Genre: Racing Developer: Magnetic Fields Publisher: Electronic Fields Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
I have to ask the million dollar question before I start this review: aside from its sports franchises, did EA ever really release a good game? I’m not saying that everything else is just terrible, and I’m sure that it must have released a couple of good non-sports games. However, did it ever release one game that was just a head turner, one that really grabbed the attention of the masses back then? You’re all probably going to tell me that EA was just a publishing arm that released all of these non-sports games, and that it can’t be blamed for these, but I think that it is. Furthermore, I’m not saying that I hate Lotus Turbo Challenge or the Lotus series in general, but how did EA get publishing rights for so many rights to all of these Amiga ports, as well as other popular PC games, back then when most of them simply turned out mediocre?
The Lotus trilogy was a pretty popular set of games on the Amiga computers, so it only made sense to bring them to a more mainstream video game console like the Sega Genesis. That’s just what Gremlin Graphics and EA did, but unfortunately – and at least in my opinion- the first game ported didn’t turn out so well. If I really had to give you an honest one sentence description of this game I would say something like “Lotus Turbo Challenge is the Genesis version of the NES game Rad Racer,” because they play almost identically and even feels like they were made in the same year. If I had played this game when it was released back in 1992 it would’ve seemed outdated to me even for that year.
Lotus Turbo Challenge allows you to choose between two cars, the Lotus Elan and the Lotus Esprit Turbo and race across eight different tracks with a small handful of options and settings and a much-needed password system. I say “much-needed” password system because this game is woefully hard. I’ve completed only the first three tracks without the using the “LAZY ATE” password to allow you to turn the timer off. Heck, I’d say that this has to be one of the hardest racers on the Genesis.
Before the start of each race you get to see a map of the track accompanied by some music, which is different for each map and quite nice on the ears (one of the better points of the game). Each race has a set of checkpoints and a pretty strict timer but no true opponent car, which is a shame. Each race is also themed. The first race is the plains, the second is night time, the third is fog; and there’s ones for snow, highway, desert, a rainstorm and a few more.
How they expect you to complete some of the later races is beyond me. There are jumps that you have to hit to pass rivers, boulders, branches, oil slicks, and many other hazards that need avoiding. The later races basically become obstacle courses that require precision memorization in order to finish, and they really detract from any real racing fun to be had with the game.
Once you finish the game you are given an ending that basically only says “congratulations” and not much more. The two-player mode is even less interesting than the regular game, so there’s not much left for replay value once you’re done. I used the password to disable the timer and finished it once and, I don’t want to revisit this game any time soon.
The graphics are very dated. I’m talking about 1980’s Rad Racer and Radmobile kind of dated. The graphics don’t even close to push the Genesis at all and being done in such an old style really drags this game down even more. Dare I also mention that the races are all pretty long, and the scenery never changes, so it gets pretty boring to look at.
More than everything else though, the audio is what really kills this game. There’s no music in the game at all, aside from the race maps before each race starts, and we’re left at the mercy of the brutal sound effects. They’re so bad that they basically kill any enjoyment completely. When you hit a jump it sounds like you’re dropping a cardboard box on the floor. It’s pretty hard to describe, but it’s that bad, and the rest are no better either.
Lotus Turbo Challenge isn’t a horrible game by any means, and I even had some fun with it for a little while, but Gremlin Graphics just didn’t put enough in this game to give it any longevity. For that reason, it ends up only being another mediocre game published by EA, giving more validity to the question that I asked back in the first paragraph of this review. If you own it then go ahead and play it for a few minutes, but don’t waste any more time than that with it. Its sequel, Lotus II: R.E.C.S., isn’t perfect, but it’s a much better racer and a much better pick than this game.
SCORE: 5 out of 10