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Indy 500 - The Atari Times

Indy 500

Gentlemen, start your engines!
by Darryl Brundage

February 7, 2004
I still remember the day that I bought this game with the over-sized box (to accommodate it's special racing controllers) at Target, for only about $10, thanks to the video game crash (which, around here in Houston, it usually sold for $30-35 in the pre-game crash days. That was one of the few good things that happened due to the crash, what with decent games, such as this one, being excellently priced, although it was too bad I didn't have much money back then!)

This is also one of the few home video games out there that, at the time, was actually better than an arcade counterpart, like the 2600 version of Space Invaders, which had better, more varied-looking invaders, and over 100 game variations, including two players on the screen at once. And the arcade game? Uh, just Space Invaders with one player, and the same game with two players. Oh my, catch me, the room's starting to spin, I think I'm going to faint!

Actually, Indy 500 isn't exactly an arcade port, but it's first racing variations are a lot like the old black and white (yeah, REAL old!) racing games of Sprint 1 and 2, where you raced through tracks, and you were ranked on how well (or not) you did, which a friend of mine's older brother could really spin around the tracks big time and consistently receive the game's highest ranking...which actually scared the crap out of me, since I SAW how he used to drive in real life, which was *exactly* how he played; gulp! (He's probably dead now, I imagine, from a highway fatality, or he lives near the no speed limit-enforced Autobahn in Germany, one of the two...) There was also an Indy 4 and Indy 800 arcade games made as well, both of which Indy 500 shows a strong similarity towards (confused yet?), but what makes Indy 500 better than Sprint are the game variations (since Indy 4 and 800 has this cartridge beat by being able to accommodate 4-8 players!). And speaking of which, let's get to them, shall we?

Grand Prix Track -- here you, against another player, must complete 25 laps; the first to do so wins. If that sounds like it's going to take too long -- which, yeah, 25 laps IS a lot of laps -- the next game variation after that is the same game, but instead you've got a time trial of who can score the most laps in 60 seconds, which is a bit of a shorter game (which all of the game variations are like this, with the 25 laps variation as the winner, then the time trial afterwards, except for two one player only variations that I'll get to).

Devil's Elbow Track -- same as the above, except for -- as the name suggests -- having some pretty wicked turns in it; it's about as twisted as the lyrics on any satanic heavy metal band's album. I like the long straightaways on this one, and, with practice, you can whip around those turns really decently too, thanks to the nifty controllers that come with this game, which are exactly like the Atari paddle controllers, except you can move the dials all the way around without having the controllers stop spinning like the paddle controllers do, perfect for zooming around an opponent (and don't forget to yell the most hurtful insult you can possibly muster when you do so: "you drive like my grandma!").

Crash 'n Score -- this is one of my favorites: a dot appears randomly on the playfield, and whoever's car runs into it will get a point; you either have the game option of scoring up to 50 hits or whoever can score the most points in 60 seconds. The antics that follow in this variation remind me of the old arcade game Rip Off, where there's a stash of loot in the middle, and you and a friend can guard it from pirate ships coming in, who attach lines to the loot and take it offscreen with them; you have unlimited ships, so you can crash yourselves into an enemy ship if you want to stop them that way! What reminds me of this game is when two players head for a ship at the same time, one of the players shoots the enemy ship, and then the players crash head-on into each other; this happens a lot with this variation too, but crashes cost you time, so you might want to avoid those, the better to beat the other player to the dot if you can.

Tag -- another favorite of mine. The blinking car on the screen is "it", and the other player has to tag the blinking car; once they do, the other car becomes "it" and the roles reverse. The first player who stays "it" for 99 seconds total (not 99 consecutive seconds, that'd take forever!) wins.

Ice Race -- heh. Are the first two different tracks (Grand Prix and Devil's Elbow) getting boring? Then try THESE on for size, as the Ice Sprint (hey, there's that word again!) and Ice Rally Tracks will have you slipping and sliding all over the place, even more than The Six Stooges! (Yes, there were six: Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, Joe, and a second guy who played Curly, which I don't know which is more sad, that I actually KNOW the above, or just due to the fact that I even mentioned The Three Stooges here in an Atari review )

As I'm going to the trouble of pointing out all the variations here, in case it hasn't become obvious, I really like this game, it's a lot of fun, and I'm really pleased that I own it (finding it years later with controllers might be difficult for others to do, though). Even though the sounds and graphics are nothing spectacular -- they're adequate and do their job, and that's pretty much it -- but the controls are great, and with 14 games to keep you busy, it's going to be one of the most fun times being busy you're going to have in a while, and if anyone who turns their nose up at Atari and says that most of the games' "variations" are just several versions of the same game, then they're going to have a REAL hard time trying to convince me that Tag is the same as the regular races, Crash 'n Score, and the Ice Races, which is ridiculous! Send him MY way, and I'll run him over with my (pixelated) car!

The only real small problem I have with Indy 500 is that all of the games (except for two Crash 'n Score variations) are two players only. However, you NEED to have another player to bring in a fun random element, but without one, you're outta luck, so I would've rated it higher if there were more one player games, in case you're wondering why my Overall Score isn't higher, despite my lengthy blabbing here.

Indy 500

(c) Atari

Overhead racing games are a natural for the 2600.
Yee haw! Can't catch me sucka!
Crash 'n' Score forces you to drive around randomly hitting things. Kinda like Vice City...
Racing against the clock.
Indy 500
System: 2600
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Driving
Graphics Score: 60%
Sound & Music Score: 75%
Gameplay Score: 85%
Control Score: 100%

Final Score: 83%

Reader Comments for Indy 500

1 player fun as well by Joe on 2019-02-28 07:39:41
Glad you enjoyed the game, I'm rediscovering it myself too. Just need to point out that each variation does in fact have a 1 player version - a time trial, which is fun too! I was playing the ice track on time trial and couldn't get more than 7 laps in the 60 second time limit!

Ps: 1st comment since 2004!
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