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Review: Pitstop II (C64)

Pitstop II Cover Artwork

This pioneering split-screen racer was a masterpiece, and one of the first games that blew me away with the depth of immersion and gameplay mechanics.

During a race, there was no cheery chiptune soundtrack. The music came from the gradients of pitch generated by the tuned racecar engine. Playing alone, the C64 SID chip would output a beautiful symphony from this one sound source. Playing with a friend (or enemy), the competing duet would find harmonies and dissonances that were both hypnotising and mesmeric to me.

The car sprites were bold and large and the game refresh speed was arcade-slick. Going round tight bends, you’d quickly find the limits of your car’s handling, and desperately wrench your joystick past the breaking point of your wrist to avoid the edges of the course.

Rubbing the edges would result in tyre-wear, indicated by a series of colour changes to the tops of your tyres. The penultimate tyre colour was white, then, bang. Puncture and game over.

Pitstop II Gameplay

The key to this risk-reward gameplay was to take strategic, titular, pit stops prior to punctures or running out of fuel.

Upon entering the pit area, you would actually possess members of your pit crew. Set one to fill the car, and the other to clumsily teeter over to detach a tyre from the car, amble to the fresh tyres (front and rear were in different locations), then teeter back. All prior to overfuelling the car with the other crew member. True multitasking.

The tension of managing the fuel and tyre replenishment was amplified by the stress of spying on your competitor who would be gaining ground on the split-screen while you were stuck in the pits. This was utterly riveting, and as white-knuckle an experience as racing on the track together, blocking overtakes or trying to squeeze past if you were behind.

Playing it Now #

Using Original Hardware #

I am fortunate enough to own the same C64, cassette tape deck and boxed game as I did when I first used my pocket money to buy the game some twenty-odd years ago.

The original hardware and games are quite affordable on eBay if you don’t have a C64, and would make a fine addition to your collection.

Emulation #

Aside from original hardware, you could use an emulator program on your personal computer and operating system of choice. I use VICE, but there are plenty of others too, and there are even some websites with in-browser emulators, though I couldn’t easily find any reputable enough to link to.

I also learned upon writing this post that Pitstop II was available via the Nintendo Wii (as a C64 Virtual Console title), however Nintendo delisted all C64 titles during August 2013. This is a real shame, as I have the Wii C64 Virtual Console version of IK+ which is very playable with Wiimotes. I would have picked Pitstop II up too, had I known it would be delisted. Alas…

Further Reading #

Look at the original Zzap!64 magazine review of Pitstop II.