Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge

by Ali Davidson, Berni
Gremlin Graphics Software Ltd
Crash Issue 84, January 1991   (1990-12-13)   page(s) 80

Jump into the drivers seat of a Lotus Turbo Esprit, buckle up and stick your foot on the accelerator! That’s the invitation from Gremlin and you’d be mad if you said no. This is one hot simulation, so hot you have to grab a hand of ice cubes everytime you play it!

The ultimate aim of the game is to survive the stomach-churning tracks and quality for the Lotus Licence. This is easier said than done because there are 32 tracks and they can throw up some mean situations! Some have roadworks and rocks, not to mention the other sixteen cars all racing for the same goal!

Completing a track involves a lot of skill and some planning ahead as the fuel your car can carry is not always enough. Pit stops appear after the start/finish line and stopping in one will bring up the refuelling screen. To complete a track you need to finish in the top eight: in a two-player game if one player manages it both automatically sent to the next track. Your starting position on a track depends on where you finished in the last. If you finished first you go to the back, second you go to fifteenth, etc.

The split-screen two-player option is great fun if you have a friend to play against. The trouble is you can forget which car you’re controlling, resulting in some spectacular crashes. All the graphics on the cars, track, introduction screens and background are simply excellent, and the track scrolls by very smoothly. Going over a hill is a little tricky, though, as it’s impossible to see what’s coming up on the other side. For sound lovers there are three tunes to choose from, although they don’t play during the game so there’s not much point!

Gremlin have given all players a real incentive to get on in the game by offering a real Lotus Licence to whoever completes it. At the end you’ll be given some code numbers. Writing these down on the form included in the pack and sending them off will soon reward you with your well deserved prize. Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge is one of the best two-player car simulations around. Speed fans get out there and buy it now!

NICK ... 89%

'A chap from Gremlin popped down to the office the other day and took everyone for a spin in his Lotus. That was the day I was away. Hurumph! However, the game Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge more than makes up for my disappointment! All credit goes to the programmers for producing such a good looking and very playable racing game. The intro sequence is a masterpiece, whilst the game itself is so playable — especially against a friend. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the track and the grass, and so it’s all too easy to spin off the track. But despite that, Lotus is a birrova mega-game and racing Smash if ever there was one!'
MARK ... 91%

Presentation: 88%
Graphics: 88%
Sound: 85%
Playability: 90%
Addictivity: 88%
Overall: 90%

Summary: A highly playable racing extravaganza, especially with two players.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 61, January 1991   page(s) 12,13

Gremlin seem to be setting themselves up as some sort of driving game specialists at the moment - both Lotis and Supercars (which is also a driving game, believe it or not) arrived just in time for this issue, and we've got a Toyota Rally game to come too. (Lucky 16-bitters even have a Suzuki bike game, though that's not slated in for the Speccy at all.)

But anyway, Lotus is what we're interested in here, and (would you believe it?) Gremlin seem to have come up with an (almost) brilliant game. Even more so than with footie games. It's speed that really counts when you're talking driving games, and Lotus is (in one-player mode) as fast as a very, very fast thing indeed. Unfortunately, proceedings grind to a bit of a halt in the two-player version - the Speccy just can't cope with moving both rolling roads at a decent sort of speed - but as a one-player this gives as good an impression of zooming along at 140mph as anything since, ooh, Stunt Car Racer.

The two-player mode may be a bit of a failure rapidity-wise, but it's actually rather interesting all the same. Unless you're talking overhead view games, like Supersprint or Ironman, 'two-player mode' on a driving game normally means you take it in turns. Not so with Lotus - Gremlin have made the unusual move of splitting the screen horizontally, so the first player views the action from immediately behind his car through the letterbox-shaped slot at the top, while player two uses the bottom half of the screen. (When there's only one player the bottom half gets filled up by a nice big piccy of the car.) This way both drivers get a different view of the same action, and can jostle away with each other (and the rest of the pack) to their heart's content. Great fun for head-to-heads, it has to be said.

The only slight problem with this is that since every single car on-screen is identical (they're all Lotus Esprits, you see, which to be honest are fairly boring-looking cars from the back) it's not all that easy to tell one car from another - you'll certainly have problems trying to spot your human rival amongst the field of computerised cars.

Then there's this narrow slot business, which has become a bit of a bone of contention around here. It's a love-it-or-hate-it thing I fear - people either complain that the playable area of the screen is just too small, meaning you can't see all that far ahead (often just the back end of a hugeish car sprite) which is sort of true, or they go "Great! it's just like the view out of a real racing helmet/sports car window whatever!" Certainly, the fact that the window is relatively small may go some way to explaining how they got such impressive speed out of it (I don't know).

