Sunday, December 18, 2016

Car Builder Review

Car Builder is a vehicle designer released way back in 1982 for MS-DOS by Optimum Resources Inc. An interesting "game" that will appeal more to car enthusiasts, the kind that is into drag co-efficiency more so than racing.

Before I go any further I'll just say that you cannot drive any cars in this game, it is purely an automobile designer. For as primitive as this game has I actually had some fun with it. People without much experience playing games from this era will find that there is no hand holding or for that matter instructions. The menu system isn't very hard to figure out but it's on you to find your way around.

I would like to talk quickly about the Malaise Era, the time this game was created in. During the late 70s and early 80s, many different things combined to give us some of the worst cars ever sold. Skyrocketing fuel costs had automakers cutting power to get every last MPG out of their cars. The government also forced the auto industry to cut emissions which also helped to kill power in cars. Lastly, the well built, efficient and relatively cheap Japanese cars had many Americans turning away from the Big Three which resulted in Detroit not having the kind of money to combat all these problems while at the same time trying to give their cars every extra horsepower they could.

It was so bad that 0 to 60 times in the worst cars was close to twenty seconds. You couldn't buy a Corvette with a manual transmission. Detroit started turbocharging everything they could to gain some power but the primitive fuel management systems of the time just weren't up to the task. It was so bad that in 1982 Ford claimed that "The Boss Is Back" because they were able to get 157 horsepower out of the 5.0 Litre V8 in the Mustang. Most economy cars today start around 150 horsepower!

Now did I need to explain all this to you? No, but I don't care. I'm just pointing out that the game is set during the Malaise Era and big engines make little power and small engines make almost nothing so it's a concern while designing your dream car.

Now let's get to the game itself and design a car. The best way to start is by choosing the mechanical bits of the car. You can choose from different chassis from a sporty two-seater to three-row people movers. Once you've chosen your chassis you move to picking engine, transmission, suspension, and brakes. You have many different options from which to choose from and you'll need to balance the best pieces with their weight and so on. A huge V8 with plenty of power weights a ton and dramatically affects your car's handling. You also need to try to keep the weight balance between the front and rear as close to 50/50 again to give your car great handling.

The game comes with a handful cars already designed that you can play with. Above is the Ferrari in the game and it looks pretty good. It tops out at 174, runs the 1/4 mile in 13.1 seconds and gets 32 mpg. Awesome right!! It does everything great and has no flaws at all. I took this same car and just tweaked the body.

This is my Ferrari
All I did was tweak the front a bit and the rear even less and that great Ferrari becomes a disaster. Just that little change made the car act way differently than it had before. This is how tough, but fun, this game can be. Now let's get to my car, a car I built from the ground up.

I call it the Homer
I started with a two seater chassis and put in a V8 up front, four-speed driving the rear wheels, front disk and rear drums and a small fuel tank in the rear. Once the mechanical was buttoned up I went to work on the body design. In the picture above you can see my body just clears the engine and chair. That wonderful-looking body took me probably an hour to design and I started by making a body that looked like a Mustang and a Porsche 911, unfortunately, those both didn't work but this did. It's not perfect but it was the best I could do.

Once your car is designed you can run it through two sets of tests. The wind tunnel which you can see above and a road course that tests out the engine, handling, and braking.

The road test has 9 different points that measure different things. You can see 8 to 9 tests top speed, 2-4 test brakes, and handling and so on. My car made a lot of wind noise but other than that it did pretty good. My original design had the big 460 ci V8 up front but it ruined the handling so I downsized to a 351 ci V8 which turned out pretty good. The game also has the 302 ci V8 with 157 horsepower from the Mustang of that year but it kind of sucks which goes to show you how bad the era was.

You can see my car has pretty good stats for the era, not great like the Ferrari but not terrible. The worst stats are the 0 to 6 and the braking which is horrendous.

32 MPG from a V8 that does the 1/4 mile in 17.4 seconds, Detroit should have hired me to design their cars for them.

So in the end what do I think of this game? It's not terrible but your average video game player won't get much from it. Even with it being nearly 35 years old it's very playable. This would be a good game to sit down with a bunch of friends to see who could design the best vehicle. You could pick a goal like best MPG in a sports car or best performance while hauling six people. If you are interested in this game you can get it from My Abandonware. I give Car Builder a 6 out of 10.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...