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Remembering classic games: Stunts (1990)

Combine an impressive physics engine with a relaxed attitude towards copyright infringement and Stunts is the result

Published: 08 Apr 2024

Stunts is a game that could be generously described as “inspired by” classic arcade title Hard Drivin’ and less generously described as “entirely robbed from it”. In fact, Stunts probably had the most relaxed, early Nineties approach to copyright infringement of any game we’ve seen, given that it also contained an entire fleet of unlicensed Lamborghinis, Porsches and Audis.

Stunts did, at least, improve on the formula, most notably with a flexible and easy to use track editor, which was where the game’s real longevity lay. If you wanted to create a nauseating sequence of loops and jumps, where the challenge was less about winning the race and more about keeping your lunch down, that was your choice.

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Races were a shootout against a single opponent, which you chose from a roster of such evocative automotive-related names as Skid Vicious and Helen Wheels. You also selected their car and the circuit, but what the game offered in customisation it lacked in structure. There was no championship mode, just a series of single races and fastest lap tables to climb.

While the graphics might look simplistic today, Stunts actually featured a relatively impressive physics engine, simulating oversteer and understeer on a variety of surfaces. You could also resume a race from any point during its replay, in a precursor to the ‘flashback’ system that is common in modern games like the Forza and F1 series.

Most novel of all, though, was a copy protection system to prevent people pirating the game. To start a race you had to enter a missing word from a sentence in the manual. If you got it wrong, the game would let you drive for four seconds before it instantly destroyed the car, informing you that you had failed to disable the vehicle’s security system. Wonder which Thatcham category that is... 

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