Back in 1990, Gremlin Graphics released the first of what would be a trilogy of Lotus Espirit Turbo Challenge arcade racing games. Developed by Magnetic Dreams, this was released on a range of 8-bit & 16-bit systems including, in my opinion, the very best version on the Commodore Amiga. Sporting super slick graphics, action packed game play and a collection of brilliant driving tunes this is one game that every Amiga fan should have in there collection….and like myself, you probably already have!
The game puts you behind the wheel of a Lotus Espirit Turbo Esprit SE in a race across 32 challenging circuits incorporating a variety of scenery. Each track is littered with up to 20 other opponents, twisty turns, hills and track objects to navigate making it one fast and furious race to the finishing line.
Played in one-player mode, it’s a cracking little racer, but played in split screen two-player mode the fun really begins as you jostle your way up the leaderboard to be crowned racing champion.
Many happy Saturday mornings were spent at my older brothers house (probably when he should be doing the housework!) with thumbs firmly pressed on the red buttons of our Competition Pro joysticks as we ducked and dived our way away around the various tracks. Our skill levels were about the same therefore concentration, and often sheer luck, won the race with only a few seconds between us.
My only criticism with this first game is the zig-zag pattern the computer controlled appear to follow around each course. It can be a little annoying in one player mode (especially at the start when they’re all bunched up) however, in two-player mode, they can be used to your advantage to help block your opponent racing line:-)
In 1991, Gremlin released the much anticipated sequel, Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge II. With it’s vastly improved graphics, tweaked computer AI and the odd splash of digitized speech, this is by far, my favorite game of the trilogy. This time, gameplay shifts focus to a more arcade oriented affair where lap based circuit racing is replaced with a time trial mode requiring courses to be completed within a specified time before advancing to the next.
Playing even better in one-player mode than it’s predecessor (especially due to the inclusion of a full screen mode), again it was the two-player mode that held the greatest appeal to us.
This fantastic trilogy was finally wrapped up in 1992, when Gremlin released Lotus III: The Ultimate Challenge. Combining most of the elements from the previous two games modes, a choice of two cars and pseudo track creation utility called RECS this third installment had it all. Although Lotus III didn’t appear to be as popular as the previous two games it still a brilliant arcade racer and a part of a trilogy of great Amiga games that I will continue to hold on to.