Unknown Universal Prototype

Unknown Universal Prototype
Company: Twentieth Century Fox
Model #:
Year: 1983
Released by Atari Age 2004


Believe me when I say that this prototype is a complete mystery.  No programmer, no model number, and only a guess on the company  We don't even know the name of the game.  The only we have as to the identity of this prototype is the name Universal, which is silk screened onto the EPROM board.  We now speculate that this might have been a TCF game as another Universal style board was recently found in a TCF prototype.  If this is indeed a TCF game then it might be the mysterious Six Pack that was mentioned in early manuals (based on the racing movie of the same name), however the drag racing aspect fits closer to the TCF movie Heart Like A Wheel (pat yourself on the back if you actually remember that movie).  The only flaw with this theory is that no game was ever announced for that movie.


While we may never know the true identity of this game, it's a sure fire bet that it was meant to be a clone of Activision's Dragster (which is really a clone of Atari's Drag Race).  However unlike Dragster or Drag Race which are viewed from the side, this game is viewed from behind.  The perspective is similar to that of Activision's Enduro, right down to the vanishing point on the horizon.   It's immediately obvious from the graphics that alot of work was being put into this game.


As previously mentioned, this game is really just a clone of Dragster.  The player must rev his engine and change gears as fast as possible without blowing the engine.  However unlike Dragster the player actually has control over his car and can steer it around the lane.  The faster the player goes, the further the car will move into the horizon and the harder it is to keep from crashing into the sides of the lane.  Careful steering is a must if you're going to win a race in this game.


The controls in this prototype are a bit screwy, and can easily frustrate someone who isn't familiar with them.  Starting the race is particularly annoying, as the player must press left, up, and right until the little man drops the white flag (or the light turns green).  Once the race has started, pressing up will cause the car to accelerate, while pressing down will change gears.  When pressing down the gear indicator will briefly change from N (Neutral) to C indicating that you are changing gears, continuing to press down will cause the car to shift into gears 1 through 4.  


As you increase your speed the meter at the bottom of the screen will show your current engine temperature.  If you go too fast in a low gear, your engine will blow.  By shifting gears at the proper time you will enable your car to move faster without blowing the engine.  Once you've reached the finish line, you must press the fire button to launch your parachute and slow your car down.  If you do not launch your parachute in time your car will crash.  Pressing the select button will enable the computer driver which takes over the first players spot (the car will turn yellow).  To race against the computer you will have to use the second players joystick.  There are three different computer components to race against, a yellow car, blue car, and finally a red car.  You will have to race the blue and yellow cars a few times in order to see the red car.




There are two different racing variations available in this prototype, which can be selected by toggling the left difficulty switch. When the switch is in the A position the race takes place on a city street (which looks suspiciously like Sega's Turbo) with stock cars and a man with a white flag that starts the race.  When the switch is in the B position the race takes place out in the desert with dragsters and the race is started by an automatic light.  This is little difference between the two except the dragster variation moves faster than the stock car variation (the player must switch gears faster).  While it may appear that there is no one player option for the dragster variation, there actually is but you really have to work to get to it.  In order to get to the one player dragster race you must first beat all three opponents (yellow, blue, and red), and then you will start the next race in the desert.



While it isn't the best game out there, this racing game show promise and it's mysterious nature simply adds to allure.  This prototype was auctioned off by Best Electronics in 2004, and released by Curt Vendel of the Atari History Museum on Atari Age for the classic gaming community to enjoy.  Expect more information on this prototype soon.


Version Cart Text Description
??????   Final Version?


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