Powerboat USA: Offshore Superboat Racing
Copyright/Publisher: Accolade, Design: Rick Banks & Paul Butler, Programming: Lise Mendoza,
Graphics: Grant Campbell, Release Year: 1989, Genre: Water Sports, Number Of Players: 1 or 2
'I want people to look at her and be aroused,' claims Don Johnson, talking about
his Scarab powerboat rather than girlfriend Melanie Griffiths. Yes, for real
excitement 'you need huge throbbing MerCruiser 420s that eat a gallon of gas
every three-quarters of mile'. There's certainly no denying the awesome speed - and cost - of powerboat racing.
The game opens with an impressive options menu. There's six courses and four
boats on offer, all with plenty of statistics and some great pictures of the boats.
A short practice might help you choose between two-hulled catamarans and Deep V
monohulls, which the manual usefully describes in detail.
Registration is next, you can either assume an identity already entered or type
in a new name. Either way next stop is the pits, where you can fuel up your boat -
and remember, fuel means weight means reduced performance. Just enough to get you
round the course is perfect, but weather conditions can force changes in the course
Now you can qualify by beating the clock in time trials. Advice in the Driver's
Meeting can be useful for this, and the full race where you have to race the
competition around the buoys marking out the courses. Jumping the start flag adds
a minute to your time, as does stopping to make repairs. During the game you can
call up a time sheet giving the details of your times.
Besides pushing forward on the joystick to go faster, you can use trim to affect how
high or low you can fly over the waves - too high means you lose traction and speed.
Changing conditions mean you constantly have to keep an eye on this, as well as
the bilge pump! And revving too high will burn out the drive shaft.
Your overall objective is simply to win on all the courses with the fastest
times, which are recorded in the Winner's Circle.
As I read through the informative manual I began to wonder why no-one had done
a powerboat game before. Fast, glamorous and even including Don Johnson's powerboat
this looked like a novel twist on the race game format.
The first disappointment is that there's no overall quest to win a championship
or manage your finances. And even worse there's no indication of what position
you're in during a race. When you finish, the only reward is your time appearing
in the Winner's Circle table.
The actual race isn't bad. Using trim to improve speed is realistic, while the
smoothly-scrolling horizon varies according to your position on the course. The
spray thrown up by competitor boats is a nice touch, but they can move away at
unrealistic speeds and inevitably don't loom up to fill the screen as you get
close - collisions occur when they're still some way away. All in all, a bit of
a missed opportunity.
Powerboat USA isn't the complex simulation it at first appears to be. Behind
the facade of numerous options lies a simple race game. This is fairly playable
with a fast 3-D effect, but as you can't go outside the buoys which mark the
course, the navigation facilities aren't required.
The only real hazards are the other boats which - with the very dodgy collision
detection - can easily be hit, completely destroying your boat. What a pity more
effort wasn't made to integrate the game's various sections - with a bit more
thought it could have been so much better.