So you like to race (I do, as judging by previous articles, but you probably figured that out by now). You’re tired of Need for Speed. You want something a little more in depth, with more things to do ‘under the hood’. I present Street Rod, which was released for four computer systems in 1989. Atari, Commodore, Amiga, and PC. Sorry Apple, you can keep playing Oregon Trail.
If you’ve ever seen Happy Days, American Graffiti, or listened to a Beach Boys song, you know the 1960’s were the heyday of the car scene. Fast cars, racing in the streets, cruising the ave, hanging out at the drive-in were all weekend rituals. Street Rod is set smack in the middle of this scene, in 1963. As a teenage guy, your goal is to beat “The King” on the street in a road race, impressing his girlfriend, and thus becoming King of the Drive In. Unfortunately, this guy won’t even look at you until you have enough street cred, which you can only gain by beating other local punks from around town in races.
Of course, being the aforementioned typical teenager, you’re broke. You start out with a few hundred dollars which is enough to buy a car from the newspaper and possibly a different engine. Did I mention you’ll need to buy parts and actually install them on the car by clicking nuts and bolts? It’s as close to being a grease monkey one can be, without the grease. If you don’t know a carburetor from a muffler, don’t worry, the game will show you graphically. To make your car faster, and look cooler, you can remove bumpers and chop the roof. Want to change the color? You just happen to have a spray gun. Just remember, modifications take time, and you only have the summer to beat the King.
There are two types of races available to you. In a drag race, you run a straight section of road for a bit, and you can either race “just for kicks” or for a small amount of money. You can also run a road race, which is much longer and has some turns. Road races can be for ‘pink slips’. Winner wins the loser’s car. Bummer. Did I mention to watch out for the cops?
The 60’s were a time when ‘men were men, women were women, and cars were cars’. The graphics in all versions of Street Rod are charming but the Amiga looks the best by far. Cars are easily identifiable all systems however. The PC version looks decent even with the 16 color graphics. The people driving them all look unique, even though they lack any real personality, as they all give one word answers to you regarding a race. Racing always takes place at night on the same stretch of road. My biggest gripe with this game is all the dashboards in the cars you can own look the same, and the opponent cars magically ‘change’ in size as your distance changes.
The lowly PC speaker supplies sounds, and it does an admirable job. There’s ‘garage noises’ when you pull an engine and adjust nuts and bolts. Adding a ‘glasspack’ muffler does make the car louder, and the theme music, which you can turn on any time by clicking the radio in the garage, is nice, but gets annoying quickly.
Thank the Lord the mouse is usable in this game. I actually only just realized that as I was writing this article.. Who says you can’t learn something new about an old game? It makes navigating the garage and building your car so much easier. Driving on the other hand is best handled with the keyboard or a joystick. The physics in the game are pretty simple. Don’t crash, don’t rev your engine too high, and don’t turn too fast on lousy tires.. Sounds like real life. Half the game is about building the car, not driving it. Win some races and some cars, sell em, buy better stuff. Wash, Repeat. Beat the King.
This was one of those games that was originally for my father, but I ended up playing more than he did. It’s easily my favorite PC racer. I’ve beaten it a few times, and for some intangible reason, it doesn’t get old. Like Fords? See if Ford truly had ‘a better idea’. Mopar or No Car? Get R Done! See you on the blacktop! Not interested in DOSBox? Sit tight! Street Rod is in the process of being re-released with new features! Check it out! Regardless, give Street Rod, a Fair Shake! http://streetrodonline.wordpress.com/