As everybody with at least half a working brain knows, gameplay is more important than graphics. If there is anyone out there who still needs convincing of this, then I would submit to them this absolute gem on the Commodore 64. Over the years racing games such as Gran Turismo, Forza, Grid, Dirt and others have come and gone - leaving behind nothing but rapidly fading memories (if any at all), but this simple title remains one I can return to, over a quarter of a decade later, and still enjoy.
Released into Arcades way back in 1986, Buggy Boy - also known as Speed Buggy - came as an upright cabinet complete with steering wheel and Hi-Lo gear stick mounted on the front. In the game, you must race your large dune buggy along the courses avoiding hazards such as fences, rocks and deep water while collecting flags and driving through gates. Like most racing games, you are also against the clock, but extra time can be earned by going through the gates marked (strangely enough) 'Time'. Smaller obstacles such as logs and tree stumps can be hit, propelling you into the air - great for clearing hazards as well as earning you points. There are other racers on the track too, but these can generally be ignored as you focus your attention on collecting the flags and time gates. The graphics are colourful and bold, and scroll along at a nice pace. Sound is extremely basic, with only a small selection of sound effects to accompany your racing - a bit of music wouldn't have gone amiss. The game is fantastic fun, however and a nice change from the plethora of Outrun style racers out there.
The game received many home ports to all the popular home micro computers of the day. Most of these kept the huge main sprite of the original (even the humble ZX Spectrum) but the Commodore 64 went down a slightly different route, and ended up being the best version of the game available - even surpassing its coin-op parent. While the 16-bit ports are graphically far closer to the original, the C64 version is actually the slightly faster game - cruising along smoothly at a fair old speed - making it a tad more exciting to play. Sound is, again, very minimal, with only the engine noise, and sound effects for flags and gates keeping you company. It doesn't detract from the experience at all, but it would have been nice to have a cool chiptune track playing along as you race.
However, gameplay is where the game really shines. Buggy Boy is simply an absolute joy to play. The controls are tight and responsive, and the car handles well. Dodging rocks and fences, while swerving to collect flags or zip through gates, is exhilarating stuff and keeps you on your toes for the entire race. There is even an opportunity for some shameless showboating - when you hit a smaller rock your car lurches onto one wheel, and you can stay like this until you turn sharply. Often the valuable time gates are behind hazards, so you have to be quick to steer, or hit a log to launch yourself over the hurdle in order to reach them. Not only is it a great racer, but it is also a fantastic score chaser as well - each time you play you will try to nab more flags, and go through more gates in order to obtain a better score.
Buggy Boy is, arguably, the best racer on the C64, and one of my favourites. It's a game that has lost none of its charm or playability over the years and so I urge you to take this Buggy for a spin as soon as possible.
Developer : Tatsumi
Year : 1987
System : C64
Also on : Arcade, Amiga, ST, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC