Remember The Days When The Words 'arcade perfect' meant everything to the games-buying public? I do. I was there man. Putting my money on the tabic man, buying those cool cassette tapes, man. Getting sucked in by the marketing bullshit, man, 'Arcade perfect' my arse. An 8x8 sprite on an eight-colour background? They said these games were arcade perfect and we believed them. Boy, were we stupid.
Nowadays the reverse seems to be happening; home gaming technology has risen to arcade standards, but no one, it seems, is prepared to use the term 'arcade perfect' to describe their games anymore. It's a sad state of affairs -there should be a campaign to bring it back.
Vote Arcade Perfect
Inner Workings, an interactive entertainment development team based in Glasgow, reckon their new high-speed, airborne racing game Plane Crazy will be one of the first ever games truly worthy of the award 'arcade perfect' The reason? Plane Crazy is to be released as an arcade machine first, under the auspices of the Microsoft PublicPC initiative - a campaign which aims to encourage the adoption by the coin-op industry of high-powered PCs running accelerated games under Windows 95.
"We've always said that the PC is the premier gaming platform. Now we can cement that with Microsoft's PublicPC initiative and have truly arcade perfect games on our PCs at home." said Andrew Walker, head of games development, when I visited him recently to look at his game.
Arcade machines with PCs inside them, running games off CD-ROM? Where's the sense in that? "The whole idea is that we've got this 'theatrical release model'." explained Andrew as he led me to a PC demonstrating a playable version of Plane Crazy. "It's like going to the cinema. I he films are released to cinemas first (where you pay to see it), then there's a release to video later on (where everyone gets to take it home). Releasing Plane Crazy to the arcades first wifi generate lots of feedback that we can then use and build on before releasing the home version to PC audiences later in the year. We'll provide more courses, more features, better graphical content, support for specific accelerator cards -a whole host of reasons which will make the player want to go out and buy it again. The home version will have five courses (as opposed to three in the arcade) and a plane customisation feature which will allow players to tinker with both the flight models and the textures of the planes themselves. Graphically, in the arcades it'll run at 640x480. true colour, at a minimum 30fps - at home it'll depend on what card you have inside your machine."
Bused on d true story
The idea for Plane Crazy came from a sport called 'pylon racing' - a, would you believe, real-life pastime of pilots who race each other at dangerously low levels for money and fame.
"Well-knowns, with great names like Buzz and Chuck -these real nutters, flying the most amazingly 'compact' planes - would come from far and wide to compete," recalls Andrew as he points out the individual planes on-screen.
"These planes here are actually modelled on those pilot racing planes. There's the Chubb - which is really nothing more than an engine with two stumpy wings - it's hugely fast, but not very manoeuvrable, and then there's a varying array of customised Mustangs."
Although Plane Crazy has essentially been designed as a pretty straightforward arcade racer, Andrew and his team are making sure the player is treated to much more than an uneventful lightning-fast dash to the finish. Pulling back on the throttle, Andrew demonstrates how the planes can be flown to a fraction above stalling speed, allowing access to hidden power-ups which have been put there to encourage players to explore the lower depths of the course in search of secrets and short cuts. Considering that there aren't any plans to incorporate weapons in the Plane Crazy melting pot at present, I asked if Andrew would be so kind as to reveal the secret 'all weapons' cheat to me.
"There are no weapons." Yeah, right! And I grow marrows in my window box. "They're currently a secret." So who's Plane Crazy going to be aimed at? "It's age-range 14 and above." Will there be pumping techno in the background, or sedate pan pipe music sending us to sleep? "We don't exactly have 'pumping techno', but I suppose you could describe the soundtrack as 'Ennio Morricone on speed'. It's a game for the racing fan and the music will certainly reflect that."
Direct 3D is good
Graphically, everything seems to be coming together very well. Plane Crazes 3D engine utilises Microsoft's Direct3D, in conjunction with the latest in 3D acceleration, to marvellous effect - misting, Gouraud shading, highly detailed texturemapping and Z-buffering are all called upon to enhance the racing environment. I asked Andrew how his programmers had found working with the infamous Direct3D to come up software. Direct3D will give our highly optimised in-house 3D engine the flexibility it needs in supporting all the major accelerator cards." How will Plane Crazy look in its unaccelerated state? "We're working on a rasterised version and an MMX version, both of which will move pretty quickly, although obviously there'll be some compromise graphically."
