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Club Drive – Atari Jaguar

Club Drive – Atari Jaguar


Platform: Atari Jaguar

Developer: Atari

Publisher: Atari

Release Date (NA): 1994

Genre:  Racing

Nerd Rating: 3 out of 10

Reviewed by Space Invader


The year is now 2015. There is no reason to bash Club Drive. Gamers didn’t much like it in 1994, and they fucking hate it now. There is a long history to bashing Club Drive. I have a theory that the greater development of the Internet was largely due to a call for a larger platform with which to gripe about the game.

Yup, this one’s been the whipping boy of snide gamers since the mid 1990s. 1994 video game journalists, early web bloggers and screaming late 2000s YouTubers alike have already provided ample warning that Club Drive just isn’t any good. It might seem that flogging a thoroughly dead horse by poking at what is universally accepted as a poorly-designed, rushed game on a stillborn console, itself fully 20 years dead, might even seem a sign of creative and moral bankruptcy on the part of this writer.

Atari is definitely not seeking another review. No one asked for this. What reason could this ham-handed reiteration of the status quo possibly serve?

Why, as an ideal close to April, Nerd Bacon’s month of bad game madness.

Let’s first shoot the elephant in the room: Club Drive is bad. Not just in that misunderstood, old game sort of way. Moreover, there is no plane of existence during any point in time in which the general consensus isn’t that this game utterly sucks. However, the only way to go about this without wholly sinking to the level of YouTube screamer is to look, thoughtfully, at the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

This is as good as the graphics get. This is a title  animation.

This is as good as the graphics get. This is a title animation.

Yes, you read that right. There are actually good aspects of Club Drive. The game has some good ideas, but tends to falter in the execution of these ideas. Not unlike communism.

The game is based on the head-slapping premise that driving, later in the 21st century, will be outlawed until the creation of the indestructible vehicles that appear in the game. Some distant year, 2698 or something. With your newly legal car, you can traverse to the “past” (at the time of the game’s publication, future) and roam the streets of San Francisco circa 2010, you can shrink down to micro size and ride around someone’s house, you can go to the old west, or you can race around some fictional racing city that’s really just a track with a skyline behind it.

The best aspect of Club Drive is these aforementioned scenarios. Even rendered in simplistic, primitive polygons, they actually show a decent amount of attention to detail, for the most part. In San Francisco, you cross (or drive off of) the Golden Gate Bridge, race around the hills, find the Trans-America building, and run into the trolley, the single, lonely vehicle to keep you company in all the city — unless you’re in two-player mode, and for that matter, good luck finding a friend with whom to play this. You end up on the beach.

In the Old West, it is possible to find some secret passages to areas containing giant dinosaurs, and interestingly, one depicting Atari HQ, in Sunnyvale.

The track in the house is interesting, as you race under legs of tables and chairs, avoiding the cat. There is something on the Television (usually a game of Pong), and a raging fire you can drive into if you’re in the right mode.

The more populated locales look better than the sparser ones, and the crudeness of the early-90s polygons is more forgivable when there are more objects, and therefore more details, on-screen.

The Bad

Great Scott -- the Koosh ball of death

Great Scott — the Koosh ball of death

So, so much. The game consists of three different modes, only one of which can remotely described as fun. “Collect” mode has you racing around trying to collect neon koosh ball-looking things, “Tag” involves you tagging your friend in your vehicle (just like real life), and “race” has you racing around your locations, against a friend or for your best time. “Race” mode is the best, clearly, as you are most free to explore the locales. What’s more, “Collect” reduces the San Francisco course to a parking garage. Who ever fantasizes about driving around a parking garage?

Your car is described in the manual as indestructible. I found this to be true, and not for lack of trying — no matter how high the cliff from which you send your car plummeting, no matter how harshly you collide with scenery, your car just flips about and comes back for more. Unfortunately, “indestructible” seems synonymous to “filled with helium” in the land of Club Drive, and it doesn’t take much to be sent askew. At times it is a trial just to stay on the road. Other moments your car flips end-over-end as a response to nudging the side of a mountain or building. The way it drifts through the air, flipping and spinning madly, almost always redepositing you on the road facing the wrong direction, is sure to garner expletives.

