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Alive 2

         by Songbird Productions

Songbird Productions has come a long way since the famed Lynx and Jaguar
publisher released SFX and Ponx for Atari's portable wonder not so long
ago. Each successive effort has improved dramatically over time, and its
latest title -- Championship Rally -- is no exception. Carl Forhan of
Songbird has teamed up with Lucien Kleijkers this time, with the former
bringing the game's sounds to life while the latter chipped in with the
programming... with both collaborating on the graphics. The result? An
addictive, overhead-perspective racer that will evoke fond memories of
Super Sprint and Power Drive Rally. The comlynxable multiplayer game
offers multiple tracks, numerous power-ups and tons of options. The
version previewed here is about 95% complete and should be available
sometime before Christmas of 2000.

Each track has different characteristics that require the driver to master
a variety of racing techniques. For instance, some tracks are twistier
than others, placing a premium on quick reflexes and proper use of the
brakes. Other courses are comparatively slippery and will put your
drifting (i.e. power sliding) prowess to the test. You'll have seven
courses from which to choose, but only the first three will be initially
accessible (Desert, Meadow and Downtown.) The remaining four -- Alaska,
Coastal, Valley and Formula -- are locked until you beat your computer
opponents in Tournament Mode (thankfully, you can save your progress via

Speaking of modes, there are four of them: Tournament, Single Race, Time
Trial and Versus. Versus mode allows for two players to engage in
multiplayer, comlynxed action, and even offers adjustable car settings if
the ability of the combatants aren't equal. Other options include damage
mode, where your car can take damage when crashing and a ghost car that
remembers the fastest lap in time trial mode.

As has recently become the norm in arcade-style racers, Championship Rally
has a slew of power-ups and obstacles. Speed-up areas, potholes, oil
slicks and repair icons are among the on-course items which can alter the
balance of power during a race. Songbird has also hinted at the existence
of hidden shortcuts and cheats -- I'm pulling my hair out trying to find
them, but I'll take Carl's word for it!

Ok, so you now know what the game's all about, but how does it all come
together? Very nicely, thank you. Controls are tight and accurate, the
framerate is smooth enough that it's a non-factor during play, and the
difficulty level is such that almost anyone can jump in be competitive --
especially in Single Race and Versus modes, where you can handicap the
cars to give yourself an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how much
of a stud driver you are. If there's a nit to pick, it's in the collision
detection department. It seemed on more than one occasion that I was
nowhere near an off-course tree, but it stopped my car dead on its tracks
anyways. To make matters worse, getting around an obstacle once you've hit
it is not a trivial task either. Here's hoping that the finished version
will be a tad more forgiving in this respect.

The graphics and special effects won't make anyone forget STUN Runner or
Blue Lightning, but every detail is drawn and animated sharply enough that
you won't mistake one object from another. As far as hobbyist-developed
games go, Championship Rally currently has no peer. Similarly, the sounds
in the game are not flashy, but they get the job done. The roar of the
car's engine and the "crunch" sound when crashing into a tree are
realistic, and the in-game music is appropriate for this type of game. All
in all, a worthy effort by two individuals who weren't paid thousands of
up-front dollars like Lynx developers of the early 90's.

Alive 2