Several splash screens interspersed with artwork serve as the introduction to Burn 'Out. This introduction also shows off the two of the strongest points of the game - the art style and the music. Unfortunately, it's mostly downhill from there.
If you've played any other faux-3D racing games like E-Type or Lotus II then you'll know what to expect from Burn 'Out in terms of gameplay. You have to steer your car to the left and right as you drive along the track, avoiding other drivers and all manner of obstacles that are in your path. However instead of driving a sports car you're driving a beach buggy, and the tracks have more in common with roller coasters than they do with public roads.
In total there are 40 tracks available, which must be completed in a fixed, linear order. In order to proceed to the next track you must finish 3rd or better, and without running out of time on the clock. Most races only take a couple of minutes to complete, and there's no save game system, so if you're planning on playing the game to completion you'll need at least a couple of hours spare.
Inbetween each race you'll be taken to the garage, where you're given the opportunity to spend your race winnings on upgrading the three core components of your buggy (engine, gearbox, tyres), or to respray the bodywork to a colour other than the default gray. Curiously the garage screen has a hidden time limit imposed on it - if you spend too long deciding which upgrade to purchase next then you'll be kicked out and into the next race without any warning.
As previously mentioned, one of the strong points of the game is the music. I'd guess that there are between 10 and 20 music tracks in the game, spread across the 40 race courses, resulting in a great deal of variety. It's rare to see a home-grown RISC OS game where so much attention has been given to the music. Unfortunately the game engine lets the music down somewhat, as whenever a sound effect plays it will cut out part of the music. I often fear collisions not because of the effect they'll have on my speed, but because of the effect they'll have on my enjoyment of the music. There is an option to disable the sound effects, but it has no effect on the music cutting out - it's as if all it does is mute the volume of the sound effects instead of stopping them altogether.
Another failing point of the game is the difficulty. The majority of the tracks are easy - assuming you've spent your money on the right upgrades there's absolutely no reason why you won't finish in first place, with the 2nd and 3rd place drivers miles behind, and with ample time left on the clock. But then there are the tracks featuring time bonus gates. The gates are barely any wider than your buggy, making them almost impossible to hit, especially considering the way the buggies bobble up and down and side to side as they drive along the track. Some of the time gate tracks are tuned so that if you miss even one or two of the gates you're almost guaranteed to run out of time before completing the race. The only other tracks that cause me some difficulty are the final few tracks of the game. Apart from being a bit more twisty and turny than the previous tracks they also feature quite harsh time limits, harsh to the point where one crash is all you need to ruin your chances.
Burn 'Out is a fun and attractive game, but it seems like too much time was spent on the art and music and not enough on the code and gameplay. With some extra time spent to tune the difficulty the game could have been an all-time great, but as it is it's just a pale immitation of the arcade game it was inspired by.
The full version of Burn 'Out can be downloaded for free from Ian Jeffray's website. StrongARM/RISC OS 4 compatible.