The Micro User1st January 1988
Published in The Micro User 5.11
Dick Decker is one of life's failures. Veteran of a dozen previous jobs, his fiancee has given him an ultimatum - get a steady job, or the wedding is off.
The Derek Dorkin Despatch Agency provides Dick with a 750cc Yamasaki speed machine, and a further warning - bend my bike and I'll bend your head! With two such supportive people behind him, how can Dick possibly fail?
His job involves delivering mail to the Royal Snail offices in seven separate streets. The road is divided grid-style, giving five distinct lanes along which Dick can ride. Pressing the up and down keys causes the bike to change lanes: Response is instantaneous, but it is very easy to forget that the keys do not auto-repeat, which often results in loss of life.
As Dick rides along the street, the screen scrolls horizontally - the faster he rides, the faster the screen scrolls. This scrolling action is performed very smoothly. Dick, his bike, and all the other characters, are good examples of what can be achieved using Mode 5 graphics.
ASL provides a generous seven lives, which are lost through collisions and lack of fuel. Across the top of the screen is a fuel gauge and the bike is kept topped up by riding through the barrels labelled Gas.
A bell rings as you touch a barrel, indicating refuelling. Often you will encounter four barrels in a row, but the bell will only ring once. To take full advantage of this abundance of fuel you must perform some rapid lane changing.
The Yamasaki has rather unusual fuel economy characteristics - it uses petrol at a constant rate regardless of your speed. Therefore the faster you ride, the less likely you are to run out of fuel.
I don't know where this town is, but its roads are an absolute nightmare. Each street is strewn with cones, burst water mains, concrete blocks, tacks and greasy patches - all of which appear to be positioned in such a way as to cause the most inconvenience.
In many instances the obstacles block all five lanes - in such cases there is fortunately a ramp accompanying the roadblock. Hitting this ramp, at any speed, will take you into the air and over the hazard. It is this aerial aspect which can become confusing. Due to a combination of no shadow on the ground and the length of time spent airborne, you can never be quite sure whether the rider has moved up one lane, or is still in flight. As you have so little time to manoeuvre you must guess whether he is in the air or on the ground, and make your next move.
This minor niggle aside, I found Despatch Rider a very testing and enjoyable game.