Turbo Trax logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

Kompart return to grace the Amiga screens once again. After many months of pure speculation, Turbo Trax has finally arrived - in Ferrari-like fashion too.

Kompart, responsible for the abundance of Amiga releases during these last few months, are adding to their already well-developed collection a challenger for the likes of Overdrive and Roadkill. These weren't particularly successful compared to the likes of the late '80s Nitro. This was one of the few top-down racing games that packed pure challenge and action. The idea was to race against a series of opponents in various cars. A whole host of tracks were included making this one of the most pleasing and satisfying games of all time.

During the early '90s, Supercars was introduced on the Amiga format, later making its way across to the Amiga. This was viewed top-down just like Nitro, but where Nitro failed in terms of variety, Supercars filled the spot almost too perfectly.

Featuring an option to buy more cars and progress onto later tracks, Supercars' success was inevitable. What made Supercars incredibly popular was the fact it offered a different perspective. The idea of layered tracks was welcomed with open arms by games players everywhere.

After the recent releases of Roadkill and Overdrive, Turbo Trax is the latest top-down racing game. After being in the pre-production phase for months, will it finally pass its driving test?

There are three modes of play - Arcade, Time Trials, and Practice. The arcade mode is basically to beat five other computer opponents to cross the line first, picking up some cash to spend on your car to increase its handling and power. After you complete a race, you are given a number of items to buy to increase your car's capabilities. You can buy five types of engine, steering wheel, fuel and tyres. The better the component the more expensive it'll be.

In the arcade mode, the computer opponents are especially hard and the car in pole position always seems to be half way round the course before you've turned the first corner. It'll take an enormous amount of practice to enable you to come first, or even second.

To slow you down, various obstacles are placed on the tracks - the oil is undoubtedly the worst. Having said that, it's not as frustrating as you can imagine. On most racing games, sliding on oil will send you careering into the cash barriers, almost certainly putting you out of contention for first place. However on Turbo Trax, the frustration factor is set just about right.

If you do happen to be in an unavoidable position resulting in skidding over an oil leak, the worst thing that can happen is a simple 360 degree spin followed by a loss in speed. This enables the opponents to gain a little, but not so much that it ruins the entire race.

The other mode of play is Practice, whereby you can select any course, any car and can get to know each course, so when you come to take on the arcade mode you'll have an idea of the corners and where and when to brake etc. The last mode is Time Trials whereby you have to complete the lap in the fastest time which can then be saved to disk for future reference.

The car in pole position always seems to be half way round the course before you've even turned the first corner. It'll take an enormous amount of practice to enable you to come first, or even second

To help you in your quest for loads of cash and a decent reputation, there are all sorts of helping hands. You can pick up spanners which reduce your damage, money to give you something to enhance your car and turbos which will give you that extra speed - maybe enough to carry you across the line in first place.

There are three types of car which race on their own respective circuit. For instance, you won't find a Formula One tuned car on a dirt track. There are quite a few different styles of tracks, with around seven or eight mapped out differently. There are street, snow, dirt and racing tracks which require various types of handling because of the conditions.

Before you take on a track, you can tune your car to suit the circuit. Obviously, if the next track to race is a slippery ice track, the idea is to spend money on handling and grip by purchasing the steering wheel and tyres. There is little point in purchasing a high-powered engine because you'll spend most of the time going far too fast and spinning out of control. You have to master the car set-up screen before attempting a race of you will undoubtedly come nowhere.

The car sprites for top-down racing games are basically of a standard appearance. They are kept very simple because they have to be manipulated at every angle to make them smooth and fluent. Turbo Trax's sprites are simple, yet they work very effectively. There's no animation on the cars themselves because that would simply complicate the speed and definition.

The tracks and backgrounds are good, making it pleasurable to play as well as being easy on the eye. There are different kinds of scenery to add enough variety to keep you playing for a while. There is a street track which is mapped out with cones - these must be negotiated along with the other five vars to complete the track.

As Turbo Trax runs quite fast, it is difficult to see which bends and corners will be coming up. Memorising them won't work either because there are simply far too many of them to attempt. When you begin the arcade mode a random one will be picked as well.

The computer opponents don't really give you much chance of catching them, never mind beating them. It will take many weeks of practice until you are good enough to challenge for first place.

