A Glance at the Past: B.C.’s Quest for Tires (ColecoVision)

Back when I would read the newspaper comics every morning, I can’t say I ever developed a strong opinion on the B.C. comic strip by Johnny Hart. It was funny sometimes, but the caveman humor the strip seemed to be built around often stood aside when the author wanted to make anachronistic jokes about modern technology and there was a strange amount of Christian overtones for a comic that takes place before Christ. B.C’s Quest for Tires doesn’t really carry over any of the humor from the strip though, but despite that fact, this game would go on to win two separate awards for its humor just by tying itself to a comedic comic strip.

 

B.C.’S Quest for Tires neither stars the comic strip’s character B.C. nor does it involve a search for tires, the title being a play on the caveman film Quest for Fire. Instead, the setup is that a dinosaur has stolen the aptly named Cute Chick and Thor races off on his stone wheel to try and rescue her. That’s as far as the comedic elements ever go, unless you count the presence of a character named Fat Broad as a joke, but B.C’s Quest for Tires really isn’t trying to be funny nor is it trying to tie itself too strongly to its source material.

Quest for Tires asks the player to race forward through 10 levels that they’ll mostly be interacting with by either jumping or ducking. Thor moves forward constantly, although you can pull him back or push him forward to make leaping over obstacles easier. You can also adjust Thor’s speed with the side buttons, and while you won’t need that feature on the easiest difficulty, it becomes necessary to clear certain challenges as you play the harder modes. The levels are are very simple but have just enough variety that they offer a bit of a different challenge each time. Almost every level tasks you with jumping over hazards on the ground, but the game tries to diversify things by making you go up and down slopes, avoid branches, or the game might require you to do an important jump at the end of the level. The game also has two levels where Thor only moves when you make him jump, which is important as you must cross a river where turtles rise and fall into the water to serve as platforms, all while either Fat Broad or the dinosaur try to knock you off of them. The game doesn’t feel like it’s repeating itself as each level requires something a bit different from you, but it never really feels like it goes beyond the basic idea of jumping over stuff.

 

The biggest problem with B.C’s Quest for Tires is how quickly it gets rote. Jumping over the pits and rocks offers little challenge even after you speed things up as far as you’re willing to push it, and the harder difficulties just make more of them appear rather than introducing anything new to the formula. Some levels like the slope up have falling rocks that require more intelligent jumping, and the Dooky Bird in the level with the lava pit has to match your speed or you’ll not be able to grab him to cross that hazard, but these obstacles are easily adjusted to as well. Even the turtle levels that shift the gameplay entirely fall short, as it usually comes down to if you chose to start jumping across at the right time or not.

Being able to control your speed adds a way of adjusting your difficulty even when you selected one of the easier modes, and speeding up in boring, slow areas at least lets you get them over with.  There’s a points system that can be used to earn extra lives, with death seeming a bit more common than it should be due to levels like the turtle rivers or the jump you need a certain amount of unknown speed to clear. It can also be hard to gauge when to duck under branches since only their leaves are dangerous rather than the wood, and the logs on the ground in the forest area are difficult to spot as well. For the most part though, you’ll see the obstacles pretty well. The major exception to that seem to be the volcanic rocks that fall from the sky that come too quickly to adjust for if they’re about to hit your face.

 

This all comes back to the problem that the brand isn’t embraced at all save for the fact a few characters put in appearances, and most of the obstacles present are the least imaginative ones someone could come up with. If not for Fat Broad waving her club at you and the dinosaur, they’d all be rocks or wood, just sometimes the rocks and wood are presented in slightly different ways. You could even argue that Fat Broad’s club is wood if you really feeling like dragging the game down, but it’s not so bad that everything in it is worthy of a critical tearing down. To its credit, B.C.’s Quest for Tires does give you a start and a finish to its experience, even if it does immediately start you on the next difficulty once you beat it. As minimal as the ending is, it was a relief to see it between runs through the same set of hardly changed levels. Still, it feels like Quest for Tires is not the kind of game that will call you back in any way once you’ve seen that ending.

THE VERDICT: Unlike the comic it’s technically based on, I walk away with a pretty strong opinion about B.C.’S Quest for Tires. Jumping over bland hazards and ducking on occasion does not make for a very interesting challenge, and while the game does try to keep things moving through varied places, they all boil back down to the same uninteresting process of pressing up or down at the right time or dying if you didn’t. A lot of games can be reductively described with something simple like “Shoot the bad guys or die”, but that involves stripping away layers whereas Quest for Tires has only the speed adjustment and turtle stages to set it apart from just being “Jump or duck to avoid dying.”

 

And so, I give B.C.’s Quest for Tires for the ColecoVision…

A BAD rating. Quest for Tires is certainly bland once you know everything that’s coming, but it does at least sustain itself for a bit before everything becomes too familiar. Getting to the end feels good once, but the path there was uninspired and a few levels relied on you hoping that a random rock didn’t fall on your face or that the turtles lined up perfectly. Fans of the comic won’t find much to like here save the basic thrill of seeing a face you recognize, and fans of video games will quickly lose interest in a game that tries to coast by on a very basic runner-type style.

 

While it is a game made in what were essentially the caveman years of video games, B.C.’s Quest for Tires can’t even hold a candle to its contemporaries.

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