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Deathchase (ZX Spectrum)

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  hydra9 (3851)
Written on  :  Mar 17, 2007
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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Summary

Gameplay purity

The Good

Sometimes the simplest games really are the best. That would explain why I keep coming back to 3D Deathchase and why it never stops being an addictive, fun, exciting experience.

There's not much to the game: Race your motorbike at high speed through a forest. You have a gun mounted on your handlebars and your objective on each level is to kill two enemy bikers. Each level has two phases (day and night) and there are eight levels in total. Each new level adds more trees, making the ride more hazardous.

In this game, the trees are your only enemy. Sure, you have to shoot down the enemy bikers, but they pose no threat to you. They'll swerve around, trying to avoid being killed, but they will never fire back at you. Also, helicopters and tanks sometimes pass across the horizon. They can be shot for bonus points. But despite the fact the tank has a massive cannon mounted on it, it will not fire at you. Nor will the helicopter. So the only way death can possibly come is if you accidentally crash into a tree.

The collision detection is very good, so if you crash (or rather, when you crash), you will have no-one to blame but yourself. After the first couple of levels, the forest will become quite thick around you. Staying alive becomes harder and harder. You have to give this game your full concentration, or you're dead. There are tiny clearings in the forest, and each feels like a breath of oxygen as you pass through it.

Once you get past the rather garish graphics (pink and red tree-trunks? - Oh, the joys of the Spectrum!), this early '3D' game does a rather good job of simulating a break-neck chase through a dense forest. When it was released, I think it must have been the closest (safe and legal) way a kid could get to experiencing the thrill of the speeder bike sequence from Return Of The Jedi. I haven't kept myself informed about Star Wars games, so that has probably been well-simulated by now, but I don't know. Personally, I still haven't played anything that delivers a similar experience to this game.

Deathchase is addictive right from the start. Even though there are very few trees on the first level, it's still a challenge, just trying to take out the bikers. When you do kill one of them, the resulting explosion and juddering sound effect are a good reward.

The game is so compulsive that you don't want to stop. There is a pause at the start of each new stage, which is very useful if you need to urinate, eat something or just get up and walk around. But you'll probably want to jump right back in. Also, you can stop your bike, or slow down at any time, but why would you want to? Even when the forest is stupidly thick, the thought of stopping never enters my mind. The only way to play this game seems to be full throttle, all the way.

The Bad

There's really nothing wrong here. Want me to nitpick?

The constant growl of your bike's engine could be considered annoying. But it's part of the experience. Turn the volume down a little if it bugs you.

The graphics might be off-putting to people who didn't grow up with the Spectrum. But they look much better when they're moving, and once you've played this a bit, I think you'll realise the visuals do their job very well.

There is one strange thing that happens if you finish a level when a helicopter or tank is on-screen. Instead of being taken straight to the next level, you have to wait a moment for the vehicle to exit, screen right. This is annoying only because you're itching to get back into the action!

Finally... The manual says something like, 'the ultimate prize awaits you, beyond level 8.' Well... I don't want to spoil anything, but I watched my brother as he finally, triumphantly, completed level 8, and went 'beyond.' And it's a let-down. But a predictable one.

The Bottom Line

There are some early arcade games that I have the utmost admiration for. They are all examples of a very simple concept, executed to perfection. Robotron is an example of this. Tempest is another. 3D Deathchase fits into this category, too. The difference, though, is I'm terrible at the first two games I mentioned. I admire them, but I suck at them. With Deathchase, I can at least get to level 7 sometimes.

These games all have a kind of 'purity' to them. There is nothing extraneous in their design, meaning it is *all* about the gameplay. They are difficult games to master and being good at them is more than a matter of quick reflexes; it's also about mind-set. In fact, if you can get into 'the zone' (where your concentration on the game is total), then the further you play, and the crazier the difficulty gets, the more relaxed you can become. However, if you start thinking "Oh no, this is really hard," or "I'm gonna crash!" then you probably will crash. This is interesting to me, from a psychological point of view.

Sometimes when I'm tired or my brain is fried from too much 'serious' thought, I spend 15 or 20 minutes racing through pink-and-red forests. It's pure, simple and fun.