That’s right… this game actually retails for one dollar. I found it in my local Target in “The 1 Spot” where there were tons of other PC titles sitting around, along with some dollar-priced DVDs. Trying to find more information on this goofy game only led me to a bunch of German websites that were not easily translated, so I am left only with the weird enigma that is Autobahn Total. A visit to Brightstar’s site only forwards the visitor to Autobahn Total 2, and alas, this is no help either. So let’s dig in, shall we?
I’m not sure if I want to discuss the nuts and bolts of this whole game, because that in itself would fill a mere two sentences. Perhaps instead we should discuss the whole “budget realm” of PC gaming and the whole theory of where old games go to either die or simultaneously be reborn. That is, it’s hard to really get a bead on how old Autobahn Total really is as it was sold in this really cheapo flimsy cardboard box with the disc in a paper sleeve inside and absolutely no documentation whatsoever (I found out about a week later that there is an Adobe instruction file with the game, but I didn’t find this because I had elected to have the game put an icon on my desktop with which to start the game). Graphically, the game looks like it was made somewhere in the ’90s, but then the damn thing could have just been made on a shoestring budget.
Which brings me back to whole idea of budget gaming on the PC. It’s nothing new. For as long as PCs have been around, there has been a seemingly endless supply of titles either sold for rock bottom prices separately, or grouped together in variety packs for equally rock bottom prices. For some odd reason, this has never really crossed over into console gaming (although I did scoop up Virtua Fighter Evolution for my PS2 at yet another Target for a sweet $4.98). A shame, really, because even though it’s great that Sony makes its Greatest Hits line for the PS2 and Nintendo has the Player’s Choice best-ofs and so on, sometimes twenty bucks is still too much for a game. But hell, one thin dollar is more like it.
So yes, a lot of times you’ll see all these classic PC games refurbished with new boxes and so forth, sometimes tossing in odd bonus items to make you purchase these things even faster. I’ve seen some of the variety packs throw in everything from T-shirts to boxes of golf balls for packs that didn’t even including a golf sim inside. It seems like it would ultimately cost more to throw in these promo items into these junked-out games than to sell them without, but maybe I’m wrong. After all, we here in the reviewing industry do get freebies, so who knows what’s going on.
It’s at this point I’m reminded of quite a few years back when I was shopping at the great closeout chain store in the States, Big Lots, and how before they became surprisingly “big time” that they’d always manage to get their hands on various video game consoles or software that just went under fast. On one occasion, they had the Atari 7800 for $15 with the games going for a buck each. I didn’t have any cash on me at the time, but when I went back shortly thereafter, all consoles were gone, and only a handful of games remained. Damn it all! Coulda had something special to sell on eBay undoubtedly. Just another niche in the whole budget/closeout gaming world.
So let’s finally discuss the actual Autobahn Total title. It’s pretty much cut and dried, as I hinted at earlier. You pick a car, and you race down the Autobahn in one of 30-plus tracks against a computer AI car. First one to the finish line wins. Yep, it’s that simple, and boy is it neither challenging nor much fun. But what do you want for a buck? The graphics, while OK, are oddly boxy in that ’90s sort of way. Your car can take damage and eventually break down, but so what? These aren’t the type of racing thrills that current games are offering, and if this does indeed happen to be a current game, then all I can say is what the hell? Did some of those kids that I see on all those latest TV commercials for video game design schools get together one afternoon after smoking a bowl to slop this thing together? That’s the only conclusion I can draw from my experience with this game, if it is not, in fact, an older title.
I’m thinking it may very well be an older title, because the other games being sold next to it were of later ’90s vintage, some of which are now being sold on RealOne’s Arcade. However, since there is that sequel for this game that’s newly available, I can also see Autobahn Total being a somewhat newer game (as in the last couple of years). I can’t figure it out, nor do I choose to. The bottom line is, I suppose, that even a dollar can sometimes be too much for a game.