No Second Prize
for Amiga (OCS/ECS)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Thalion
Year: 1992
Genre: Simulation, Sport
Theme: Driving / Individual Sports
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 2796
Review by Mr Creosote (2020-10-02)

Nowadays, with analogue nubs being available on every game console's controller, we have to remind ourselves that such a style of control was completely uncommon for much of the classic period. Indeed, the only system to feature analogue joysticks in the early 1990s was – ironically – the IBM PC. Most other systems still used the same technology established by Atari in the 1970s, allowing only for digital control schemes. Meaning in vehicle simulations, you were typically unable to apply fine-grained controls: you either went left or not – “slightly left” didn't exist. Not the best foundation to simulate, for example, a race.

Choose your driver!

Which is exactly what No Second Prize is all about. The main issue being that digital control enforces a number of restrictions on the course design. Apparently unwilling to cope with those, Thalion went for the unusual and chose the mouse as main input device.

This being the “undiscovered” analogue input device broadly available on the home computers of the time, it makes so much sense that it's almost stupid it hasn't been used much more often. Moving the mouse fast and far to the side versus moving it carefully, just a little bit, has exactly the desired effects. The mouse buttons accellerate and break respectively. A control scheme which works just beautifully.

It's not an end in itself, however. The curvy racing courses feature all kinds of twists and turns, all the way up to hairpin bends. Making them much more exciting than those of comparable racing games of the time. This comes at the cost of them being mostly flat and rather featureless graphically.

I know…

Graphics being the most noticeable aspect at first glance, obviously. Instead of using sprites, everything is modelled in vector graphics. Including the motorcycles themselves. Even at the time of release, it was hardly an attractive game to look at. In retrospect… oooouufffff. Hard not to consider those screenshots ridiculous.

Actually just a couple of months before, Psygnosis had released their Red Zone, and No Second Prize looked suspiciously similar. Though I'm happy to say that this game beats the earlier one hands down. The graphics are fast and smooth, and this effect of the TV helicopter diving down to record the best pictures (which actually can be watched after the race in a customizable replay) is pretty cool.

So, yes, really hard to rate this game. From an engineering point of view, it is an impressive piece of work. It has exciting courses and offers an overall good driving experience thanks to its really good handling which feels much more direct realistic than what most games offered at the time. It's just that it looks like a major road accident. If you manage to get into the zone far enough to fade this out of your cognitive mind, there is some fun to be had.

Comments (2) [Post comment]

Herr M.:
There is one game with a similar type of control which comes to my mind: Tie Fighter could be played with the mouse. Not that this was overly practical when making longer turns (which was next to impossible and took a lot of realignment i.e. smashing the mouse on the mouse pad again and again), but as far as targeting was concerned it was a vastly superior to any joystick!