In the beginning there was Outrun, and it was feeble. And Magnetic Fields did look at the Amiga and think, "This computer needs a decent driving game," and so they set about creating one. First they created Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge. It was a 3D behind-the-car viewpoint game, which featured a simultaneous split-screen two-player mode which was great fun to play.
It also had lots of options, even down to selecting your in-car music from CD player screen. Magnetic Fields looked down at Lotus, and saw that it was good.
Then they created the sequel, and lo! It featured a full-screen one-player mode, a checkpoint race system instead of the previous circuits, a second type of Lotus car to drive, and even more in-car CD music. They created it in the image of the first game, and Magnetic Fields looked down at Lotus 2, and saw that it was quite good too.
Finally (we hope), in the year of our lord 1992, Magnetic Fields looked down on the world and thought, "Hang on, we could make a packed doing yet another sequel." Thus was born Lotus III: The Ultimate Challenge. And it was OK too.
So what does this have that the previous two didn't? Well, it combines the best aspects of both the prequels to produce what is actually quite a playable driving game. You can decide whether you want to hurtle around either checkpoint-type races or circuits with a varying number of laps, and also whether you want to race against the clock or against the other computer-
There's also the addition of a track designer. You can set the perimeters for a track in the form of percentages, and the things you can twiddle around with include the amount of hills and curves, and the race distance. You can design loads of your own courses, and they can be either circuits or checkpoint jobs.
The game is very well presented, with some stylish graphics and absolutely excellent music. The in-car CD now offers, among others, a dancey, ravey, hardcore-you-know-
You'll find everyone around you starts humming the tune when this comes on (at least they did here in the office). You can choose the control system you want for your car, although I found the default Fire-button acceleration setup easiest to cope with.
Select whether you want to drive a Lotus Esprit, an Elan SE, or an M200, each of which are shown on a trendy rotating fact screen, which also shows weird little graphs of acceleration and so on.
You'll eventually get to the game bit. The starting light goes on, and you accelerate away. Then you've got to successfully negotiate your way through several tracks, which are different depending whether you chose easy, medium or hard difficulty settings. These stages vary between checkpoint races and circuit races, and can take place in a variety of conditions, including the old favourites, wind, fog and rain.
The graphics are pretty much the same as in the two previous games, and they move at a fairly zippy rate, although one amusing thing we noticed is that for some reason, on some tracks it can look like you're reversing the car along. Apart from that slightly strange quirk, the game looks fairly good, with colourful backdrops and sprites.
The car is quite responsive and easy to handle, and with a bit of practice you'll soon find yourself managing to stay on the road on those tough icy corners. One thing that Lotus games have never been is realistic. When you hit an obstacle or another car, you simply slow down by about 15 km/h. Still, if anything, this adds to the playability, as you don't find yourself out of the game just because of one slip-up.
This also produces some excellent two-player frolics as you fiercely battle to be the first to the finishing line.
While Lotus 3 isn't original and certainly isn't the best game in recent months, it's nevertheless a playable product with a fair bit of depth. There are lots of levels to go through, and the facility to design your own adds a great deal to the game. I think it's the best game in its field, because it manages to combine the best elements of the previous games and adds a few new ones too. Shell out for this and you won't be too disappointed.