Finally, the sound effects are very realistic with engine noises and the screeching of brakes. These all add to the excitement and action - although not that much.

Comparing cars

There have been a significant number of top-down racing games released recently, namely Roadkill, Overdrive and Micro Machines. In the past we have seen the likes of Super Sprint, Nitro and Indy Heat. Oh, alright, so Indy Heat wasn't specifically top-down but more of a mid-slanty top view that worked surprisingly well.

These are the only commercial releases I can think of. Most of the top-down racers emerge from Public Domain and some of the decent PD racers include Moose Drive and Road To Hell.

Gearbox problems

Every car I have know had problems with it in one wat or another. If it's not the gearbox, you'll probably have left your keys inside. It's funny the way all the problems seem to occur just after the two month warranty has expired. Oh well, thankfully none of these problems appear in Turbo Trax.

Although every car featured in Turbo Trax is extremely high powered, you wouldn't really expect the type of acceleration you are presented with. The gear changes are noticeable, unlike many other racers, and the pitch of the engine noises is also heared. Most games seem as if they are controlled I first gear all the time, and a high pitched roaring noise becomes extremely annoying.

However, the acceleration is lacking immensely, if you do happen to get hammered off the side of the track, the possibility of getting yourself going within seconds is very remote - as moving up to sixth gear seems to take a life time.

Although there is a variety of cars, there isn't any actual difference between them. For instance, you'd expect a formula one car to have a higher speed than an off-road truck.

You are also given a damage bar. This will inform you of how much damage your car has taken and how much it will take. If you happen to exceed this amount, you'll be thrusted back at the beginning again. You can damage your car in a number of ways, although trying to overtake is possibly the worst so I suggest you try to avoid it - although not at pedestrian crossings. That always seems to inject a little excitement.

Final word

Overall, Turbo Trax is a fairly good game. It doesn't include anything special or mind-blowing. It's simply another top-down racing game - although the main point of the game is the fact it simply plays well and is quite enjoyable. The variety of tracks and cars gives it a longer lasting challenge as you have to adapt to each one. The graphics do their jobs adequately and it all adds up to a really playable game with many months of enjoyment.

Turbo Trax logo

"Chase me, chase me; catch me catch me." Steve MacGill tries to give his little red car a turbo-boost and overtake the competition."

There's not enough grunt, flair, or ground-breaking performance in this new top-down racing game from Arcane for it to seriously challenge the, undoubtedly deserved, top-grid positions of Super Skidmarks, Micro Machines and Roadkill.

It is capable, though, of gaining points against the other games' weaknesses, with the exception of Super Skidmarks. An area that lets it gain vital percentage points in the race toward a high score.

Take Micro Machines. While undoubtedly a revered classic, the traction of the cars feels just that little bit too slippy-slidey for complete comfort; a problem that's dogged just about every Codemasters' top-down racer, from Formula One Grand Prix simulator on the Spectrum onwards.

Not so with Turbo Trax. The guys at Arcane have taken a lot of time to get this bit just right. And it shows. The cars are responsive and provide just enough slip-differential feedback for the label of 'intuitive control.

Head-to-head with Roadkill, Trax fares little better than it did with Micro Machines. The combination of reactive atmosphere, enhancing speech, music, weapons, carnage, and hi-octane destruction, accelerates Roadkill into a different racing-stratosphere.

True racing aficionados will find the game too limited.

Turbo Trax offers rudimentary SFX or music. There is some speech, but it's for information rather than offering encouragement à la Roadkill style: Trax has "Last Lap" and "Turbo!"; Roadkill has the growlingly grungy "Go for the Super Jackpot" and "Take his life", followed by a few stirring rock and roll chords when the goal has been achieved.

The only saving graces of Trax when up against Roadkill is that it offers more than double the number of tracks - 25 versus 12 - and has a serial link option which, at least, ensures human contact if the requisite equipment is available.

On the positive side, then, there's nothing really bad about the game. It's attractive graphically; handles well, offers racing practice and time trialling on any of the 25 circuits; is fiendish, but not unconquerable in the difficulty department; and supports a serial link for dual-player competition.

On the negative side, there are areas where the charge of "could do better" applies. All of the corners consist of 90 degree bends, so a lack of variety exists in the structure of the circuits. Imagine owning a Scalextric set where this was true. Boredom would quickly set in.