And what kind of minimum spec are you recommending? "We're recommending a P133, but it'll run on any Pentium." Inner Workings' involvement in the PublicPC initiative has also introduced other Microsoft standards into their coding. DirectSound (for three-dimensional sound) and Directlnput (which also includes force feedback support) are being put to full use in Plane Crazy, but most interesting of all is how DirectPlay (Microsoft's multi-player standard, which includes Internet support) is being employed. As Andrew Walker explained; "Using Microsoft's DirectPlay makes it very easy to have arcade-style link-up with not just adjacent cabinets in the arcade, but with individual cabinets playing over the Internet. Operators could then organise tournaments where the players in one branch could take on the players in another It doesn't need to stop there either - we could have arcade players taking on people in their homes." Sounds pretty ambitious. Were there plans to try this out in the near future?
"Oh yeah - that's very much part of it." So Inner Workings are certainly thinking big on the multi-player front.
"Plane Crazy is simple to pick up, but really hard to master," comments Andrew as I show my mastery of gaming to the assembled press who pay witness to a Plane Crazy expert in the making. How complete is the version we were playing? "About 30 per cent complete," But the code seemed completely stable - 30 per cent complete and no crashes?
"The engine's complete. It's the courses we're working on." All of the courses and textures are being designed using SG workstations running Alias, Wavefront and Power Animator, which are then ported over to the PC for high quality results. When the tracks are completed, Plane Crazy will offer a variety of racing formats - in a single race against others, or over three courses in 'The Ultimate Challenge'.
Arcade players in the US will no doubt get the chance to play the finished Plane Crazy before we even get a sniff of it, and a publisher for the UK home version has yet to be announced. Inner Workings say they are currently considering publishers (which just shows how confident they are), and expect to make their decision public in the very near future. And I'll be there, with my big rubber 'arcade perfect' stamp, when it happens.
Download Plane Crazy
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
The PC software shelves are bursting with realistic flight sims--but how about fun ones? Plane Crazy takes the best action elements from racing games and gives them wings.
The Danger Zone
If it weren't for the aircraft, racing gamers wouldn't be too surprised at Plane Crazy's setup. Three planes are yours to control--and paint!--as you power through nine rendered courses. You can earn money by winning races and use the cash to upgrade your machine. Throw in some power-ups, a dash of weaponry, and some sneaky shortcuts, and you have all the hallmarks of a traditional action racer.
The setup feels familiar, but the airborne gameplay's not. Sure, you can soar high, but you'll move faster if you stay low... and low swoops are suicidal. The extra freedom of movement (and the crosswinds) makes for a new challenge. Plus, gamers choose their shortcuts by literally blasting open alternate paths. And don't forget about those A.I. or multiplayer human pilots on your tail, either. It's all action, all the time.
Crazy Obstacles, Rational Radio
The courses themselves look great, filled with incredible architectural hazards like pipes, cliff walls, and narrow passages. Your crew chief radios you throughout the race with updates, advice, and smart remarks, backed by a refreshingly bluesy southwestern soundtrack. The configurable controls feel fine with keys, a joystick, or a gamepad.
Plane Crazy is one challenging racer, and it's worth a test flight. Grab some Dramamine and take to the skies!
- Don't be afraid to ease off the throttle in a tight spot. A crash is always worse, and you can regain lost speed through clever maneuvering.
- Sloppy pilots can lightly bounce off the water (and even rocks and buildings) without damage. Just don't make a habit of it.
- When one plane explodes, any others too close to the wake will also blow. At the first flash of orange, take evasive action.
Have an unhealthy addiction to speed? Looking to be the fastest speed freak in the skies? Obsessed with constantly beating your previous records? Like nifty explosions? Then look no further. Plane Crazy is an arcade-style flight racing game that lives up to its name -- your goal is to fly as fast as possible to the finish line and beat the competition any way you can.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This is quite possibly one of the hardest racing games I have ever played. It takes a VERY steady hand and perfect juggling of the throttle, airbrakes, and power-ups to keep your plane under control. There are a total of nine courses to race. These consist of three training courses which are basically the same course with some add-ons; five regular races that take you through canyons, forest, city, clouds, shipyards, a volcano, and yes, even the mall. The final course is a bonus course that can only be run after you earn access. If you go off course, you will automatically be rerouted, which is usually fatal, as you’ll crash and burn in the process most of the time. The planes can sustain no damage in this game. If you hit something soft, you’ll bounce and slow down. If you hit it hard, you become a crispy critter and lose precious seconds while waiting to come back. The difficulty settings come in Easy, Medium, and Hard and are about one tick off -- they should’ve been Medium, Hard, and Amelia Earhart.
