News/Death Track (Unreleased Game Boy Port)

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Death Track (Prototype)
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Happy late Valentines Day! We're back after a long break from the holidays and are ready to get things rolling again!

Today we have an early prototype of the unreleased Game Boy port of Death Track (also known as Trail Blazer) which was developed by Argonaut Games of Star Fox fame, donated courtesy of speedyink!

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Death Track is a first person driving game set in a futuristic version of America where the player races against other opponents and competes in events to collect money. The player can use the money to buy weapons and upgrades to help seal their place in the competition and for taking on harder tracks. Death Track was a game originally developed for DOS computers by Dynamix (later acquired by Sierra Entertainment, known at the time as Sierra On-Line) and published by Activision in December 1989. The game was a nice success for its time, featuring very impressive 3D models and courses for its time.

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With the success of the original PC release, interest was shown in porting the game to other systems that were popular at the time. Sometime in 1992, Activision began working with Argonaut Games on creating an equally high ambitious port of the game for the Nintendo Game Boy. Today Argonaut Software is mostly known for their work on Star Fox 1 & 2 for the SNES, Stunt Race FX, and both Croc 1 & 2. But back then, Argonaut was mostly known for their games on the Atari ST, Commodore 64, and Amiga. Just like its predecessor, the Game Boy version was set to push the hardware to its absolute limit to create a game with a third dimensional perspective running in real time on a 4.12 MHz processor and 8 Kilobytes of RAM and VRAM.

The lead programmer on the Game Boy version was Steven Dunn, who would also contribute to the port's artwork and game design. Additional artwork was provided by Nick Cook, with music and sound effects provided by Neil Baldwin. Development on the game was primarily done on a Commodore Amiga with a hard disk drive and Game Boy developer's kit. This version of the game utilizes a vector based engine using a method designed by Dylan Cuthbert for the Game Boy ports of Days of Thunder and X. Vector line code was written and a sprite system was implemented as well to add more complexity to the rendering. Steven Dunn created an even more complex 3D rendering system by implementing stipples and a flood fill system as well. These methods were eventually used for games such as Hard Drivin and another unreleased game called Crazy Pilot, which only went as far as a tech demo.

The main selling point of Trail Blazer for the Game Boy was the ability to race up to four players in combat focused 3D races. Combined with the game's weapon and upgrade system, the game would have provided a lot of variety for a game that went far beyond the expectations for the system it was running on.

The game didn't receive much media coverage during the course of its development. Many gaming magazines at the time would mention the game in their software lineup lists as being planned for a 4th quarter release in 1992. Surprisingly the game was still listed in Electronic Gaming Monthly's software lineup every month up until mid 1993, where it quietly disappeared into obscurity. In researching for media coverage on this version of the game, we couldn't find any extensive media coverage for this port. It doesn't appear that the game was featured in any trade show events at the time either. The game was quietly canceled for unknown reasons and quickly vanished as soon as it was mentioned.

That is until recently. A prototype of the game in an early form was discovered a few years a go where the game was shown for the first time. This early prototype of the game features two playable courses, a password menu, multiplayer support (support for four players possibly implemented, but untested), as well as a shop menu. The game features no sound or music, and is possibly missing the other courses, but who knows what could be discovered with hacking?

Again, we'd like to thank speedyink giving us the opportunity to release this game for others to enjoy and analyze. He has also done amazing work in researching this game as well.

That's all for now. We'll be back with another release soon.

Until next time! ❤️