This sort of 'now you see it, now you don't' effect is further exaggerated by the tracks you drive around (which look more like desert roads than anything, though they're based on real racing circuits and go in a loop). They're simply the hilliest, dippiest things you've ever seen in a driving game - half the time you're swooping down into hollows (meaning you can't see very much at all except for the road curving up ahead), and the other half you're coming up over the crest of a hill which is even weirder. All you can see is car and sky until you're over it, meaning there could be anything in front of you (or the road could twist either way) and you wouldn't know until you were right on top of it. It's very like going over a real humpback bridge, and as such is rather disorientating and roller coaster-ish. Quite scary. and not to everybody's taste (lots of people seem to think you should be able to see in front of you at all times) though I must admit I think the effect is great.

What else is there to say? Well, the game comes with some neatish opening screens giving you the tech spec of Lotus cars (though you'll need a magnifying glass to read it all), nine circuits (based on real tracks), a choice of manual or automatic gears, pitstops (where you can refuel on the longer tracks) and a system where the player (or one of the two players in a two-player game) has to finish in the top eight to progress onto the next level.

All of which is very well, but what really counts is the impression of speed, and thankfully - as I've said already, I know - Lotus is really, really (really) fast (with a little bit of fastness added on). It's a shame it all slows down so much with two players - it's a two-player system that almost works perfectly on the Speccy, but not quite - and I can't help thinking that perhaps it would have been a better idea to have junked that mode, and concentrated on the one player game instead, giving it more room in the process. Then again perhaps not - despite being flawed, the two-player game is still fun.

I dunno. This is such a borderline Megagame case I'm not quite sure what to do. The two-player bit is seriously slow, but then so much else is good about it... I reckon it gets one, but only just. Off you go then, Lotus - you're a Megagame. (Just be thankful you caught me in a good mood.)

Life Expectancy: 84%
Instant Appeal: 90%
Graphics: 80%
Addictiveness: 91%
Overall: 90%

Summary: Very fast and pretty smooth driving game, with interesting (but slower) two-player option.

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 78, June 1992   page(s) 77

However much other computer users may slag off the Spectrum, it has to be said that the Speccy is good for two things - propping doors open and speed. Take Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge for example. Then take your Speccy (from behind the door) and load it up. It's a driving game and (once loaded) you'll be able verify that things certainly whip along at a cracking rate. Hooray!

However, the "hooray it's fast so let's instantly give it a high mark" theory doesn't quite apply here, due to a number of factors that I am now about to mention. Firstly, the size of the playing area. In one-player mode it's only a third of the screen high so things tend to get a little squashed up to say the least. There is a good reason for this though, and that's that in two-player mode, up opens the bottom of the screen so you can race against each other in a head to head. Which leads me quite nicely onto my criticism concerning the two-player option - it's a great idea (and works a treat on the 16-bit machines) but slows down absolutely tonnes I'm afraid.

Perhaps playing the 16-bit version has addled my mind a little, but playing Lotus Esprit on the Speccy I can't help thinking the cars are a bit too big (and difficult to overtake), the tracks all a bit too similar (scenery-speaking) and the handling of the car a bit too unresponsive. But then again, maybe I'm being a bit too picky. Chase HO aside, Lotus Esprit is probably the best driving game you'll pick up on budget. Just don't raise your hopes too high.

Overall: 80%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 133, March 1993   page(s) 18

Take to the highways in a turbo-charged Lotus Espirit as you participate in a race against other equally expensive sports cars. There are a staggering 32 courses ranging in difficulty from easy to ridiculous. If that's not enough for you there's also a two-player, split-screen, head-to-head mode where you can pit your skills against a mate.

Lotus is one of the best driving games on the speccy in years. It's fast, addictive and there are enough tracks to keep you occupied for ages.

Label: GBH
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Mark Patterson

Overall: 87%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 107, January 1991   page(s) 60

Gremlin build their lotus's tough. After driving my white Esprit Turbo numerous times into boulders and barriers on the long curves of Verona(!), I began to wonder how the fibre-glass body of the Esprit could take the punishment. I wiped the sweat off my brow, pulled my black driving gloves on just that little bit tighter, flicked a tic-tac, adjusted my Raybans, scratched my side-burns... etc, etc. I was ready. Tom Cruise eat your heart out...

You select your options, 1 or 2 players, manual or automatic gears, and one of two tunes that you can hum along with nonchalantly as you're being lapped by rival turbos. Automatic gears and acceleration are the best bet, for beginners using forward on the stick to accelerate and fire or space bar for brakes.

There are 32 different courses, 7 easy, 10 medium and 15 hard to rip around as you progress through the different levels and are forced to drive through worsening conditions. Icy roads, dusty roads, deserts, etc. None of the races take place on actual race tracks but on roads. Weird ones. I found that it was easier to drive on automatic as I'm a lazy sod.

