Set into countdown mode for this weekend’s FIA WEC 6-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps and with Project CARS to hand, we looked around and began to wonder where we first saw Endurance racing, time of day and something to suggest weather.
With more games to follow, we at least have an early candidate: Enduro on the Atari VCS (or 2600, as it would be renamed in the early 1980s).
All in a day…
Beginning from a standing start, Day 1 arrives with a target of 200 cars to pass. Complete the day’s driving and the challenge will be raised – to 300 cars!
An odometer indicates the distance driven, with a hopefully falling car counter your ever-present companion during the day’s journey. Brush the side of the road or worse still, hit a car and the other competitors will rapidly pass you by. Take things too leisurely and a flashing car indicator and nerve-wracking beep will work together all too soon to build on the pressures of maintaining speed and finding a clean path through the traffic. That sound will stay with you and raise your heartbeat!
Should you complete a day’s racing, you’ll get a break from those activities. A brief one that lasts all of a second! One! Celebratory flags waved and joyful ditty heard, it’s back to the track, more cars and perhaps some considered driving.
Pushing on, should you go quickly left? Right? Brave a squeeze between two cars or ease back momentarily to catch your breath and pass the racing machines in a different line-up?!
As the game’s manual helpfully points out, it will take more than maximum speed to outshine the other drivers. Sometimes that will mean… slowing down! Yes, some say it’s a developing skill…
Classic Atari, Wonderful Activision…
In what’s something of a signature of Atari’s 8-bit machines and especially impressive given the age of the VCS even at the time, Enduro manages to include a range of pleasing colour effects and what feels like a smooth update. The daylight progression of the sky background adds a playing reward of its own, though it’s also ably supported by an ice-laden area and the fall of fog. The ice section also introduces a sound effect to suggest the crunching surface under the tyres!
Even as recently as a decade ago (GTR: FIA GT Racing Game), some games resorted to a separate load for different lighting or weather. Anyone playing during the days of low-memory, tape-based 8-bit gaming will certainly remember the delights of multi-loading and waiting minutes for the next stage or level to load and yet the game’s designer and programmer, Larry Miller, managed it all with this little gem in a cartridge holding a minuscule 4KB of read-only storage space. To give some perspective to such a small number, those 4 kilobytes are probably far less than one of the icons that might be sat on your computer’s desktop right now!
Enduro – it’s simple, it’s blocky, it has that ‘One more go!’ factor… and it’s recommended!