The third incarnation in the Lotus series, but this one was the first appearing on the PC platform. The first two episodes where available on Commodore Amiga and a various of other platforms. This game is really one of the ultimate racing games on the PC. I remembered playing it on my friends Amiga 500, where its name was Lotus III – The Ultimate Challenge. The fabulous music and the engine noises, it was all great. So I was kind of excited when it first came out on the PC, even so excited because I bought it. It came on one 1.44MB floppy and was playable from the 286 and on. And its still playable on nowadays computers, so the timing was good in this game. The game was copy protected with a spinning wheel. Matching helmets.
In this game you can choose from three different cars, all Lotuses for some reason 😉 The Lotus Esprit S4, the Lotus Elan and the M200 concept car. All I wanted to drive was the Lotus Esprit, because it was one of my favorite cars at that particular moment in time. If I ever can get my paws on a real Lotus Esprit, I would certainly go for it! As long as I can fit behind the wheel, cos thats a little problem when you’re 6’9. Anyhow, back to the game. Theres not much of a story to tell, its just an arcade racer, but its great great fun, especially when you’re with two people. Yes, you can drive with two people on one computer. It gets a little crowdy behind the keyboard, but its fun nonetheless.
You can drive a couple of presetted circuits, they all take place in various enviroments, one on the highway, the forest, the desert, at night, on a road with a lot of roadworks, the mountains a la testdrive, windy roads, snowy roads, you can even race in the future. Every enviroment has its own set of unique properties, for example, racing in the future has highspeed roads, if you drive on them, you’ll get automatically boosted to the topspeed, however its hard to slowdown on that part of the road, so you have to dodge cars once in a while. On the normal roads you can ride into beams of light flickering across the road, those will get you to a complete halt if you drive into them. Every enviroment has its unique set of properties which will get you fascinated. Its a nice addition to sucha fine arcade racer.
Besides racing presetted circuits, you can start making your own as well! This game features a very easy and simple editor, its so easy anyone can do it. Its called RECS and that stands for Racing Enviroment Constuction System. They claim it can produce up to 5 trillion different racing experiences, I didnt try them all, but its nice to fiddle around with it. If you set your racing mode to RECS, you’ll get a list of tracks, to fill in a code to create a game, nine to be exact. You can enter a 9 character code and a 2 digit difficultiness, or go to the editor and fiddle around with the graphical bars. So I always just thought up random words to fill in and play those. Hilarious at times, definately when playing with two people.
The music on the Amiga was fabulous as I said before, the PC version is a little bit less interesting, but a wide broad of soundboards are supported. You can choose (if you have the hardware ofcourse) between PC Speaker (standard), Adlib, Soundblaster and Roland MT-32. The last two ones are the most interesting, although you might choose the Soundblaster instead. The SB included several digitalized sound effects, like howling winds on the windy roads. Its a nice addition, however it would’ve been more fun if they just did it all digitized just like on the Amiga. The musics are interesting, but you might just listen to the engine sounds when playing the game, because you really miss those when playing the game just listening to the music. The music gets set on repeat too, so it will drive you mad after some time of playing long tracks / circuits. The Roland MT-32 music is very nicely done, but it just uses the standard instruments, they didnt make their own. It would sound much better if they did that instead. The sound effects on the MT-32 arent very interesting, better use the Soundblaster for that. The PC Speaker is highly irritating with the bleepy music, but still, nicely done for the one voice PC Speaker ..
The graphics are pretty. Pretty as in VGA 256 color 320×200. I think it looks better on PC than on Amiga. Its also the only graphical mode supported by the game. CGA, EGA, Hercules owners were out of luck. The game itself was in 3D, created with sprites, there were no 3D accelerators in 1993, so even Michelle can play it.
Multiplayer is limited to two players on the same computer. The screen will get horizontal divided and you have to fiddle around with who is who. Its not very clear to see when you’re both driving the same car. The keyboard is supported for two players, but if you have a joystick, it works with that as well. I prefer the keyboard. RECS works with two players too, so its fun just thinking up random words and driving those random tracks 😉
Are there any weaknesses in the game ? Apart from the things I already mentioned with the music and seeing who is who in two player mode, not much. Not much at all. I cant really think up any. Its a great game and still playable on modern computers. No, this game will keep you entertained for quite a while. Its highly playable on DosBox, lots of fun with two people on one computer and playing random thought-up tracks and circuits!
The guys who made the PC game conversion are: Cygnus Software Ltd.