Interesting going over a hill. The car flys into the air, you have no idea of the direction that the road is going to swing in, but you can still STEER YOUR LOTUS IN MID-AIR!!! This must be one of the latest improvements to the new Lotus. I was impressed.

At the starting line, the snort of high powered turbo engines fill the air (well, the computer makes a farting sound. And... you're off! Watch out for sudden bends and bumps although the car seems to be invulnerable, crunching barriers & boulders in it's path as you oversteer and swing off the road.

Nice skidding noises accompany you round bends whilst the (monochrome) graphics are good. The movement of the road as you progress is smooth, the car responsive. Maybe too responsive. But then, I haven't driven a Lotus before.

Available for both the 48k and 128k speccy, the 48k version gives you the snarl of the Lotus engine, but no tune to hum along to...

Label: Gremlin
Price: £10.99/£14.99 48K/128K
Reviewer: Jason Naik

Graphics: 87%
Sound: 78%
Playability: 85%
Lastability: 88%
Overall: 87%

Summary: A great race game with good graphics and a silky movement. Vroom!

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 123, May 1992   page(s) 63

I've wanted tp drive a Lotus Esprit Turbo ever since Mr. Bond himself, Roger Moore blasted his one around in the 'Spy Who Loved Me'. Gremlin first launched this game in 1990 and I'd almost forgotten about it when suddenly, like a Sheffield based Q, GBH drive it onto my desk yet again.

"The name is Al... Big AL" I said as I pulled on driving gloves, deserted all the lovely ladies and headed out on the road in my white Lotus Esprit Turbo. There are in fact no less than 32 different roads to burn up in this game; seven easy, ten medium and fifteen hard, though the terms easy and medium are loosely applied in this instance. There is a option on automatic or manual gears and to be honest I would heartily recommend the auto box as it considerably eases the job.

The featured courses are planned against a background of lush, wood-lined European style countrysides, dusty desert tracks, a ice covered highways. Luckily one doesn't meet traffic in the opposite direction because control is, to say the least loose, but this does add a bit of spice to the game.

One of the more unusual aspects of Lotus is the car's ability to steer while in the air after driving over a particularly big in the road... This just about makes up for the sad lack of underwater gear which Bond's Lotus had.

Turbo Challenge operates in single or two player mode. In two player the screen splits in half with a car featured simultaneously in either section. This makes for some very competitive racing indeed! Graphics are monochrome but very well defined and sound consists of a fine variety of tunes as well as engine sounds in 128K mode but just engine noises in 48K.

Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge is definitely one of the better outright road racing games available on the Spectrum and it's not really that long since it was out as a full price. If you're into this sort of action it's well worth taking a look at this game.

Label: GBH
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Alan Dykes

GARTH: Call me a boring old fogey bit I've never been very keen on this game. I found control a little too loose and the two player mode looks too squashed up for my liking. That's what I thought of it as a full pricer anyway. However as a budget I must agree that it warrants a look.

Graphics: 83%
Sound: 76%
Playability: 84%
Lastability: 86%
Overall: 86%

Summary: This is one hell of a racing game. It's got lots levels with big increases in difficulty and your Lotus doesn't seem to mind bashing around on track side obstacles - within reason. Well worth a look as a budget title.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 42, March 1991   page(s) 74

Gremlin, £10.99cs/£4.99dk
Amiga version reviewed Issue 38; Ace Rating: 875

Officially licensed by Lotus, this racing simulation doesn't offer a great deal not seen in dozens of other cockpit-view racing games, except for the two-player split-screen view - and even this brings back memories of the classic Pitstop II.

While the Amiga version features 32 tracks, the 8-bit versions have only 9; you still have a field of 20 others to beat, with Easy, Medium, Difficult and Practice modes, featuring different numbers of races which have to be completed, and a choice of three in-game tunes. The Spectrum versions of these are pretty good, and the sound effects acceptable. You also have the choice of manual or automatic gears and two forms of joystick controls.

In one-player mode the lower half of the screen is taken up with a nice illustration of your car. While you're racing, although the nicely-designed graphics are understandably mainly monochrome, the animation is fast; the road twists and dips convincingly, and even when you are in two-player mode and there are several other cars on the screen, you get a decent impression of speed.

A fair game, but not an original enough basic idea to compete successfully with the dozens of other road racing games for the Spectrum.

Ace Rating: 789/1000

Summary: Officially licensed by Lotus, this racing simulation doesn't offer a great deal not seen in dozens of other cockpit-view racing games, except for the two-player split-screen view - and even this brings back memories of the classic Pitstop II.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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