By Andrew Liszewski
The Commodore 64 had a wealth of games available for it, but without the internet or magazine racks full of gaming-centric publications most titles were dependent on word-of-mouth when it came to advertising. (Since you couldn’t really tell how good a game was just by looking at the misleading box art at your local Babbage’s.) So it’s not surprising that some great titles fell through the cracks, and one game I particularly enjoyed, but haven’t found too many others who’ve even heard of it, was Racing Destruction Set. (Which I still accidentally refer to as ‘Destruction Racing Set’, which seems to make more sense in my mind.)
It was a racing game that used an isometric view instead of the standard first-person in-car view, which made it feel more like playing R.C. Pro-Am than Test Drive. But you had your choice of driving a VW Beetle, a stock car, a dirt bike, a Porsche and even a lunar rover on a selection of 50 different tracks. And whether you played against a computer or a friend, the game always used the top and bottom split-view (seen above) which had a ridiculously wide aspect ratio, but it never seemed to be a problem.
Looking back at the games I tended to play more than others I realized that it didn’t matter how crappy the graphics or sounds were, as long as they had a high replay value. And nothing adds replay value to a game like customization, and that’s where Racing Destruction Set excelled. Besides the 50 built-in tracks, the game included a track designer which allowed/required you to spend hours laying out and tweaking corners, jumps and straightaways with various types of terrain like dirt, ice and pavement. You could even screw with settings like the gravity which either resulted in your car catching air on even the tiniest of jumps, or not even being able to make it up a hill. And if you did get stuck because you thought it would be hilarious to crank up the gravity, you were basically screwed since there was no way to exit a race in progress until both cars finished. The only ‘solution’ was to reset the C64 and lose an afternoon’s worth of track designing. Ah, the good old days!