I Doubt Whether Any Of You Ever watched the recent TV series Jeremy Clarkson's Penis Substitutes Around The World (or whatever it was called), in which the nation's favourite lanky dickhead travelled around the world gasping and getting moist at the tip over anything with a big engine in it. I only saw one episode. I have a very good excuse - I was eating my dinner, and it was either that or three fly-on-the-wall documentaries: a holiday one, in which fat, burnt Essex birds wobbled about in tanga briefs, constantly drinking, vomiting and eating, like some giant pink versions of bluebottles (only less appealing); a vet one, in which trainee vets bit the testicles off sheep and spat them into a beer glass during castration season; and a hospital one in which doctors armed with an endoscope attempted to make it onto the front page of Rectums Today. None of them made particularly desirable viewing or created a pleasant eating environment, so I had little choice other than to watch the lanky dickhead. (As everyone knows, it's impossible to eat without the TV on.)
Anyway, in the particular episode I watched, some lunatic rich Americans put extremely powerful engines into World War II fighter planes and raced around a course in the desert marked out by telegraph poles. Everyone was very impressed, and Jeremy had a go and shrieked a bit. He may even have got slightly turgid. (But probably not - Ed.) Plane Crazy is a racing game based on this sort of behaviour (the racing, not the getting turgid; you'll have to go elsewhere for that).
Planes, trains and mobiles
You get three planes to choose from (all of which look distinctly WWII-ish): there's a fat American Brewster Buffalolooking one, a Spitfirey-looking one and a Messcrschmidty-looking one. But you can paint them up in a number of disgusting colour combinations so that they look a bit more sporty and lifestyley. There are five courses to race around, and there are network and Internet multi-play options if you have lots of e-chums. There are also a number of power-ups - which do all the usual stuff like slowing rivals down speeding you up or whatever - whit hang from poles dotted about the course like children's mobiles. Only they're rather more useful, obviously. You have to fly very low to pick them up - in fact stayinq low is part of the point of the game, and you're constantly reminded by the commentator that the lower you fly, the faster you'll go.
Anyway, given the subject matter, I thought it was going to be one of those frantic arcade racing games that moves so fast you have to wear plastic trousers with rubber bands around the ankles if you want to avoid soiling the low-level furniture - sort of like Pod for propeller heads. You'd like to think so. It looked like it might be quite a laugh. And to a certain extent it is. To start with, it looks great: each course has been lovingly crafted - there are trains running along tracks through the desert, monorails running through a night-time cityscape that looks like something out of Blade Runner, a shopping mall to fly through, and spectacular scenery all around. And flying is fun.
Unfortunately there are a couple of things that spoil it. Firstly, the planes don't really feel like planes - or, rather, they do in the fast, open bits, but when you bump into the background (which you will do) the plane behaves more like you're hanging from a wire than flying. Obviously you're not going to get simulation-style flight models for an arcade game, but some semblance of reality would be nice.
There's a very good reason why there isn't too realistic a flight model, and that's the fact that most of the courses are so tortuous and convoluted you'd think twice about potholing in them, never mind flying a plane down them. There are canyons with rock formations blocking your way; back streets in Docklands with Uoyds Building-style duct piping everywhere; narrow, twisting tunnels with tiny entrances and routes so tight it's like something from the endoscope programme mentioned earlier - at times, you have to go so slowly to negotiate a path that you're hardly racing at all. And some of the courses have so many alternative routes that you start wondering whether you'll ever find a way out. They make the later courses in WipEout look like a jaunt up the M1. All of this means it's very difficult - the manual even boasts about the degree of difficulty - even after you get used to the way the planes handle. And rather heavy going.
It's a shame because I really like some aspects of it, and there's a definite one-more-go factor. It's fun to race through streets and under monorails - in a way this is like a racing version of the ancient flying-and-filming game, Stunt Island - and if you're prepared for a long struggle you might get something out of it.
But the one thing any arcade racing game needs is an adrenalin rush, a sense of speed. The likes of Screamer Rally. Pod and F1-97 all have this. It's why people play them. One of my favourite driving game experiences is still the Wauchope stage from the licensed version of RAC Rally - a 160mph downhill thrash that's hard to beat for a sense of on-the-edge speed. You hardly ever get a feeling of speed in Plane Crazy, since half the time you have to hold back just to dodge the next inconveniently placed obstacle. Even the fact that you can't save a Championship adds to the frustration - one loss and you have to start again. All in all. Plane Crazy is accomplished and it looks good, but it could have been a lot more fun.
Download Plane Crazy
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
2019-01-04 Plane Crazy game added.
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