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.
One of my recent discoveries in this genre was Fuel, a game developed by Asobo Studio and published by Codemasters. If Asobo Studio’s name sounds familiar, it’s because they’re the developers behind the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator. Turns out they’ve been making spectacularly huge, fully explorable open worlds for quite a long time now — although Fuel “only” offers a play area roughly the size of Connecticut rather than the whole Earth.
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.
The “sim racer” has very much become its own distinct thing over the course of the last 20 years or so.
Back in the 16-bit home computer era, the lines between arcade racers and more simulation-like affairs were a little more blurred thanks to the limitations of the technology of the time. And that’s where games like Fast Lane come in, combining old-school “vanishing point” racing with an arcade feel and more simulation-style aspects such as damage, wear and tear and realistic pit stops.
Praised by several publications around the time of its original release, Fast Lane holds up surprisingly well today… although its lack of save functionality means you’d better set a whole day aside if you want to run that whole championship!
One of the most commonly cited reasons for enjoying video games is allowing oneself to realise fantasies of various descriptions.
Frequently, these fantasies are heroic in nature, casting us into a world that is not our own and throwing us into conflict against a powerful foe that is nonetheless possible to overcome with enough determination. Sometimes they’re emotional, allowing us to engage with characters who are very different from people we encounter in reality. They might even be sexual, giving us the opportunity to explore a side of ourselves we find difficult to bring up even with people we know and love.
Or sometimes they might just be wondering what it would be like if your childhood toy cars could actually power themselves and race around an improvised circuit constructed of whatever happened to be on hand at the time. Enter the extravagantly titled Table Top Racing World Tour Nitro Edition, a game that can most certainly help with that last one, even if it won’t assist with your throbbing libido in the slightest. Unless you’re really into tiny cars.
With my Sunday Driving playthrough of Black Rock Studio’s excellent Split/Second now at an end, it’s time to take a final, summative look back at one of my favourite racers of all time.
Split/Second, like its contemporary and rival Blur, was a victim of a combination of factors: poor marketing, arrogant publishers and an overall gaming landscape that was somewhat in flux. As such, while those who took a chance on it back in the day tend to look back on it rather fondly now, it doesn’t get nearly the recognition it deserves.
If, in 1978, you ever entertained any childish fantasies of being a fireman, then Atari had the video game for you!
Fire Truck was an unusual spin on the top-down driving game in which you took control of a distinctly retro (even at the time) fire engine on its way to deal with some sort of flame-related emergency. The fire truck has limited fuel and thus is unable to ever get to its destination, but at least you can score some points along the way! Because as we all know, real firemen are rated according to how close to the emergency they got.
Obviously this is mostly made up; the “fire truck” concept is actually an excuse to provide some interesting and unusual two-player cooperative driving gameplay, in which one player steers the cab of the truck and the other the trailer. You can play it single-player too, but for maximum amusement, bring a friend.