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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: March 23, 2000
What kind of hypothetical setting do you think would be the most inhospitable to a fast racing experience? Many possible answers probably come to mind, such as driving through molasses or peanut butter, racing through thick mud or quicksand, or competing where there is little to no visibility. The physical environment that actually combines these impediments is the swamp, where the stickiness and soft surfaces are compounded by an impenetrable mist, making it difficult to see where you are going. Images of the Florida Everglades and the Louisiana Bayous immediately come to mind as examples of seemingly impossible settings for a race.
Despite these obstacles, not only does swamp racing exist, but it has been around as long as NASCAR, with particular popularity in the American South. The 15th anniversary of the competition, started in Naples, Fla., was celebrated in 1999. There is even a long-established and well-respected North American Swamp Racing Association. This organization has endorsed the recent release of the very first PC game to replicate this sport, Swamp Buggy Racing. Developed by DayLight Productions for WizardWorks, it is an offbeat title from beginning to end. The designers were determined to make the product simpler and more accessible than any computer racer ever released, and they were successful. Swamp Buggy Racing is a pure arcade offering with no inclinations whatsoever toward being a simulation. There is not much to set up or tweak, and no financial management is involved. Rather than racing in some complex career mode for upgrades or added challenges, in Swamp Buggy Racing, you simply compete for the title of King of the Swamp.
There are only two tracks available, Mesa Park located in Fellesmere, Fla., and the Wild Thing in the back swamps of the same state. Sadly, there is not much difference in the visual appearance or challenges posed by these two venues. All you encounter in terms of scenery are a few buildings and signs, and lots of trees. Having been lost in a swamp before, I can say with confidence that there are not a lot of landmarks that could be used to remember one’s position. While I can understand why the designers might have chosen not to add more tracks–they could not discover interesting ways to make each one unique–having just two courses is truly unheard of. The only positive thing I can say about this design decision is that nothing is locked at the outset.
Four types of buggies are available: a four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive Jeep class called The Secret Weapon; a six-cylinder class called L-Mean-Yo; an eight-cylinder super stock class named Re-Psycho; and a four-wheel, pro-modified class with nearly 1000 horsepower called The Outlaw. These vehicles are all quite strange looking, as are the real vehicles used in this kind of racing. The visual appearance of each one in motion is quite appealing, although I wonder about the absence of aerodynamic properties; in many ways, each car resembles the kind of innovative contraptions used in soap box derbies. Unfortunately, their appearance is the primary area of differentiation, as they sound and drive in similar ways. Having only four cars is unbelievably stingy, and there is no possibility of downloading extra vehicles or tracks.
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