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Hard Drivin - The Atari Times

Hard Drivin


Truth in Advertising
by David Sherwin

September 18, 2003
In its brief mainstream life, Atari's portable wonder machine turned out to be (among other things) one of the few showcases for the arcade division's early-'90s creations. It can't be doubted that Lynx owners have best home versions, bar none, of Klax, S.T.U.N. Runner, Checkered Flag, and Rampart. It's difficult, then, to explain the unmitigated disaster of Hard Drivin' amongst this stellar group of arcade ports.

It's possible that mischievous coders decided to take the game's title a little to literally, or that the game testers were caught (truly) asleep at the wheel; the result, whatever the explanation, is just a mess. Hard Drivin' isn't impossible to play, but it isn't much fun, either, and will likely find new fans among the uninitiated. Hard Drivin's minor successes, such as interesting polygonal graphic displays, aren't enough to make this title a worthwhile acquisition to small gaming libraries. Hard Drivin' is, however, unaccountably difficult to acquire, and it remains attractive to Lynx collectors largely on that basis alone. 

Gameplay

Hard Drivin' is ostensibly a driving simulation, but it really doesn't offer many realistic driving options for game players. The options screen that precedes actual gameplay is really quite limited; players may choose only between automatic and stick-shift transmissions. Most players would be well-advised to choose the "automatic transmission" selection if they want to move their car at all; controls are fussy and unforgiving. 

When preliminary options are selected, gamers are placed on the game's racing track. You don't, alas, get any type of choice of vehicle, and the control vehicle looks more like a Gremlin than a Porsche. This, of course, may provide a valuable clue why gaming cars are so prone to on-course crashes.

Players share the track with a number of blocky "enemy" vehicles who will attempt to hog the road and run you off of it. I've never been able to start the game in Pole Position, and collisions are a continual gaming hazard at the beginning of every race.

Players who are successful in keeping their cars on the track may then either turn right onto the "stunt" track or continue forward to explore the "speed" track. The "stunt" track enables gamers to test their driving skills on a number of surreal bonuses, such as a full 360 degree loop, while the "speed" track is largely limited to straight-aways and curves. Players are allowed only a brief period of time to complete each track. 

The game is really let down by its completely horrifying control scheme. Hard Drivin' isn't just the name of this game -- it's also an accurate description of the onerous and overly problematic nature of actually driving the damned control car. Players have a cockpit view of their car -- there is no other option -- and, although the display is graphically simple, it is frustratingly easy to lose control of your car. The Lynx joypad, which is usually quite sensitive, is here completely unsuited to the task of driving, and even a slight touch will send the car careening of the edge of the road. Players who do this get a "grace" period of 10 seconds to return to the track, but it's very easy to overshoot the road. You're then stuck in the same position as before, but in a different location. 

Gameplay often really does just consist of a series of aborted starts and premature crashes, and, to date, I've only completed about half of each assigned track before the game ends. I haven't found much incentive to actually finish the track, though.

Graphics

Hard Drivin's only offering of interest is its polygonal graphic scheme. The Lynx version is a fairly faithful graphic representation of the arcade game -- although at a much lower resolution -- and fairly well done, though many players have complained that the frame rate speed is annoyingly slow and that this inhibits game play. Because gameplay is already so compromised in this game, though, I haven't noted the graphics to be much of a problem in itself. 

Hard Drivin' does provide an interesting "instant replay" to players who crash their cars, with both car and problem track portion presented in miniature. Because much of the track is hidden during gameplay, these replays often provide gamers with the only opportunity to view the track in full.

Music and Sound Effects

Hard Drivin' is a remarkably quiet racing game. Players who are familiar with the Lynx's other driving / racing selections, such as Checkered Flag and even Road Riot 4WD, may be surprised here by the total lack of digitized sound samples and in-game music. Sound effects are limited to starting cars, acceleration, and car crashes. I've become quite adept at crashing my cars (an easy thing to do in this game), and this sound is for me the game's real soundtrack. That being said, it's still pretty crappy.

Aside from brief musical interludes throughout the game, Hard Drivin' is notable only for its silence.

Summary

Every system has its share of titles that are buggy, too complicated, or simply not fun to play, and Hard Drivin' on the Lynx is a good candidate for pick of all three of these unfortunate categories. 

Hard Drivin' is, in look, feel, and spirit remarkably similar to Club Drive on the Jaguar, and the game is best left for those who have come to appreciate the dubious merits of the Jaguar's racing dog. Hard Drivin' isn't the worst game on the Lynx -- barely -- but it's a clear illustration of the principle that even great systems need the proper fuel in order to get their engines running at full power. Hard Drivin', on the other hand, barely gets the Lynx out of the starting position.

Ah, so it's a Ferrari you're driving.
Try not to hit the cow.
Jumping the bridge isn't as fun as it sounds.
Oh, gee. I crashed again. Hmmm...
Hard Drivin
System: Lynx
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Simulation
Graphics Score: 55%
Sound & Music Score: 40%
Gameplay Score: 10%
Control Score: 10%

Final Score: 30%



Reader Comments for Hard Drivin

Hard Drivin by Justin on 2008-12-17 11:16:06
I used to LOVE this game on my Sega when I was little. It was amazing in those days, the graphics were cool.
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