Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum
Submitted by: Ian Marks
Pole Position was a great arcade game, and as a small(ish) child I really loved it. Every holiday down in Cornwall I’d sneak into an arcade and have a go at spinning that wheel around – even though I lived in Brighton in 1981 I was too young to go in the arcades on my own, so seaside holidays were my only chance. It wasn’t enough though, playing Pole Position for one week a year was okay, but I wanted to play it all the time…
I played all sorts of ZX Spectrum racing games in the hope of finding a game that would sate my Pole Position needs. Chequered Flag was too complicated (and had no opponents), Full Throttle had motorbikes – and I wanted cars and I even sunk as low as DK Tronics Speed Duel, which was truly awful and unplayable.
Then in 1984 it was announced that the official version of Pole Position was coming to the rubber keyed marvel. I hoped against hope that for once it would be a great arcade conversion, that it would against all the odds play just like Pole Position in the arcades. Surely that was too much to ask though, it’d never play like that… things like that didn’t happen on the Spectrum. I rushed to the shops and bought the game, loaded it up and realized that…
It was an absolute pile of monkey trumpets.
I should have known. It wasn’t a good sign that the title screen used the standard Spectrum font, always the sign of a cheap conversion. Then there was a brief bit of hope when the game started and the car and starting gantry graphics were quite good. All hope was dispelled though when the game started to move. Flickery graphics and shonky collision detection meant that it played nothing like Pole Position. Unless you were playing Pole Position through the bottom of a Coke bottle at the wrong (slow) speed.
Stupid games publishers, they always gave me false hope, and I always fell for it. Looking back now I can see how foolish I was always thinking that Sir Clive’s little marvel would pull an arcade perfect conversion out of the bag…but as a 13 year old I had a more optimistic view of life, and maybe that’s no bad thing.
Format reviewed: Commodore 64
Submitted by: Matthew Aston
Pole Position for the Commodore 64 is a port of the F1 arcade racing game originally developed by Namco. The Commodore 64 conversion was produced by Atarisoft and released in 1984.
I’m afraid I have been looking at Pole Position with rose tinted specs, see for me at least Pole Position was great, even though it’s really not that great. I had very few car games to play in the early 80’s and Pole Position was the first, so of course I have fond memories of it. In any case I was only 5 or 6 so there!
Pole Position only has one track, the Fuji Racetrack of Japan. The start screen shows the track along with some limited options such as changing the amount of laps per game and the ability to have a practice run of the track. There are two parts to Pole Position; the first is the qualifying lap which determines your position on the starting grid, followed by the race itself. The race is more a race against the clock than an actual race. You have 75 seconds to complete each lap, passing the start line replenishes your time. Run out of time and the game ends. Driving on grass slows your car down and crashing into other cars or road signs will cause your car to spontaneously explode.
In retrospect Atarisoft tried to generate graphics similar to Pole Position’s arcade counterpart, but they aren’t especially good, in fact there fairly blocky and low resolution (even for the C64). There is a sense of speed but the controls aren’t all that responsive and it can be difficult to avoid crashing as you’re never quite sure where your car will be once you come out of a turn. The sound is reasonable, your vehicle sounds like a race car, although not a F1 machine, the only music to speak of is a little tune that plays just before the start of a race. Understandably, there is no “Prepare to qualify” voice as in the Arcade original, although the C64 was proven to capable of such things later in its life.
Pole position is a very unsophisticated racing game; it was basic on the arcade, but on the C64 it seems more so, it certainly hasn’t aged well over the years. It has simplistic visuals which don’t push the C64 very hard and pretty poor sound, but I still like it, purely for the nostalgia of this early Commodore racer.