You’ve seen the film and the incredible Boonta Eve Classic podrace on Tatooine. Now relive it in the best possible way – at the wheel of a speed king’s dream.
Graphic detail is very impressive from the off, and justifies LucasArts’ minimum machine spec – a 233MHz iMac with hardware acceleration and OpenGL. Here is a game that has been created without compromise. The silky-smooth screen redraws are testimony to this – cut-scenes abound, lighting effects are spectacular and the lens flares convincing. Plus, you get to sit back and watch the original podrace film-footage. Even the kid-actor who plays Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd, does the voice.
First up is free racing, with a selection of around a third of the available tracks. Keep an eye on the on-screen map and try to avoid the other 11 racers – damage from the non-stop bumping and barging can be mended partially, via the repair key, but the resulting speed-decrease drops you down a few positions.
Then it’s on to the main event – the tournament where you race for real on 25 circuits, spread across eight different worlds. Snow, forest, underground, arena – every kind of track’s on offer. The first 21 courses are divided into three groups – amateur, semi-pro and galactic. When you finish a group, one of four invitation circuits becomes available. Often, only a top-three or top-four finish will allow you to proceed to the next race.
There are some nice touches. Whenever you crash and reappear, there are always a couple of racers in front of you to pursue – great when you’ve just fallen off that rope bridge for the fifth time. Then there’s the never-ending stream of taunts – hit the relevant key and fire back a set of your own as you blast past your latest victim. The further you get into the game, the better the selection of podracers – the money you earn from winning races gets spent at Watto’s shop, or junkyard, with the owner giving a pretty good impression of The Merchant of Venice’s Shylock.
Racer also offers a multiplayer mode, supporting up to eight players on a local area network. Unfortunately, each person needs a CD in their drive – a bit greedy of LucasArts. Also, I found a nasty bug, where the use of the comma key zaps all keyboard shortcuts.
But this is hair-splitting. Racer is the best racing game ever seen on the Mac. You’ll have to buy the game on-line from the States courtesy of LucasArts’ attitude to the UK market – but it’s worth every penny.