Gulp! California Speed is effectively the third game in the Cruis'n series, following in the malformed tyre tracks of world-class clunkers Cruis'n USA and Cruis'n World. Luckily, Midway has realised that the sheer nastiness of these two games just isn't good enough any more, and instead based California Speed more on their other racing franchise, the successful Rush series.
Set in the sun-smacked, brain-toasted state of California, California Speed features more than a dozen tracks, ranging from San Francisco to Silicon Valley. All the tracks have reversed and mirrored versions for use in the game's Tournament modes. Following the lead of the Rush games, the new tracks are loaded with outrageous features like rollercoasters, and there are as many as 20 different vehicles to race through them with. All the cars can be customised, again like Rush 2. Puke-inducing lime green with puce stripes cars ahoy!
While the look of the tracks may be more like Rush 2, the gameplay is designed to be arcade-simple, like the Cruis'n games, though hopefully with a bit more in the way of involvement. All you have to do is put the pedal to the metal and remember to steer! California Speed does promise more interesting tracks than its predecessors, with hidden short cuts to find and car physics that at least bare a passing resemblance to the real world.
The different vehicles include the usual American muscle, classic racers, Formula 1 cars and even a golf cart (?). Unlike the original Cruis'n games, where you simply took what you were given and made the best of it, California Speed allows players to tweak the performance of their car to suit the different track conditions.
What felled Cruis'n USA and Cruis'n World was the fact that what works in an arcade for 20 pence a play isn't necessarily worth forking out 50 quid or so to play at home. Hopefully, California Speed will have added a little more depth in its translation from coin-op to cartridge. We'll find out next issue when we get the import game in for review...