Like the classic coin-op arcade game, Pole Position, or Electronic Arts’ The Need for Speed, there’s nothing subtle or deep about Screamer’s gameplay. You simply choose one of the six high-powered cars at your disposal, pick either an automatic or a manual transmission, then it’s off to one of six tracks where you’ll try to take the checkered flag as you bump and grind your way past your competitors in either single or multiplayer competition.

6_1It’s quaint, effective, and fun. Once you hit the track in your chosen car, your choice of a manual or automatic transmission creates an interesting dilemma. With two less joystick buttons or keyboard commands to worry about, the automatic-shift cars are easier to control, so this is the best choice for a beginner. However, once you reach the pro league, a manual transmission is a must; besides giving you a few more kphs in speed, the manual transmission cars handle better.

Beyond deciding whether to shift or not to shift, there’s little in the way of setup to get in the way of your racing fix. There are collisions all over the place, and when you flip your car, you’ll simply bounce in place for a few seconds, then it’s right back to the race, with no penalty — except for lost time, of course. On the other hand, if you take a sick pleasure in knocking your opponents off the track, you may not lose the race — but you won’t see much in the way of spectacular crashes or exploding cars, either.

4_1One drawback to the game’s simple nature becomes apparent once you’ve rounded the track enough times to notice that the computer-controlled cars operate in a suspiciously familiar way. Race after race, the same cars are spread out in a predictable pattern — a few cars in the lead, a big clump in the middle, and one or two laggards in the back, all running below your top speed. The computerized opponents don’t get in each other’s way, either; they act more like a moving obstacle than real drivers.

But no matter; it’s still fun. You have to get in there and mix it up, edging ahead of a rival, then timing your sideswipe just right so he goes tumbling end over end. This jockeying for position is the best part of Screamer and puts it out in front of Need for Speed for pure driving excitement.

System Requirements: 80486DX2 66 MHz, 8 MB RAM, DOS

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