With Playstations, Xboxs, Wiis and other forms of electronic-based gaming giving us very realistic simulations which we can control, it is not very long ago that games were of a more mechanical and rudimentary nature. Here is a classic arcade game from the early 1970’s – Sega’s “Moto Champ”, which was meant to be a simulation of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
“Moto Champ” was a one-player game. The player attempts to “ride” his controlled motorcycle to the other end of the playfield using a motorcycle styled handlebar, which includes a throttle to give an extra boost of power to pass the other motorcyles. While this is happening, the other game-controlled motorcycles, which are held by magnets to an elaborate sequencing mechanism under the roadway, impede progress. The complicated nature of the sequencing mechanism can be seen in this photo from a restored “Moto Champ” game.
A motorcycle collision results in a “penalty”; the player gets four penalties in a game before ending. A penalty also moves the motorcycle back on the playfield. If the player can advance the Moto Champ far enough up the playfield with a minimum of penalties, a free game can be won. The actual road on which the bikes sit does not move – instead it is projected from a rotating drum and lamp assembly that is mounted in the display board at the back of the machine.
Here is a video clip of a restored “Moto Champ” game showing how the motorcycles and the road moves. The sound system is a classic – two mono channels of two 8-track cassettes (Hey, we’re in the 70’s!) One channel has the sound of the motorcycles, the other has a fanfare which is played if the player manages to win a free game. From our modern eyes, it looks very simple and not realistic, but I can appreciate the amount of work and skill required to build a game like this, which relies on electrical currents and multiple mechanical moving parts to make it work.
The main disadvantage of this game is that there is no actual “winner” of the race. The only real measurable score in “Moto Champ” is winning a free game, which after a while would become rather boring. Also, the repetitive nature of the road with the single back line, and the lack of corners would also tire players of the game as well.
Do you have a favourite mechanical arcade game that you remember playing? If so, please mention it in the comments!