Alpine Racer, Alpine Surfer, Aqua Jet, Downhill Bikers and Final Furlong
Other foot controlled 3D arcade designs included Alpine Racer (I & II), a downhill ski racing game and Alpine Surfer, a snowboarding game. Both amazing games that set new benchmarks for unmatched realism and simulation. Each featured sophistically engineered controls that swung left and right, plus banked to provide edge control. Namco’s industrial design department really outdid themselves with superbly effective and durable controls. I can’t overstate how difficult it is to create controls that can withstand the physical wear-and-tear of American arcades. Each game provided faithful simulations of each sport.
In Downhill Bikers, players pedaled down a mountainous biking course and Final Furlong, where players raced thoroughbreds around the track by way of a spring-assisted elliptical-like movement. Both of these games were so physical that some players left exhausted.
In 1996 in my opinion, one of the best games ever debuted. In Prop Cycle, players controlled a self-propelled, turn of the 20th-century glider. Players pedaled to stay aloft and steered to turn. On a small mythical planet that resembled Swiss cheese, was a system of caves, canals, and trenches. Players navigated an obstacle course seeded with balloons to diagram a path. Having limited time, players needed to combine pedaling at the right speed with turning at the correct radius to master the game. It was much harder than it looked. There was even a fan mounted inside the cabinet blowing air to simulate the wind in the player’s face. It’s the closest sensation to flying like a bird I’ve ever experienced in a game. A large expensive game, sadly few players got to try it.
I still feel it’s one of the most under-appreciated games ever. It has yet to be translated to console or mobile (pssst…virtual reality opportunity). Flying like a bird has forever been one of man’s greatest dreams. With today’s computing technology, this would be flat-out amazing!