When I was a kid, I was lucky, as I had a very involved father who was quite content gaming with me for a few hours before bedtime on a school night. One game that sucked up probably several days worth of time over the years that I still dabble in from time to time is Stunts, by Br0derbund, for the PC.
Released back in 1990, Stunts took the arcade game Hard Drivin’ home properly, (much better than that lousy SNES release a few years later. The horror!) and to the next level with several cars to choose from, a mildly competitive AI, and perhaps most important of all, a track editor. Not only could you race on several premade tracks, you could make your own!
The game is single player (Why no multi-player or two player. Why God, why!?! It was possible :sad face:) as you can either race solo or against a computer controlled driver in a one lap race. There are 11 vehicles, ranging from all wheel drive Audis and trucks (including my favorite “absurd SUV” the Lamborghini LM002) to a legit Indy car. Each vehicle is fairly well defined in the game with its own handling, dashboard, and engine sound, along with exterior visuals.
There are computer controlled drivers for opponents, but they are all pretty lousy. Even the hardest guy (named Skid Vicious) doesn’t drive flat out. It’s arguably more fun to drive in a slower car and try to beat the computer in a handicapped race. Consider the computer an interesting, but ultimately non important component of the game.
Where Stunts really shines is the aforementioned track and terrain editor. It’s all tile pieces on a grid that can be arranged and edited however you like, as long as you make at least one complete circuit on the screen that includes a start/finish line. There are dirt, ice, and paved track sections of all types, and a terrain editor to add elevated sections of ground. Want a high speed banked track? You can do that. Want something with several elevated bridges in a row that you must jump, Evil Knievel style? Done. Want to make a long runway, away from the track, with a jump over a tennis court? Go for it. Your imagination is the limit.
The graphic style of this game is reminiscent of Hard Drivin’. It’s all shaded polygons with very few textured details. Each car is easily identifiable, and the dashboards are typical early 90’s racer with a functioning tachometer and speedometer (Fun Fact: Most race cars in real life do not have a speedometer.) The exterior camera views are a nice touch, adding to an arcade game feel. You can even set the camera on the side of the car as if you had a GoPro camera. The replay setup is pretty simple, but in all honesty, for a 20+ year old game, it’s amazing that it’s there at all. It works well, and allows you to save and reload your victories (crashes?) anytime you like. You can even pick up a race from INSIDE a replay to try again.
There’s a pretty sweet guitar riff for an intro that isn’t really heard in game. The driving sounds consist of your engine and squealing tires. They are better than the sounds used in games like Spy Hunter, but not quite real enough. Still, if you have a PC with a 5.1 sound system, it’ll shake the floor just fine. The gentle “thud” as you perfectly land your car. Did I mention that tire squeal?
The control in Stunts is very tight, but it’s most definitely not a simulation, it’s a ‘game’. The physics feel simple in comparison to modern games, (cars either slide, or don’t, there’s no real in between) and it’s actually a little buggy. You can play with a joystick, mouse, or keyboard, but to be honest, the keyboard always feels like the best way to go. It feels about as natural as it can get steering with button presses, but the steering isn’t so sensitive that you’ll go careening off the bridge into the diner… unless you choose to. There’s actually bug in the first release of the game where if your speed, timing, and position on a jump was justtt right, you’d get “super speed”. The car would attain an incredible speed that couldn’t be stopped. You could launch yourself off loops as if you were a spaceship at this speed. Some say it’s a bug, I say ‘great’!
All in all, Stunts is a great racer that’ll keep you entertained for quite a while. My father and I would take turns designing tracks and seeing who could get the other to crash, usually laughing our rears off as we’d inevitably select the Indy car to attain the ‘super speed’ bug. Some Googling led me to several sites and forums for the game, with some mod packs and literally hundreds of tracks to download and try. In 2012 the game still has quite a following. http://stunts.hu/ Is an amazing site worth a look for modded cars and tracks. Fire up the DosBox, design a track, and give Stunts The Fair Shake.