In addition to having to get the hang of your new plane, you also have missiles you can use to clear a path or just create obstacles for your rivals. On top of that, there are lighted blue balls lying about that will allow you to pick up and use special power-ups. These power-ups can either give you nitro boosts or slow down your rivals, among other things. Although you have these at your disposal, the other planes do too, so watch out! Actually, you really don’t need to, because your pit crew will tell you if one is about to hit you. I thought it would’ve been nice if the power-ups could have been disabled; the racing itself is difficult enough on these tracks without being fired upon too. There are four types of races available. Quick Race allows you to go up against eight computer planes in an attempt to be the head of the pack. Ghost Race allows you to establish a time and then race a ghost of your plane in an attempt to beat it. Championship is the Quick Race but with points and opportunities to upgrade your plane. And who can forget the beloved multiplayer races?
If you win the Championship Races, you receive credits that can be used for powering up your plane. You can configure, adjust, and paint one of three different types of plane and save these for use later on. The catch is that the upgrades are expensive and you don’t get too many credits for finishing a race. It didn’t appear to me that the different style planes perform any different from each other. To make things harder, if you can’t use your credits and don’t win the next race, you’ll lose the credits you’ve earned. Challenging enough yet? But wait, there’s more! Each regular race level is time-oriented, where you only have so many seconds to get to the next checkpoint and when time’s up, well—Tweety said it best: "He fall down go BOOM!" The only problems I encountered were some locking problems after races and between levels that were resolved with an updated driver for my 3D accelerator. Also, the throttle is not controlled by buttons 7 and 8 as the game menus and documentation show; rather, it is controlled by the throttle.
Nice and bright, clean and white, and blue, and red, and yellow, and fuchsia, and lots of other colors too! The explosions and lighting effects are a real plus and very nice to look at. There is so much to look at, it made my system a little choppy at times. Fortunately, you can tone down the lighting and other effects to help with your system’s resources. This game doesn’t require a 3D accelerator, but if it was a little sluggish on my 233 MHz with 3Dfx Voodoo, that might say a little something about how it would perform without a 3D accelerator. As you’ll see in the system requirements, a 3D accelerator is strongly recommended by SegaSoft and I have to agree with them on this.
There is a lot of it. This game is never silent, from the background music to your pit crew warning you of incoming danger to the ignition of your nitro boosters to the missiles hitting their mark to the ... well, you get the idea. The sound itself is quite good, but when you aren’t doing well, you’ll probably get annoyed with your pit crew constantly telling you so. There are several settings that can tone down what you hear, so at least you won’t have to turn off the speakers if you get headaches easily. The quality of the sound itself is quite good, but there isn’t really anything groundbreaking here.
Windows 95/98, Pentium 166, 16 MB RAM (32 recommended), 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectSound sound card, 35 MB free hard drive space, 2 MB DirectX compatible SVGA graphics card (3D accelerator card strongly recommended). For Multiplayer, 28.8 modem (up to 4 players, 33.6 for 8 players), null modem cable, IPX, TCP/IP, HEAT.NET (up to 8 players on 28.8 modem)
Reviewed on: Pentium 233MMX, Orchid Righteous 3D (with 3Dfx Voodoo chipset), 64MB RAM, Sidewinder Force Feedback Joystick (this game does not support Force Feedback)
This is a fairly simple concept game and can be mostly figured out without the docs. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t check them out. The twenty-eight page manual contains all you need to know, including what the power-ups are and how to use them. There are a couple of tips and tidbits included which help. Everything else is pretty cut-and-dried.
Apart from the throttle thing (which took a while before I figured it out) and the locking problems (which were resolved with newer 3Dfx drivers), this game is a lot of fun and will challenge the most avid racer. Plane Crazy will appeal to us racing junkies, but probably not to those who enjoy free-flight environments like Flight Simulator. It is very fast-paced, takes a lot of practice, and will really give you a sense of accomplishment once mastered. At an MSRP of only $29.99, this game is a party in a box and definitely earns its name.