Badlands was an old arcade game released by Atari Games way back in 1989.

The story

This was the last of a whole series of Sprint games, including Sprint 2, Sprint 4, Sprint 8, Sprint One, Super Sprint, and Championship Sprint. They were actually released in that strange order. The number designations on some of them do not indicate a sequel, it merely indicates the number of players the machine supports. This particular title is sort of the odd man out in the series, and many video game players pass it over.

The game

In this game you control a race car on a series of different tracks. You are looking down on the action from above. Your only goal is to drive around the track as many times as possible, and as fast as you can, and shoot anyone who gets in your way. The shooting part is where this game diverged from the previous games in the series. There will be several other cars on the track at all times, who will be trying to do the same thing you are. Player one controls the blue car, while player two (if present), controls a red car. The best tip I can give you is to avoid getting yourself turned around the wrong way. It has been a little while since I have played this title, but I had one in my living room for almost a year and would sometimes play it for hours at a time.

The game goes through a whole series of eight tracks, and then goes through them the wrong way. Much like Ironman Ivan Stewart's Super Off Road does, in fact this game has a bit more in common with Super Off Road than it does with the other Sprint games, the feel is very similar. Race around the ragged tracks, mess over the other cars, and buy upgrades after every race. The cars seem pretty large on the track compared to most other Sprint games, that is because they reused much of the Championship Sprint gaming engine, but used a lower resolution monitor, which meant the track got a lot more cramped.

The Machine

Badlands was sold only in kit format, which is probably one of the reasons it wasn't nearly as popular as it could have been, because the kit couldn't upgrade any previous games in the Sprint series because they all used different monitor types, so the kit ended up going on Donkey Kong cabinets and other unsuitable games. The one I used to have was in a Mario Brothers cabinet.

The control panel featured two steering wheels that had 360 degree movement (and worked off optical encoders), a gas pedal and a fire button each player. The pedals were pretty cheaply constructed and didn't have a lot of range to them. You would end up being full on throttle or all the way off throttle since there was only about a quarter inch between those positions.

This game claimed to use the JAMMA wiring standard but implemented the steering controls and gas pedals incorrectly, meaning it is not actually plug and play. You can however still plug the board into a JAMMA cabinet in order to test it.

Where to play

You can play this game with the Mame emulator, although controls may be an issue, as most people do not have a 360 degree steering wheel hooked up to their computer (much less two of them). A trackball will work in a pinch, but it is not authentic (turn the analog control sensitivity settings way down for best results).

This is one title that is definitely worth adding to your arcade game collection. The gameplay has stood the test of time and it is probably the second best game in this genre (behind Ironman Ivan Stewart's Super Off Road). Up to two people can play, meaning that this machine will probably end up being one of the favorites in your game room.

While I owned mine I did get the chance to try the game using a gas pedal with a larger range of motion (a Sprint 2 pedal), and it really did improve the game, although that is not an easy modification to make.

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