In 1986 I was the proud owner of an Atari 8-bit computer. My 65XE was essentially an 800XL disguised as a miniature Atari ST and it was my first real experience of home computers. Amongst the many games that I collected was The Last V8 from Mastertronic and, in my opinion, it was the hardest game ever created.
This top-down driving game, programmed by David Darling, had a very basic premise: It’s 2008 and, caught on the surface of a nuclear devastated planet, you have seconds to return underground before your radiation shield decays! In any other car you would stand no chance but in the Last V-8, survival is possible… Maybe!
The game is played as an overhead driving ‘experience’ and is crushingly difficult, or at least it was for me when I last attempted it. You had a single life to navigate the terrain without running out of time, fuel or shield and on top of that, the controls were far from ideal and the viewpoint made it difficult to plan ahead.
Despite countless attempts, I was never able to proceed beyond level 2 of the game and for years, I’ve wondered just how many levels the game had yet to offer me. The answer was ONLY TWO! I made it to the last level and didn’t know it! Thankfully, there is usually someone on Youtube who can show you how… and in less than 3 minutes…
So why would anyone want to play the game, much less try and complete it? For me, the answer was simple – the fantastic music from Rob Hubbard! If you’ve watched the Atari video above, you’ll already know how good the soundtrack is but if you need further convincing, the C64 and C128 version was much much better.
Hubbard’s music can often be found as the basis for a remix or two in the wilds of the internet, and The Last V8 manages to score several interpretations. The “Airline Remix” from Dees Productions below is my favourite. Starting slow and quickly finding a more upbeat tempo, it manages to keep the underlying theme without sticking slavishly to the original.
If you managed to complete the game, or if you played an even harder 8-bit game, let me know in the comments!