Apart from Acid's Roadkill we haven't seen many Amiga car racing games recently (if you discount Powerdrive which was pretty miserable). When they do arrive along though they always seem to become best sellers, ranking up there alongside football titles. This Spring sees three long-awaited games being released in quick succession - Team 17's All Terrain Racing, Acid Software's Super Skidmarks 2 and Arcane's Turbo Trax. The competition is hot.
With Turbo Trax Arcane has been trying to produce something which not only looks graphically polished but also has original gameplay features and realistic controls, this has resulted in a long and turbulent development process, with several major graphics and game engine overhauls in the last 12 months.
The game itself involves racing one of three types of cars around desert, forest, city and snow covered tracks in a time challenge against computer opponents or in a head-to-head with another player. Two player mode uses either a serial link and two machines or, with one machine, a full screen two player 'catch up' mode, similar to Micro Machines and ATR, where the losing player gets transported back to the centre of the screen with a time penalty deducted from their score.
Arcane have certainly achieved good results in the graphics department. The vehicles; a jeep, a rally car and an Indy car, are viewed from above, rather like Roadkill, and are small but very neatly drawn. The wheels give a strong impression of motion (though they are a tad too shiny for my liking) and collision detection is superb - these cars really do bounce off roadside obstacles in a realistic, if heavily sprung and seriously armour plated, way. The faster you hit an object the bigger the crash. The angles of deflection have been well mapped out too, and the clouds of smoke or dust emanating from the cars' tyres add atmosphere.
Crashing into objects lowers the traction of the wheels and damages the car, but there are repair pickups along the track to ease this problem. There are also spinning dollar icons which, when added to your prize money, allow you to maximise the car's performance by buying upgrades between levels in the ubiquitous shop. These upgrades govern the speed and traction of the car, so you can buy new engines, high octane fuel, better power steering or tyres.
The other major on-track pickup, and the source of the game's name, are the turbo boosters that are liberally scattered around the, er, trax. If you intend to end up in the first three places you'll need to pick up most of these. In normal mode the cars travel at a manageable pace, but once you hit a turbo the speed doubles, along with the excitement, and the effect lasts for a number of seconds. Not quite long enough to get you to the next turbo, but far enough to get you away from the opposition. Unless you crash that is, or run over the edge of the road into the sand or grit of the trackside, in which case the turbo will dwindle to nothing.
One of the more innovative things about Turbo Trax is the view of the car. Rather than constantly centring the sprite. Arcane have gone for what they call a 'helicopter view'. This allows the car to be offset in such a way that you can see more of the track ahead than you can behind. In most cases almost three quarters of the track is ahead of the car and this largely dispenses with the need for arrowed directions on the road.
Turbo Trax is a competent, exciting racing game. The graphics are colourful, polished and very detailed in both the intro screens and menus and the game itself, and this combined with the overhead view of the car makes it a convincing and enjoyable bash. The cars get rather slow if you belt them off the wall a few times and under these circumstances if you hit a turbo you'll spin all over the place, because of the consequent loss of traction, but overall control has been well implemented.
Very good looking arcade racing game on different types of terrain. Similar to Overdrive or Micro Machines. Fast scroll and game speed, nice ingame graphics, worth to try.
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