I used to occasionally play this nice little game in the darkened space (note how I didn't say "game room", since bumping elbows with people doesn't exactly constitute the meaning of "roomy", if you ask me) of a local Sears back in the day.
Then one day in the hallway of the mall where the Sears lead out to, there was a new game room! And it had this game, and all the others that used to be in that Sears space! AHA! Sears (or that one in particular, anyway) decided to jump onto this huge money-making entertainment venue known as the video game arcade! Whoo hoo! (But then, a couple of years later, the video game crash hit, and that game room became...well, something or other...)
This is somewhat reminiscent of Venture (along with being mixed with Rally-X), where it was divided between the two screens of the map screen, and then once you entered a room on the map, it was revealed what you had to do and/or battle in that room. Instead of monsters though (mostly, which I'll get to), here you had crash cars to avoid, but plenty of objects to collect in the buildings, streets, whatever that you drove through.
You start off every game on a screen with a prize to collect -- usually a bag of money -- and with three crash cars right below you (no pressure or anything!). It's usually best to press the gas button for a couple of seconds so you can whip around the cars before they start coming at you (you were allowed the luxury of a few seconds before they started moving your way, like cops following a trail of cocaine to actor Robert Downey Jr.'s apartment) so you could grab the prize and exit the screen, which leads to the map screen.
As I mentioned the gas, you start off every level with 999 units of such petrol, which slowly tick down, unless you use the accelerator button, then it goes down much more quickly, of course. (999 units is PLENTY, though, unless you're very panicky...plus when you die, you'll start off with a completely full tank again. That must be a good insurance company you use!) The maze screen is kind of weird, since several of the buildings are empty -- most games that are laid out like this usually have things to collect in every room, or whatever -- although at times you can cut through them to put a bigger gap in between you and the chase cars, if need be. Buildings that have prizes to be collected will be indicated with a blip on the screen, which all the buildings have to be cleared out before you can advance to the next level.
Usually you'll get money bags to run over for points, although sometimes those suckers can be devious: enter a building that has several, and they'll usually take turns alternating into an oil spill...so be careful of this, because running over oil gets sucked into your gas tank (I guess, considering the effect), which slows your butt down (in Soup Nazi voice from the infamous/famous Seinfeld episode: "no turbo boost for YOU!"). Other screens will have prizes that sometimes appear at a dead end, which you really need to gun it to grab it and get out of that dead end before a crash car appears at the only opening that you can use to escape...and it's heading your way...
There's even a little puzzle in one of the buildings, as a big question mark icon is a no-no to run into, which running into it will say "BOMB" on the screen, and you're dead/in the junkyard. However, it's surrounded by several dots, and running over the dots will eventually turn it into one of the "friendly" icons to be run over for points then, once you run over the correct dot. (Hmmm, dots, and a Pac-Man looking reject of a monster also appears on one of these screens, who doesn't look too happy...maybe it's because he was rejected for Pac-Man and ended up in this lesser known game.)
Helping you out, though, are some flags scattered around that turn the crash cars into money bags to be run over for points. You'll also get a bonus for any fuel left over when you complete a level, although more crash cars start getting added the further you get into the game, making it more difficult.
This game doesn't have a mean bone in it's body. Like I said earlier about the "BOMB" deal, the word "CRASH" also appears if you run into something you shouldn't, costing a life then. It was like Route 16's distributor Centuri was in fear of people's whining about violence in games (yes, they did it back then too!) that they avoided pretty much anything questionable in this game. (Gee,
imagine if Grand Theft Auto came out back then, with the word "SEX" appearing after you pick up a hooker, and that's all you get, ha ha...)
I don't recall if the controls were kind of fidgety, but they're not that great on a keyboard nowadays on MAME (maybe it works better with a joystick?), although the graphics weren't bad for back then (there's some mild flicker though, but it shouldn't screw up your game), and there's a pleasant little tune that will go through your head all afternoon after you've played it, although it might get on your nerves after a while.
Gameplayers of today would probably only rate this as a 6, possibly a 7, but I'm rating it (which I usually do) as to how it compared with other games back then, and it was a pretty damn fine one, since there's different things to do per building. It'd be nice if this would re-emerge today in one of those many compilations that get released (Atari, C-64 and Intellivision classics, etc.), but then, hardly anyone knows of the Centuri name today, even though they had several big hits, like Phoenix and Vanguard. It'd be great to have those games (along with their fairly popular hit of Challenger, which was supposed to come out on the Atari 2600) on a cd, but then, they'd have to know how to SELL the thing, by advertising in retro gaming mags, websites, and the like. And I doubt anyone's going to attempt to do that, I hate to say; it might not be worth the expense.
Only one question, though: what the heck IS Route 16? A bunch of passageways, mazes and buildings that are stocked with goodies, computer-controlled crash cars, and a Pac-Man monster reject? I don't get it. 8/10
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