Title Gee Bee Air Rally Game Type Driving Players 1 Company Activision, 1987 Compatibility Patch Available HD Installable With Patch Submission Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer Review Okay, while not a "Driving" game in the classic sense, Gee Bee Air Rally is very much like a driving game, that happens to be based in the air. It is based on the exploits of those daring and reckless pilots who raced extremely fast aircraft, in the hope of collecting a cash prize, during the 'barnstorming' days of the twenties and early thirties. "Gee Bee" refers to the Granville Brothers company that, on a shoestring budget, produced some of the fastest and most controversial designs of the times. Unfortunately despite some brilliant earlier successes, the Granville Brothers company suffered a disastrous season in 1933 with several pilots killed, and went out of business the following year, while the depression was its height. The deaths have been blamed by some on the poor handling characteristics of the aircraft, others say, however, that this 'bad press' is unfair and is largely a cynical attempt to bolster the reputations of pilots in order to gain credit for their own skills, in having survived the supposedly lethal Gee Bee. The game itself does not concern itself with any of this controversy nor other historical detail, however. It is simply a racing game, set in the air, and it achieves this aim very successfully. If you imagine Lotus Turbo Challenge, but set in an aircraft race, you'll have a fairly good idea of the approach Activision have taken. In other words, you view the game from just behind your sprite-based craft, and the landscape rolls past, giving the impression of 3 dimensions. Of course with an air-based game, you are not merely moving from left to right, but climbing and diving as well. Diving and flying low take you to your top speed which is how you'll hopefully spend most of your time. The crucial thing though, is to avoid the other aircraft, so by weaving from left to right or changing height, or, in the last resort, by hitting the fire button which toggles the brakes, you must make your way to the finish line with the minimum of those embarassing collisions. Should you fail to avoid a couple of substantial prangs however, your plane will crash, and you'll be forced to parachute to safety. This brings me to another of the game's attractions, which is its rather quirky sense of humour. Unlike many of the early Amiga games it seems that the team behind Gee Bee Air Rally wanted to exploit the power of the Amiga as much as they could. The parachute sequence, while forgettable by more recent standards, features a very nice sound effect of a parachute opening, and an animation of the player's impressively large character, slowly floating down from the top of the screen. A moment later there is a crash, and you are treated to a still picture of the pilot in one of several mildly amusing predicaments. Its actually quite reminiscent of Wily Coyote from the Roadrunner cartoon series in a way. Not outstanding stuff, but a welcome addition initially, and later on you always have the option to just click through it with the fire button. I'm not sure how many on-screen colours the game uses, but if it is only 16, they have done it very cleverly. Your plane, an attractive yellow, appears to be nicely shaded, your opponents come in a range of hues, the landscape is cunningly designed to enhance the sensation of movement, and the sky is slightly graduated. Its all rather attractive, and the the sound of planes chugging past from the appropriate speakers also serves to enhance the atmosphere. I must admit that Gee Bee Air Rally doesn't offer a huge amount of variety. You have three difficulty levels, each of which gradually get tougher, there are slalom and ballon bursting courses to mix things up a bit, but in truth, even with the occasional random appearance of the tentative photographer at the prize giving, you're unlikely to want to play the game for days at a time. That's not a problem though, because for a brief bit of enjoyment, in a sub-genre that seems to have been pretty much overlooked elsewhere, the game is first rate. When you also consider the game's date of birth, 1987, more than a year before the admittedly superb Super Hang-On, you may wonder why it seems to have been pretty much forgotten.