Category Archives: Racers

Checkered Flag: Where the Driver’s Gender Becomes Important

Fun fact: I have the manual for the original Atari Lynx version of Checkered Flag framed in my toilet.

For a certain period during the Lynx’s lifetime, Atari eschewed booklet-style manuals in favour of posters for the games with the instructions on the back. My wife liked the art on Checkered Flag’s instructions sheet — which I somehow still had despite having not owned a Lynx for a good ten years or so — and so we put it up on the wall. Consequently, every time I’m having a poo I get to read those instructions for the umpteenth time.

Believe me, I am now intimately familiar with how to play Checkered Flag effectively — helpful now that it’s been rereleased as part of the Atari Lynx Collection 2 cartridge for the Evercade — and the fact that, in Atari’s own words, the winner of each race is rewarded with “a trophy and a big hug”. And, in a surprisingly progressive, inclusive step for a video game on a failed console from 1991, the manual also takes care to note that said big hug is “where the driver’s gender becomes important”. Oh, also there’s some racing game action in there, too, I suppose; let’s take a closer look.

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Tokyo Highway Challenge: Around and Around and Around

The racing game genre is one area of gaming where, outside of graphical and performance improvements, I suspect it’s always felt quite difficult to innovate.

After all, the fundamental concept of “two or more things moving in the same direction at high speed, with one attempting to get somewhere before the other one in order to receive some sort of reward” has been around pretty much as long as human civilisation. So what else can you do with that?

Well, says Tokyo Highway Challenge (aka Tokyo Xtreme Racer, aka Shutokou Battle) for Sega Dreamcast, why not rethink the fundamental means through which a winner is decided? Let’s take a closer look at how that works.

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Top Racer: Definitely-Not-Lotus Turbo Challenge

Racing games used to be very different to how we know them today — primarily due to the limitations of the hardware on which they were running.

Instead of unfolding in lovingly rendered, minutely detailed 3D polygonal worlds as most of today’s racers are, they took what we now call a “vanishing point” approach, where the road was drawn using two converging lines to simulate a sense of perspective, and sprites drawn at various sizes were placed along the sides of the track to assist with the illusion of movement and speed.

Of all the racers designed in this way — and there are many, including some developed quite recently! — Kemco’s Top Racer, also known as Top Gear, is one of the finest out there. This is a game that still gets regular play from a lot of racing enthusiasts today — plus now you can enjoy it as part of the Piko Interactive Collection 1 cartridge for Blaze’s Evercade retro gaming system. So let’s take a closer look!

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SpyHunter: Who Needs Stealth?

Midway’s 1983 title Spy Hunter is a fairly well-loved title from the golden age of arcade games. While some would argue it’s not quite as well-known as the Pac-Men and the Space Invaderses of the world, it’s still a game a lot of people have fond memories of.

Its top-down combat racing action provided an interesting blend of different genres to enjoy; there was the high-speed skilful manoeuvring of racers, coupled with the focus on high-score chasing typically associated with shoot ’em ups. And it had a distinct sense of style, too; originally intended to be a licensed James Bond game, the game ended up becoming iconic for its use of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme as its in-game music. And early example of a video game being genuinely “cool”.

When a mechanical reboot and narrative sequel showed up for PlayStation 2 in 2001, then, it had quite the shoes to fill. How well did it pay homage to the original while providing an up-to-date experience for the early 21st century gamer? Let’s take a closer look.

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MotorPsycho: The 7800’s Best Motorcycle Racing Game

When contemplating video games from years gone by, it’s all too easy to focus exclusively on the “classics” — those defining experiences that went on to have a huge amount of influence on everything that came afterwards.

But the highly influential and historically significant nature of these games means that, by this point in time, most of the things which can be said about them have probably already been said. These days, I personally find it much more interesting to dive into the dustiest of dusty archives and dig out some stuff that, while perhaps not as well-regarded as the “greats” from over the years, might do some unusual, experimental and creative things with established formulae.

One of the best things about Blaze’s Evercade retro gaming platform is that the people behind it clearly understand this. And so, while the Evercade’s Atari Collection 1 cartridge contains established, all-time early ’80s classics like Asteroids and Centipede for Atari’s monstrously popular 2600 console, it also features 1990’s MotorPsycho — a double-whammy of overlooked goodness in that it is 1) a game that will likely be largely unfamiliar to a lot of people today, and 2) it came out on the Atari 7800, a console no-one bought. So let’s take a closer look!

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Burnout 2: Point of Impact – They Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Any More

A few days before writing this, I must confess that I hadn’t played Burnout 2: Point of Impact for quite some time. I had fond memories of the series as a whole, but hadn’t revisited any of them — including last installment Paradise — for many years.

Recording an episode of The MoeGamer Podcast on arcade racers (which you can watch and/or listen to right here) inspired me to dig out some old favourites, though — and Burnout 2 was high up my priority list.

After several hours of utter racing joy flew by without me noticing, it made me realise — or perhaps recall — that Burnout 2: Point of Impact is one of the finest arcade racers ever created. And even with the recent resurgence of interest in the genre thanks to spunky indies, they really do not make ’em like this any more. Let’s take a closer look.

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Inertial Drift Sunset Prologue: A Bold New Take on Arcade Racing

I love me a slippery-slidy, drift-centric arcade racer, as you’ll know very well if you followed the extensive Ridge Racer Cover Game feature from a while back, or indeed were kind enough to watch my playthrough of Split/Second Velocity on YouTube.

As such, I was immediately interested when PQube announced its upcoming racer Inertial Drift, developed by an outfit known as Level 91 Entertainment. This game promised a ’90s style aesthetic, exaggerated arcadey racing action… and what sounded like a rather unusual control scheme.

How exactly does a twin-stick racing game work anyway? I fired up the Inertial Drift Sunset Prologue interactive demo to find out.

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Burnin’ Rubber: Let’s Bump ‘n’ Jump

Data East may be a slightly lesser-known company than the big hitters of the 8- and 16-bit era, but they still put out some cracking arcade games during this period, many of which got home ports.

One fine example is Burnin’ Rubber, which is also known, depending on where you are in the world and what platform you played it on, as either Bump ‘n’ Jump or Buggy Popper.

It’s a top down racer that predates Bally Midway’s better-known classic of the genre Spy Hunter by a full year, and you can play an official modern rerelease of the NES version right now on the Evercade retro gaming handheld as part of its third cartridge, Data East Collection 1Let’s take a closer look!

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Horizon Chase Turbo: Top Gear Returns

Many people assumed that the advent of the true 3D polygonal racer spelled the death of the traditional, “vanishing point” racer.

After all, why would you ever want to play a technologically limited game where you simply slide from side to side on a track without actually turning when you can spin your car around, go the wrong way and attempt to cause as many head-on collisions as possible? Or race in “true 3D” too, I suppose.

Well… you know… because it’s fun. And thankfully a number of developers in recent years have remembered that. And so we’ve ended up with loving homages to the past such as the Kickstarter-funded Slipstreamand the subject of today’s article: Horizon Chase Turbo. Let’s take a look.

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nail’d: Look Out Below

I love a good racing game. And, while the definition of “good racing game” may vary from person to person, in my case that means “ridiculous, physically improbable and probably fatal things happening in realistic-looking environments”.

I have no interest in an accurate simulation of what it’s like to drive a Rover Metro around Donington Park circa 1987, but present me with the opportunity to fling myself off the side of a quarry on a motorbike going over 200 miles per hour while I admire the ruins of ancient Greece passing majestically by beneath me, and I am 100% there.

As you may have surmised, nail’d falls very comfortably and firmly into this latter category.

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