Free as a bird.
Imagine this. You step up to your vehicle. You admire its stylish paint job.
You climb inside and strap yourself in, fastening the life protecting seat belts
with great care. You rev up you engines and keep the beast warm. You begin to
move and approach the start line amidst the pack of your competitors. You slam
forward as the race begins and start a neck and neck competition for the place
on the podium.
one of your opponents gets in front of you and it seems to be decelerating,
closing the distance between the two of you with dangerous speed. You hear a
cracking voice over the radio. Your coach yells at you, barking with desperation
“you’re going to crash, your going to crash! Dive! Dive! Oh Shit! To Far! Pull
Up! PULL UP!” Dive? Pull up? In a racing game? It’s NFS 2
in turbo mode? Is it the new Elliot Gould XXX porno game? It’s the effect of
a pebble in Redline Racer? Dear god
the entire thing is just Plane Crazy I tell you!
Well… yes, yes it is. You have not entered a dimension of sight and sound,
this is not the twilight zone, there is no la da da da la da da da in the background.
You are merely playing Plane Crazy, the new, and over-all-too-soon game of PC
Aerial Racing. Aerial racing games have always been something of a rarity in
the PC world. Sure, they are fairly common on console systems, but the only
other such game that I remember in the PC realm was Slipstream 5000 back in
’95. I’ve always found that the lack of aerial racing games was a little odd,
especially considering the massive proliferation of aerial combat games on the
Plane Crazy, being the only specimen of its species, is possibly its greatest
asset. Its uniqueness in the field of PC Gaming is refreshing and is sure to
ensure it some success. It is a good game, but it is slighted by a few nagging
flaws, detrimental shortness, and a little bad, last-minute programming.
The game starts off with a slick 3D interface that gives you easy access to
whatever part of the game you seek. Options are few and obvious, nothing his
really hidden away and the whole thing feels a little flashy, acceptable, and
transparent to the gameplay. Once you set up your plane (selecting body and
paint job) you go ahead and play either quick race, tournament, or multiplayer.
Quick race is most likely where players will spend most of their time. Except
for one track unlocked by the tournament, all the tracks are available. In tournament
you earn money for finishing in the top 3. This lets you outfit your plane with
new engines, wings, and structural materials. If you beat the tournament, you
get an extra track and a kick ass plane after all your enhancements.
Gameplay is highly arcade. Movement is handled much in the same way as a normal
plane sim. Bank and pull up to turn, that sort of thing. For this reason a joystick
is an absolute requirement if you plan to ever win or even last to the end of
a single race. If you crash in the game you will either A: Explode or B: Bounce
off like a pinball and loose some control and speed. No high realism here.
The control does take some getting used to. This gives the game something that
most racing games don’t really have: a learning curve. Although, the reaction
here is much the same as that of anyone who plays any racer for the first time.
One thing that’s really bugs me about the gameplay is the checkpoint system.
In my opinion (humble though it may be), the word checkpoint is perhaps the
most hated word in the English language. I hate racing game checkpoints; they
are the devil. Further, they are a pointless construct on PC, serving only to
prolong the sense that we are actually not sitting at our computers playing
a game we paid $50 for, but instead feeding a machine quarters one at a time
in the local Pizza Parlor. Well, Plane Crazy has really rigid checkpoint and
until you really get good at this game they will frustrate you terribly.
Graphics are generally OK. Colorful, fun, well textured. Overall the game has
acceptable eye candy but it seems to run a little slowly for its fairly cartoony
looks. Almost all 3D Accelerator cards are supported through D3D but I recommend
a 3DFX Voodoo 2 or Riva TNT to handle this one. Sound is good as well, not spectacular,
really are well designed, though. Each one is set in its own locale, save for
the 3 training tracks. Each track features a barrage of tricks and twists that
make them fun and frisky playgrounds for your bird-startling racing ‘mobiles.
There is a nice element of combat involved in Plane Crazy. You can fly through
strange glowing blue balls of light to collect amusing attacks which you launch
at your opponents in projectiles that look like blue comets. The attacks include
loosing control, increased weight, that sort of thing. You also get 3 charges
to use to knock over pillars and blast open mine entrances at given points in
the races. The combat is not the main attraction of the game but it does add
healthily to the fun of this title.
So what is wrong with this tigerlilly? Well most of it involves nice little
dirty Europeans and mean ugly Americans (YEEEHAWWWW!!!!). Plane Crazy was originally
released by Europeans, in… well, Europe. Now in the US Sega Soft has picked
up the publishing rights and a few new features were added to the mix for the
American release. The new features include colored lighting that drags the framerate
to a standstill, added at the last minute and apparently never optimized for
The new training tracks which are fairly bland and do very little to solve
the problem of the game’s briefness. Oh, that’s right, there are very few tracks,
bad. The other additive is AMD K6-2 3DNOW optimizations that really don’t seem
to work. I have a K6-2 300 and the European version of this game said 3DNOW!
ran at a much higher constant framerate. The main problem being the piggish
colored lights which I recommend leaving permanently off.
Finally, yes, the requisite multiplayer is supported over PX, TCP/IP, Direct
Connect and Modem for up to 8 players. Overall its fun but not very different
from single player mode. I would have very much liked to see a split screen
mode so that you could hear the screams of your friend sitting next to you as
you tip a pillar into their propeller.
Overall this is a good game. Its fun, the gameplay is new and refreshing, the
tracks are good, and the graphics are attractive. The game is really only plagued
by its short length and a few badly implemented enhancements. It also doesn’t
really make you want to jump up and shout your praises of joy that this game
is on your computer. Its fun. It successfully merges two different genres. Maybe
it even validates the whole F1 Aerial Racing thing going on in this country.