Brace yourself people, I am going to kick you in the nostalgia and I am going to kick you hard.
Now either you just said to yourself ‘no, no I don’t’, in which case I look like a bit of an idiot, or you’re letting out a very loud exhale and saying, ‘holy fuck! I thought I was the only one’. Well we all thought we were the only one my friend. We all did.
Hover! was a demo game released on the Windows 95 installation CD and has gained something of a mythical status. The premise of the game was simply to capture the flag, across three maps. You played as a red hover car and your rival drove a similar car, albeit blue. Because it was just a demo it was never really a game in its own right, it was just an add on. I don’t think it was meant to be popular. Certainly it has never been found since and those of us who remember it, do so with fondness. We speak of it in hushed tones by firelight before the eve of battle. So fleeting was the Hover! experience, and so obscure, that I have seen more than a few comments to the tone of “I thought I’d imagined it!” But for those of us who remember it, we remember it fondly and it evokes the sake kind of nostalgia reserved for that PS demo that had Tekken 3 on it. Yeah. You know the one.
In fact Hover! was one of my earliest gaming memories, I was after all (though it weirds me out to admit it) seven when I played it. And the seven year old fanta actually found it quite imposing. The maps were terrifying to a child. You had a medieval castle style stage, some weird neon, purple checker-board level that looked like the island from The Prisoner if it was housed in Wonderland, and a sewer like stage with algae dripping off the walls. If the maps weren’t creepy enough there was your rival; Blue. Lord knows why I was so scared of him as a child, perhaps because you only see the soulless, opaque windows of his car that you occasionally glimpse around the map. Or when he rams you for kicks. While I remember it with a sinister air, there is a lot to be said for nostalgia. That’s probably why, when I discovered that Internet Explorer had re made Hover! as a neat little browser game, I actually screamed a bit with joy…and woke the baby up…and got berated by my husband.
I maintain it was worth it.
Of course the problem with remaking a game that everyone loves is that people will immediately hate it. Though, honestly, I found new Hover! to be delightfully similar to the original and very little has been altered, except to bring the graphics up to date. The three stages are the same, albeit made to look more artificial as environments. The medieval castle feels less like a medieval castle and more like a futuristic impression of a medieval castle. Which works, as all the stages are rendered in the same way; it sort of looks like you’re competing on a future game show that had far too much money in its CG budget. The power ups act in the same way and are found just as frequently, while even the flags are generally found in the same selection of areas. That said, maybe it’s because I’ve had a lot of time to perfect my technique, but the game certainly feels easier. I remember spending quite some time looking for my flags, while the prospects of being defeated or accidentally losing flags I’d already captures were very real. This time, however, I had no difficulty in finding the flags before my opponent had even found his first. So much so that I rarely bothered with any of the power ups, as the task of picking them up was a waste of time given the ease with which I was completing the levels.
Blue isn’t as aggressive any more. He seems to have been replaced by a more cowering rival. Whereas the Blue of days gone past would hunt you down just to ram you and move off, leaving you to imagine a maniacal chuckle, this Blue is positively afraid of you. He either ignores you or tries to move away from you. So my attempts at enacting vengeance for all those times he rammed me as a kid were a bit wasted when he seemed to limp off with a weedy, “thank you sir, may I have another?”
The game has been updated to include new models of hover cars. You can choose one of three models to drive, though I found two of them completely unusable. They each have different stats which determine how fast they are or how manoeuvrable, but two models have so little stability, they literally slide all over the map, unable to follow a simple, “go straight” directive. This was frustrating enough on its own if it weren’t also for the sheer amount of glitches that have found its way into the game’s make up. I hope you enjoy getting suddenly trapped inside walls or underneath the game map, because you will. A lot. I had to quit out more than a couple of times because I’d jumped from a high surface only to pass through the floor and land in the black underbelly of the maze.
I can’t complain too much though, because this is just a short, browser game. It’s only three levels long so if you have to quit out and restart it’s not like you’re losing hours of progress. Or any progress at all for that matter. Unlike the demo the game does not have additional, harder levels identical to the original three, but with an extra blue rival for you to contend with, once you complete the third level the game ends (after a grand total of five minutes play. Tops). You apparently need Internet Explorer to give new Hover! a whizz (it plays fine on Chrome), but that’s not a terrible price to pay for the sheer nostalgic feeling you will undoubtedly get. Unless of course you never played it the first time round, in which case you’ll just get frustrated with the glitches and wonder why you’re wasting your time.
You can play Hover! here.