This PC remake of the classic ZX Spectrum game, Tranz Am, was first released in 2008 by Retrospec. It is a reasonably faithful, “enhanced” conversion of the overhead racing game originally published by Ultimate Play the Game in 1983.
Unfortunately it is another sloppy release from Retrospec, with poor graphics and uninteresting gameplay. The game at least has a number of new play modes, including: main game (collect the cups), survival (stay alive for as long as possible), cup hunt (find one or more cups), race (race other drivers), quiz 1 (drive to a certain state), and quiz 2 (drive to a certain state, knowing only the capital).
In the main game the aim is to drive around the United States and to collect three cups before you lose your four lives. Crashing into mountains will instantly lose you a life, but your car can take a number of bumps into competing cars, trees, pylons, oil wells, or other hazards before it explodes. You can choose easy, normal and hard difficulty levels before starting. There’s also a rather tantalising “get new maps” option, but it doesn’t yield anything new if selected (it suggests making your own maps).
There are quite a few options to play around with, which is good, but the way they’re implemented is pretty poor. The menu screens don’t have anywhere near the polish of Retrospec‘s other Ultimate remakes and they look pretty bad, if I was being honest.
Fuel pumps allow you to refuel your car if you drive over them and there’s a mini map in the information panel that shows you where you are in the US. In the bottom left of the screen is a text label that tells you which US state you’re in.
In the main game, when driving, there are pointless scrolling messages that move along the top of the screen. These are supposed to give you factual information about the state you’re in, and which of Retrospec‘s registered members once lived there (yawn). Firstly: these are almost impossible to read because you’ve got to keep your eyes on your car, or crash, and secondly: they mostly begin with: “Wikipedia says…“, which is a terrible way to introduce factual information about the individual states into the game. I’m the kind of person who is actually interested in this kind of geographical and historical information, but it’s just so badly implemented that it is completely redundant. In fact: this text-scrolling feature is so bad that it just makes me think that the developers of this game were not very clever – certainly not clever enough to understand that scrolling text messages absolutely do not work in this type of game. Who the hell has time to read them when you’ve got to keep your eyes on where you’re going?! It’s just a stupid feature…
Tranz Am is so full of slapdash additions like this that I have to wonder what the devs were thinking when they made it. They added roads to the endless desert, which could’ve been a good idea, but they’re all straight, single roads with zero thought put into them; the map in general is badly-designed (why have roads leading to islands if there’s nothing on them?); the shadow underneath the car is too similar to the colour of the actual car, so doesn’t look good (is a black shadow too much to ask?); use of colour throughout is dreadful; the race tracks (what few there are) are mostly unplayable and poorly-designed; the radar is badly-implemented; why the game has to generate a map, or count down from three, or return you to the same starting position every time you crash I do not know; and even the game over screen is badly-designed with dreadful typography (it has important information to convey, so why put no thought into it?). Ugh. Honestly: Retrospec Tranz Am is one of the laziest remakes of all time…
The only thing about this game that I liked was the main in-game tune, which sounds like a Giorgio Moroder “Neverending Story” rip-off. Kudos to whoever wrote that – it’s not bad. Unlike everything else in this lame-ass remake… Heck, even the original Tranz Am is a damn sight better than this desiccated chunk of horse manure…
Once again: the developers haven’t really thought the game through properly and this remake is a huge missed opportunity. It could’ve been an excellent game, but the devs were not talented, imaginative or disciplined enough to make it good. The graphics are abysmal (they should’ve spent much more time making the landscape graphics more detailed, and working information into that, rather than pissing around with stupid scrolling messages), and the information panel is amateurishly-designed, bland, and mostly useless.
It actually makes me sad that the developers could not re-make Tranz Am and create a decent game out of it. As it stands: Retrospec‘s Tranz Am deserves an award for the biggest missed opportunity – the biggest failure – in their catalogue of Ultimate remakes. It is incredibly disappointing.
Retrospec clearly have some dedicated talent among their ranks, but they seem to lack the ability to produce polished, well thought-out and engaging games. For the most part anyway. Some of their games are okay, but “okay” isn’t good enough.