short practice might help you choose between two-hulled catamarans and Deep V monohulls, which the manual usefully describes in detail.

Registration is next, you can either assume an identity already entered or type in a new name. Either way next stop is the pits, where you can fuel up your boat - and remember, fuel means weight means reduced performance. Just enough to get you round the course is perfect, but weather conditions can force changes in the course length.

Now you can qualify by beating the clock in time trials. Advice in the Driver's Meeting can be useful for this, and the full race where you have to race the competition around the buoys marking out the courses. Jumping the start flag adds a minute to your time, as does stopping to make repairs. During the game you can call up a time sheet giving the details of your times.

Besides pushing forward on the joystick to go faster, you can use trim to affect how high or low you can fly over the waves - too high means you lose traction and speed. Changing conditions mean you constantly have to keep an eye on this, as well as the bilge pump! And revving too high will burn out the drive shaft.

Your overall objective is simply to win on all the courses with the fastest times, which are recorded in the Winner's Circle.

?
As I read through the informative manual I began to wonder why no-one had done a powerboat game before. Fast, glamorous and even including Don Johnson's powerboat this looked like a novel twist on the race game format.

The first disappointment is that there's no overall quest to win a championship or manage your finances. And even worse there's no indication of what position you're in during a race. When you finish, the only reward is your time appearing in the Winner's Circle table.

The actual race isn't bad. Using trim to improve speed is realistic, while the smoothly-scrolling horizon varies according to your position on the course. The spray thrown up by competitor boats is a nice touch, but they can move away at unrealistic speeds and inevitably don't loom up to fill the screen as you get close - collisions occur when they're still some way away. All in all, a bit of a missed opportunity.

Phil
Powerboat USA isn't the complex simulation it at first appears to be. Behind the facade of numerous options lies a simple race game. This is fairly playable with a fast 3-D effect, but as you can't go outside the buoys which mark the course, the navigation facilities aren't required.

The only real hazards are the other boats which - with the very dodgy collision detection - can easily be hit, completely destroying your boat. What a pity more effort wasn't made to integrate the game's various sections - with a bit more thought it could have been so much better.


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 72%
Informative instruction manual and nicely presented menus, although multiload could be tedious, for tape owners.
GRAPHICS 76%
Attractive throughout, with seasickness-inducing screen shate. However competitor boats can race away unrealistically fast and be hit when at some distance.
SOUND 67%
Viceish bass solo, but in-game FX limited.
HOOKABILITY 61%
Fairly easy to get into, but never really grips.
LASTABILITY 49%
Six courses, four boats but mile after mile of sea soon gets repetitive.
OVERALL 54%
A visually attractive race game which lacks essential playability.


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