Monday, September 13, 2021

Matter of Import 58: Le Mans [Commodore Electronics 1982]


Le Mans is a top down driving game released as a game cartridge for the Commodore 64, named after the French race. Controls are simple, turn the paddle left to go left, right to go right, and hold down the button to accelerate. You have 60 seconds to accrue as many points as possible, and if you hit 20k you're able to race for 60 more. While you do earn points just by driving, you earn more by passing other cars - 1000 points per ten you can evade without crashing.
Of course, if you do crash, not only does it slow you down while you drag yourself over to the pit, but it resets your "passed cars counter." Margins are slim even when you do manage to extend your playtime, so one bad crash is all it takes to keep you from it.
As with many other early racing games, your rival cars all travel at the same speed, coming up from behind you until you've matched them. Some will drift erratically back and forth the width of the track as you progress. There is a little variation, but in general the track follows the same general pattern.
First, there's a relatively simple straight-way. Then you'll get to an ice section where your traction is reduced. Then, you hit a dark or tunnel region where you can only see what's revealed in the small cone of your headlights or the tail-lights of the cars ahead of you, then another straight away, followed by a span of S-curves. After another straight-way the track forks into two two-lane paths before merging and repeating the pattern.
The visuals aren't bad for an early Commodore 64 game, and the sound is decent as well - an engine rumble that changes as you drive faster, the high-pitched alarm when you pass the extended play threshold, the whine as you narrowly pass opponents… it's not too shabby.
The best feature, perhaps, is the simplicity of play - you dodge cars to keep playing. Don't go too far off the track. Avoid crashing. Ultimately, it's one of the better 1982 racing titles.

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