The Ugly

I remember a review in a 1994 magazine that exclaimed, “Hooray, cardboard boxes for graphics!” That about describes it. The best graphics you will see are on the title screen. If you thought the gourad-shaded polygons of Cybermorph were ugly, Club Drive will induce vomiting. Scenery is made up of boxy polygons that are in no way concerned with looking like very much at all. Zipping through San Francisco, should you find yourself able to keep your helium-filled vehicle road-bound, looks nice enough, and Jerome’s Pad is so full of detail that it’s fun to look at even if you do sort of want to shave Club Drive‘s butt and make it walk backwards. However, the giant cat mentioned above looks more like a table with whiskers.

Back in ’97, when a friend and I discovered this, we had all sorts of nasty vibes for it. One memory, though, is that, whilst a car went spinning off a cliff, by friend hit the brakes, and noted “Well, the brake lights work.”

And they do. It’s inconceivable that anyone would bother with this little detail in the midst of all this tedium. The levels are filled with nifty little details and secrets, and they really deserve to be fun. Ultimately, though, it’s like furnishing a beautiful dream house and then forgetting to add a front door. Decent design elements are utterly betrayed by the obtuse controls and horrendous looks.

The Lowdown

If you’re one of those weird geeks who has a Jaguar (don’t feel bad, I’m one), don’t start your collection with Club Drive. It’s bad now, it was bad then, and it’ll even be bad tomorrow. For me, at least, there’s something undeniably intriguing about, say, seeing San Francisco rendered so crudely, and some of the tracks would be a blast if you car shifted around a little more like a vehicle should, although the controls here are stellar compared to Checkered Flag, also on the Jaguar. A+ for effort to the design team, too bad that lot was fucked over so thoroughly by the programmers. As a side note, the music kind of rocks.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Now this I recognize.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Now this I recognize.

Written by Space Invader

Sometime in the early 1980s, in the heart of the Silicon Valley was born one Angelo. No one knew it yet, but he would grow up to become the mighty Space Invader, master of the old technology and writer of the third-person profile.

The Atari 2600 and Xbox 360 vie equally for Space Invader’s heart, but he can’t seem to choose one and settle down. Something is just so appealing to consoles that have names featuring numbers between 300 and 3000.

Little is known about Space Invader’s past, but he is rumored to drive a Buick and is said to have a tremendous singing voice.


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  1. I haven’t looked that hard, but I’m surprised no one has hailed this game as a 90’s avant garde masterpiece yet. “It looks and plays horribly ironically!”

    • Space Invader
      Space Invader says:

      You’ve never lived ’till you’ve played Club Drive ironically! it’s big fun to grow an ironic mustache, drink Natural Ice (ironically) and have a friend over to play this one, ironically. A friend you’d prefer not to see again, that is.

  2. It’s hard to believe that Atari was even taking itself seriously at this point. I mean this is par for the course for the Jag. Cybermorph is a bunch of squares and trapezoids dancing around…Tempest 2000, while fun, is made of a bunch of damn lines…it’s like the developers were sucked into a time warp every time they programmed a game.

    I bought my Jaguar a few years ago knowing full well what to expect, but I can’t imagine the disappointment felt by the handful of “lucky” kids who got their hands on a Jaguar and then realized that those 64 bits couldn’t stand up to their friend’s PlayStation.

    • Space Invader
      Space Invader says:

      True, but I think we owe Atari a debt of gratitude for finally proving that the bitwidth of a processor doesn’t necessarily equate awesome graphics — just think, we haven’t heard a thing about bits since.

      And, just being devil’s advocate, Atari was working with a very early 90s chipset, finally released in 1993, with odd ambitions of trumping SNES and Genesis, the former of which had only been released last year.

      PlayStation hit (in U.S., anyway) two years later, and it was the future, like a spaceship fell out of the sky. Everyone was already shitting on the Jaguar long before, and the only ones who stuck to the notion that the bits trumped the technical marvel from the sky (PS) were the special kids none of us would talk to.

  3. nerdberry
    nerdberry says:

    Omg this is appalling! The car on the box art is Soooo bad. Why?!

    • Space Invader
      Space Invader says:

      At least the box is consistent with what you’ll get inside. Yes folks, this sucks, and we’re not pretending otherwise. Love, Atari.


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