I ♥ Vector Cows!

Speed Freak was an old arcade driving game that was chock full of vector goodness! This Vectorbeam title came out in 1979 and it was probably the best driving game ever made until Turbo (and later Pole Position) came along.

In Speed Freak you drove an extremely fast car along a lonesome road. The idea was simply to drive as fast as you can without crashing. The game was time based, you could crash as much as you wanted, but points were scored for driving as fast and as far as you could without crashing. Your view of the action was from behind the hood of the car, but slightly above what an actual driver would see, kind of like you were sitting on the roof instead of inside the car. Obstacles were mainly oncoming cars (which was always the same one), and police roadblocks. The off-road scenery was limited to stick figure cows, hitchhikers, and the occasional cactus.

This game used monochrome vector graphics, and had some truly stunning three dimensional effects. The action was really fast, and it was quite possible to get you car up to speeds that were simply unmanageable. Hitting an obstacle or running off the road will cause a crash, and make you lose a few valuable seconds of time.

Speed Freak had a really low production run. but it seems that at least a few of the machines have survived relatively unmolested. All Vectorbeam games are fairly rare, but it seems that this is one of the more common ones. The machine was available only as an upright dedicated cabinet. The cabinet was white with sticker sideart on each side that displayed the game name, and a picture of a red car. The control panel is simply black with a red and yellow stripe around it. The controls consist of an analog steering wheel and a four position shifter. The monitor bezel had no decoration at all, and the marquee was made of metal, and was not illuminated in any way.

Internally the game used a 5 Mhz "Cinematronics CPU", and a 19" monochrome vector monitor.

Where to play?

You are probably going to have to resort to the emulators to play this title. There only seems to be a few dozen working copies of this game floating around, and chances are slim that your local pizza shop will have one. But you can play this game using either MAME, CINEMU, or Retrocade. Technically you are supposed to actually own the the games that you play in emulators. But this game was made by Vectorbeam, which was purchased by Cinematronics over 20 years ago. Cinematronics were purchased by Leland an equally long time ago, and it doesn't look like Leland is around anymore either. So whoever actually owns this title now is probably completely unaware of the fact, and certainly isn't going to be auditing your computer looking for it.

Real copies of this game are few and far betweeen, but they are out there. Prices seem to hover in the $600 to $1000 range. Be aware that this game uses an very uncommon X-Y monitor that will be difficult to repair if it goes out.

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