There are still a number of game types that haven't benefited from the cd-rom revolution, and one of these is the racing game genre. The only original title to appear on silver disc for the pc so far is Megarace, which isn't much of a race and certainly isn't "mega", despite its stunning graphics and presentation. Cycle-mania shares MegaRace's technique of streaming the background graphics from the disc as you race with sprites overlaid but here the similarities end. Where Mega-Race is set in the future and features prerendered graphics, Cyclemania uses digitised graphics of roads in Israel, homeland of Compro, the game's designers. And features motorbikes, not cars.
When moving, the surroundings of Cydemania look wonderful - and the game shifts at a fair old pace. The feeling of accelerating and decelerating is excellent, quite an achievement considering the method of reading the data. Sadly, the overlaid graphics aren't so impressive. The bikes, riders and other objects have been drawn using a few basic colours and, therefore, don't fit in that well with the background. There are a variety of cut sequences, some of which have been created on computer, while others have been digitised. This is a perfect example of how not to mix the two types of graphics. Even the best of the computer animations seen here (and some of them are very good) come off badly against real footage. The two styles just don't work when they're used in the same game.
Ironically, the game itself is also a curious mix. It's as if the programmers couldn't decide whether to make it an arcade game or a simulation. When you're playing the full game you're out to get a good placing to gain championship marks. Finish first and you win money which can be spent on better bike parts. Each lap is timed, and there's a separate scoring system complete with high-score table.
Choosing a quick race throws you into the action using pre-determined options which can be chosen and saved ii la F1GP. Alternatively you can choose to enter a single race, or the full blown championship spread over the five different tracks. With the latter two options you get the chance to practice, qualify or go straight in and race. Practising is for wimps, so you can ignore that. What's strange is the qualifying: there are only six bikes in each race - two start on each of the three starting grid rows, so who cares if you're first or last when you start? The bikes are so close together on the start line, it really doesn't make any difference. Aside front the main race type option you get to choose how many laps you want to cover (1-30), a bike and character. the skill of the opposition, the control difficulty and manual or automatic gears.
After indifferent first impressions, once on the track, Cyclemania shows its true colours. The music fits the mood of the game and the handling and animation of your bike is nothing short of excellent - it wobbles and skids nicely when you hit oil, for instance, and each bike even has a working brake-light. Only the crash animation lets it down: your bike falls into pieces and then, miraculously, you find yourself back on it a few seconds later.
Crash and burn
It doesn't take long to get to grips with the control, which is just as well as you also need to contend with two-way traffic - cars, trucks, police bikes and so on, the odd animal, such as cows and horses plus, bizarrely, airborne planes and helicopters, all with appropriate sound samples. The aircraft don't hit you - presumably they're just there to put you off.
Staying on the track and outpacing the other bikes, especially on the lower levels, is not particularly hard. Avoiding the various obstacles, however, is not so easy and each time you hit something substantial you crash which causes your health to decrease. Only when you cross the start/finish line does some of it replenish. This brings in tactics. Either by using the map screen or by bringing up the opposition chart, you can see where you are in relation to the other riders. Imagine you're out front, slightly ahead of the pack but with very little energy left, do you a) go as fast as you can to keep in the lead, or b) take it easy ensuring that it isn't "game over"? The answer is, of course, that you try to do both.
Hell for leather
The other bikes also suffer damage, so it's not uncommon to finish a race with less than the original six bikes remaining. Often the opposing riders will self-inflict damage, but you can help them out with either a little nudge or by blocking their path. As the collision detection can be slightly unpredictable when you're involved with other bikes (generally the game is okay in this department), it's normally best to try to avoid trouble altogether. If you've played Road Rash, it's worth pointing out that they really are quite different games as with Cyclemania (intentional) violence is really a secondary consideration. There's also an option to race against friendly or aggressive opponents, but they rarely seem to bother you and there's certainly no punching or kicking.
Cydemania is far from perfect, but for all its faults, it's still very enjoyable to play. Accolade plans future enhancements such as a multi-player version and new circuits -the Isle of Man TT race track is apparently top of the list. With these changes and a few tweaks, it could become a classic. As it stands, Cydemania is a good effort, but a little ragged around the eclges.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP