[u]The Great American Cross-Country Road Race (1985, Activision)[/u]

The legacy of the Commodore 64 greatly impacted the home computer market. While the commercials advertised it as a great business machine or educational learning device, everyone knew that it was really a top-notch gaming system. Games were inexpensive to produce, so many different genres and crazy ideas were explored over the years.

Familiar load screen of the C64

Of all the games I owned for the Commodore 64, very few managed to addict me as much as Activision's "Great American Cross-Country Road Race." While it certainly doesn't sport top-notch graphics in comparision to today's X-Box 360 titles, the playability (and replayability) of the game more than make up for any flaws...and it's easy to be immersed into the game even if the cars don't quite look authentic.

Less than realistic looking cars

The game boasts a number of interesting ideas, many of which are as fresh today as they were when the game was originally released. For starters, there are several races that you can choose to complete--from simple cross-country coast-to-coast racing (similar to the Cannonball Run for those of you who lived in the 80s) to a more difficult mode which requires you to visit every major city on the United States map, while outracing your opponents and picking routes that won't make you lose precious time.

Plan your route carefully!

There are many hazards on the road that keep you on your toes, many I have not seen implemented in other games. The time of day, for example, helps determine how much traffic is on the road. During rush hour, the traffic becomes thick and clogged...while the non-peak hours will leave the roads nearly empty. One of these non-peak times is night. The visibility during this time drops and and you can only see what is in the range of your headlights.

Driving at night can be dangerous

Other hazards include weather and construction. Navigating on slippery snow and ice or over patches of rain water can be difficult. And road construction can cut off access to one side of the road, reducing your ability to race quickly for a short period of time. Better keep one eye on your gas gauge as well, since running out of gas can put you in a tricky spot...but, fear not, if you run out of gas, you can always push your car to the nearest gas station (though it will eat into your time).

Stopping by a roadside gas station is important

Even when you've got a clear road, you aren't without hazards. Going too fast can get you in trouble if the state police happens to be clocking you when you pass. When you hear the sirens, you have two choices...either pull over and take your ticket or put the pedal to the metal and hope you can outrun them. If you do, you're home free, but don't count on it being easy.

Oh no! Not another ticket!

Learning how to shift gears correctly is essential, since it will keep you from blowing your engine. But, just like running out of gas, popping down to the next gas station can fix you right up if this happens. Once you master shifting gears, you quickly learn how to pick up speed and beat the other cars you're racing agianst.

Racing through the desert!

One of the coolest things about the game is that there are different "leaderboards" that can be loaded. As the race progresses and you stop to rest in each city, you will be advised of your position and which driver is ahead of you. When you finish a race you qualify to be put on the board, you save your name and it will be used on the leaderboard for future races (which is why I use a different name each time like "Jedi John" or "Frankenwheels"). It's a great thrill to see that the person ahead of *you.* And it increases the difficulty in the game as you try to beat your past scores to win the race.

The top drivers for this race

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the game doesn't have the best graphics, but they are decent for their time. A vast variety of terrain, from desert to grasslands makes each stage of the game different than the one before. Far off cities are actually fair representations of what they might look like in real life (I swear the first time I saw Las Vegas it looked *exactly* the way it does in real life when you approach from a distance...but I could be insane). When you consider how small this game is and the era in which it was made (1985), that's an amazing amount of graphical work.

Racing through farmlands!

There is very little music to speak of, and the sound effects are merely average. But none of this takes away from the experience. If only modern racing games had so many things going for them. How I wish someone would do a decent remake of this game with all the same options and playability. Alas, that will probably never happen.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

Thanks for reading this far. I'm looking forward to adding more reviews of Forgotten Games in the future. This is my first article here, so be gentle.