Before we take a walk down the avenue of gaming yesteryear, if I were to ask what the award for the 1984 Best Sports Videogame was at the Arkie Awards what would you answer? Coming up close to Christmas consider this an early present from me to you all, but the answer was the game shown above, Enduro. I won’t lie, looking back now at just the box art alone, how amazing does the game look? Racing in a red sports car on a track akin to Rainbow Road from the Mario Kart franchise, going from sunrise to sunset to night time leaving dust trails in your tracks, how does that equate in-game with the gorgeous graphics the Atari 2600 offered? And how did this affect my own personal gaming timeline?
For the record, no I didn’t play this in 1984 or contribute to it’s success at the Arkie Awards however it is a game that like Gaming Memory #1 Plaque Attack, Enduro is a game that lives long in the memory. So the idea of the game is that you control a car that has to overtake a certain number of cars in a certain time, with the first time you play the game you have to overtake 200 cars, and if you pass this then it increases to 300 to increase the difficulty. Within this time limit, the scenery changes so one moment you are in clear daytime, and then the sunsetting, with night time and thus the cycle continues. If you are lucky and it is particularly dark around you whilst you play the game, you may be lucky enough to get snow blindness when a sudden dazzling white background fills the screen and you’re playing in the snow. If this happens then take my advice and let out a manly growl and shield your eyes – don’t shriek like you’ve seen a massive spider with it’s body as big as your hand.
The challenge of Enduro is overtaking the cars in the certain amount of time you have, but also visibility and weather conditions play a key role. At night, you have really limited visibility so at a fair speed you cannot see what is in front of you so you really do need reactions akin to an armadillo with habernero sauce in it’s veins to ensure you don’t crash your vehicle, whilst in the snow the control of the car diminishes. It is somewhat of a challenge to complete further than the second day but it is a game in which the challenge is welcomed, and doesn’t feel out of reach the more you play. If you crash on the side of the road or into another car which slows you down thus making the finish line seem further out your grasp, it feels like it is down to you and not bad controls or reactions from the game’s part.
As with all Atari games, the d pad moves your vehicle left and right and the button makes you accelerate. As tempting as it is to keep the button pressed down to maximise speed, unless you got great reflexes then the key is to know when to brake and lose speed in order to maximise your time to get to the finish before the timer runs out. The controls are smooth and responsive, and although your finger may ache from holding onto the accelerator that is to the fault of the player. The graphics are bold and the changing landscape is a great feature – yes the graphics on the Atari 2600 may not be the greatest and yes all it may be is swapping colour palettes, but for a game made in the early 80’s it is a lovely touch and the night time driving with limited visibility adds a twist to proceedings. The sound effects are typical Atari so nothing spectacular.
So what makes Enduro an appealing and memorable game to me? Aside from the fact it was in a bag of cartridges given to us long after the success of the 1984 awards, it is a game that other family members who may not have played video games before but like racing can play. The fact they too can pretend to be the next endurance racing driver overtaking hundreds of cars is a nice feeling, especially with modern games with hundreds of buttons, thousands of combinations and kids who spend way too long getting items that outrank us mere mortals. Anyone can pick up and play, and you don’t need to be a demon at video games to do well in it, Being a family game, it brings a sense of togetherness that games such as Enduro and a lot of the early NES titles can bring which is what happened in my circumstance, so that’s why it holds a special place for me. That and being a quality title as well helps…
So once again I thank you for reading this far and sharing this journey with me. Until the next time we meet, pip pip.