The Game: Start your digital engines! Grand Prix puts the player behind the wheel of a sleek (and, it has to be said, colorful) race car. With the track scrolling from right to left, the game is simple: get ahead, and don’t crash into the other cars. That may sound easy enough, but hazards such as oil slicks can send a car spinning out of control very easily. (Activision, 1982)
Memories: One of David Crane’s earliest games at Activision, Grand Prix is almost as important as a tech demo as it is as a game. Consider the large, blocky pixel-cars Atari‘s first-party racing games; the colorful, finely-detailed cars in Crane’s Grand Prix were a revelation by comparison. Grand Prix brought us cars of many different colors, with animated tires, and none of the sprite flicker that had already come to characterize many a 2600 game by this point. It was yet another case of Activision putting Atari on notice to start bringing its “A” game – literally.
Bringing the game to life was no easy task with the 2600’s very limited graphics capabilities. The 2600 was designed to facilitate “wraparound” of objects on the playfield, in keeping with its’ designers’ mandate to produce a machine that would be great for games like Tank! and Pong. In order to provide the player with a stream of unpredictable traffic to avoid, David Crane had to find a way to defeat this feature. The solution was fairly brute-force, but it worked, and the game’s graphics are flicker-free. It’d make a reasonably good home version of Monaco GP if flipped on its side.