Let’s Go, Mr Driver! Giddy Up, Boy! More, push it more!
Ok, Taito are definitely one of my favourite arcade machine manufacturers ever. The sheer number of high quality titles they produced, not to mention ending up being converted to home formats, speaks volumes about their ability to put a great game together.
If you read my Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins review, you may remember I mentioned an arcade with the broken machines and free credits. Well, not being total skinflints, us punters flocked to the machine in the corner, my brother in particular, despite the fact that the price per credit was twice that of the rest of the arcade.
Yes, Chase H.Q. it was, and although it was a stand-up cabinet, it was a fantastic machine. The bonus was that in this particular arcade the sound was turned RIGHT up, often drowning out the rest of the arcade, much to the annoyance of those on the silent Gladiator or Mat Mania machines.
Anyhow, if you’re not familiar with this great game, here’s the basic plot. You are the driver out of an elite “Chase” team, driving a black Porsche at high speeds along very fast scrolling roads. The “Chase” team’s job is a straightforward one… chase after an escaping criminal and catch up with them within 60 seconds, then batter their car until it breaks within another 60 seconds. Somehow your car will remain in one piece while the criminal’s car disintegrates steadily, so don’t worry about damaging your vehicle, it’s all about taking theirs out of commission. Do this 5 times against various vehicles and various naughty people, and you will be commended for your efforts.
So apart from a fast car, what else do you have to help you? Your car is capable of nitro boosts, which will increase your top speed by a hell of a lot for 5 seconds, but you only have a limited number of these (normally 3, but can be changed by DIP switches). Also, with the crims being a canny lot, they’ll try and throw you by turning off at an intersection. Luckily, your helicopter-bound colleagues at Special Investigations Airborne are there to point you in the right direction. Take a wrong turn and you’ll increase the distance you need to make up, so it pays to take notice of their advice.
You’re not completely on your own, you have a partner sat next to you who will give you encouraging words from time to time (as per the sampled speech thing I opened with), and you’ve got Nancy, a sexy-sounding girl sat back at “Chase Headquarters” who tells you who you’re supposed to apprehend, chastises you when you’re low on time, and tells you how crap you are if you run out of time.
And that… is pretty much it. The graphics are awesome, and the frame rate is astoundingly fast for the time. There’s a REAL feel of speed to this, and that’s helped by the excellent sound. Tyre screeches, revving engines and the sound as scenery whips past you as you skim on the outside of a corner are all present and correct, whilst tense music jangles along in the background. Add to that the sampled speech… great stuff. Whether it’s Nancy telling you what to do, where to go and what to crash into, your partner telling you to “Push the Pedaaaaaal” or the crim exactly why he’s being held at gunpoint and being arrested, or the helicopter bloke giving you directions, it’s all fantastically well done.
It wasn’t until I found the machine a few years later in the Derwent & Victoria Hotel’s Games Room (Torquay if you’re interested) that I finally beat the game for the first time, and within a day did it again on one credit. And then realised what a short game this actually was. If you’re looking ever to buy an arcade driving game to own, despite the fact I think Chase H.Q. is one of the finest driving experiences arcades ever saw, I would actually advise against it just for that reason, and say to you, “Get Roadblasters instead”.
Unless, of course, you were getting it to perfect a high score record attempt.
To finish off, a quick word about the confusion this game has caused me… the two characters residing in the Porsche are supposedly the same Tony Gibson and Raymond Broady from Crime City. Remember that lazy-arsed review I did where I basically just pointed you to someone elses website? Well, if you’d read page 3 of LordBBH’s review, you’d have seen the comparison of the characters, in fact here’s a section of the original Arcade flyer to absolutely confirm this:
However, I bought the Spectrum version, and I know the instructions to all the home computer conversions (done by Ocean, and considered by many to be one of the most successful coin-op conversions of all time), contain the following information in the Scenario:
"This is Nancy at Chase HQ" - we gotta few perps to catch, Algernon, Looks like you ain't gonna get much sleep tonight"
"Gotcha, Nancy baby! We're on our way!"
What? ALGERNON? AL-GER-NON? Even Matt Bielby of Your Sinclair got misled by this duff bit of info:
Which is why I thought, for many years, that the actual names of the pair were Algernon and Mr Driver. Seems stupid now. D’oh.