I’ve been looking for a decent, freeware 16-bit-esque racer in the style of Outrun for quite some time now and kept bumping into unfinished prototypes, bad ideas, boring implementations and short one-level offerings.
Thankfully and due to the wonders of the internets, I found a terrific one in the most unlikely of places: the Adventure Game Studio forums. A place where people are bound to talk about their mouse driven point-and-click adventures and not racing games of the Red Hot Overdrive variety.
Don’t get me wrong now. The AGS forums is a lovely place for us who care for hardcore puzzles and not-action, but, apparently, also a place where adventure engines get to be twisted into lovely things that evoke the days of the Amiga.
Red Hot Overdrive is a brilliantly old school game that definitely looks the part. It has you driving a shiny, beautifully illustrated red Ferrari that’s stuck to the lower part of the screen, while desperately trying to overcome lorries, pick up trucks and sedans, and avoiding all sorts of things you’d never find on a highway. You know, things like cows, piles of dirt and snowmen. And all this, crucially, to the soundtrack of one of four music tracks you get to pick.
As the ’90s tradition dictates, merely touching anything will essentially stop your car, thus making hitting the allotted time limit all the more difficult. Indeed, this is a time trial in which checkpoints have to be reached and stunningly scrolling, procedurally generated roads have to be navigated. Roads leading through the diverse if standard variety of environments from deserts to snowy mountains, which, come to think of it, is kind of odd. Unless you’re driving through Chile.
Lush retro visuals and a type of gameplay I had sorely missed aside, Red Hot Overdrive also packs a few ideas of each own. Like the gas stations that can refuel and patch up your Ferrari. Or the aforementioned procedural bits and the fact it admits that honking does nothing.
Then again, nobody cares for innovation when they are having this much fun.