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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 5th.

5th Gear (Commodore 64)

So, I'm guessing that most people have cottoned on to the theme by now, and are making guesses as to what the next game might be. Did anyone get this one? It's yet another ancient game... must get around to something a bit more modern at some point...

5th Gear sets itself up as a game where you're taking part in an illegal, no-holds barred car race. It sounds a bit like The Cannonball Run with weapons which, thinking about it, would be awesome. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite like work out like that.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Oh, don't be stupid...

The game is like some kind of crazy shuttle run. You have a set time where you must race against time up the screen to a pre-determined point, turn around, and make it back to the start line again. That doesn't seem as though it would be that difficult, but the path to success is littered with obstacles...

Ooh, a garage! That's handy. Wonder if they've got any Haribo?

It's bad enough that there's some tricky terrain to negotiate, but this being the kind of event that it is, there are other vehicles en route that will try their hardest to bring your run to a premature end. Some just drive around in circles in awkward places, getting in the way... others will shoot at you, which is somewhat bothersome. You can fight back, though... your car is equipped with a machine gun right from the off, and there are shops along the route that offer new equipment, repairs and upgrades.

Ahhh... this can't end well...

This all sounds like a huge amount of fun, but in practice it's not quite as good as you'd imagine. Chief fun-stopping culprit is the small screen size. I've measured it (sad, I know), and you only actually get to play on five-eights of the screen... in a vertically scrolling game on a TV screen, that's incredibly restrictive. Secondly, this is billed as a race... but you can't actually go fast. Well, you can, but games won't last very long if you do. There are so many obstacles, such as walls, bushes and bridges that you'll be dead in seconds. And as if that wasn't difficult enough, there are rivers with narrow bridges to cross, although if there's a jump or you have the right equipment you can sometimes take these out of the equation.

5th Gear has all the makings of an excellent game, but it's hamstrung by the game design and the difficulty. It's a shame, because a combat racer could have been a huge hit on he Commodore 64, and in fact I reckon this is one of those games that could still make an excellent game if it was remade on one of today's consoles or PC. Anyone out there fancy giving it a go?


  1. Hah - I suspected this would be today's game ;)

    Hard as a nut, this one. And simply not rewarding enough.

  2. It nearly wasn't today's game, but turned out to be the best and easiest option. To get working, that is... it's certainly not easy to play!