Collision with other cars can be frustrating when, by rights, they should be pushed out of the way - particularly true when a car shuts the door on a bend and the player's car hits it. Rather than knocking it off its line and giving the player an advantage, damage and deceleration and experienced. Frustrating.

In all, Turbo Trax is competent and enjoyable to play. But it's not outstanding enough to make it an essential purchase.


Turbo Trax
There are five different scenarios to race over. Each scenario has five different circuits. Here we see the starting grid for the desert.

Turbo Trax
According to Arcane, some of the scenarios are easier to race on. While the difference is subtle, I had most success with the indi circuits. (Above).

Turbo Trax
If you go down to the Woods today you're in for a big surprise. If you go down to the Woods today you better go in disguise. So, let's race.

Turbo Trax
Of all the scenarios, the slippy-slidey ice world is the most bland looking. It's very difficult to better second place in the race also.

Turbo Trax
It would have been great, if, rather than just racing all the time, little ambush scenarios and police chases too place in the streets.


Outclassed all round in terms of technical innovations, such as hi-res with AGA machines, split screens and the legendary Super Panoramic View.

Better traction than the Codies effort, but not enough scope for fun and reckless frivolousness. No baked bean obstacles, or truly bonkers backdrops.

Serial link is an immediate advantage, but the lack of reactive atmospheric sound and weaponry makes it less absorbing than Vision's racer.

Turbo Trax logo

Braucht der Amiga nach "All Terrain Racing", "Roadkill" und Konsorten wirklich noach eine weiter Draufsicht-Raserei? Die Piloten bei Arcade Entertainment scheinen es jedenfalls zu glauben...

Wir sind nicht ganz so überzeugt davon, denn Turbo Trax vermag das Vollgas-Genre kaum neu zu definieren, vielmehr hat man nahezu alle der gebotenen Features schon in der einen oder anderen Amiga-Raserei gesehen. Andererseits vermag ein gelungener PS-Cocktail aus erlesenen Genre-Zutaten ja auch einen Geschwindigkeitsrausch zu verursachen; nehmen wir also mal einen kräftigen Schluck aus dem Tank:

Bereits auf den ersten Blick sticht das turboschnelle Scrolling der detaillierten 32-Farben-Optik mit klar erkennbarem Straßenverlauf ins Auge; anders als bei "All Terrain Racing" sind hier Piste und Pampa stets gut zu unterscheiden.

Das fehlende Streckenradar wird somit kaum vermißt, wenn man vereiste Kurven am Polarkreis umschlittert, Öpfützen auf der City-Autobahn kreuzt oder an den Sanddünen des Wüstenkurses bzw. den Zuschauerrängen des Formel-1-Parcours mit jeweils passendem Gefährt (Jeep, Sportwagen, Buggy etc.) vorbeirast.

Übungsrunden sind auf jeder der insgesamt 25 Strecken möglich und helfen, das dezent unterscheidbare Fahrverhalten der fünf Vehikel kennenzulernen. Dobald der Spaß dann zum Ernst und der Michi zum Schumi werden soll, kämpft man entweder beim Zeitrennen gegen die Stopp-uhr oder im WM-ähnlichen Arcade-Modus gegen die Konkurrenz - hier wird nämlich nur zum nächsten Lauf zugelassen, wer zuvor einen Platz auf dem Siegertreppchen ergattern konnte.

Nach einem Zweispieler-Modus sucht man freilich vergebens, denn Turbo Trax kennt weder direkte Duelle noch einen Splitscreen. Okay, eine Nullmodem-Option ist immerhin vorhanden, doch wird man die Amiga-Rennställe mit zwei Rechnern in der Box wohl an einem (Blei-)Fuß abzählen können.

In der Praxis werden daher ganz überwiegend bloß Solisten um die Siegesprämien kämpfen dürfen, die sich im Tuningshop in griffige Pneus, stärkere Triebweke oder eine modifizierte Lenkung investieren lassen.

Dabei hätte es doch so viel mehr Freude Machen können, das wirklich gelungene Car-Handling, den ausgewogenen Schwierigkeitsgrad und die ordentliche Soundkulllise aus entweder Begleitmusik oder Motor-FX und einigen Fetzen Sprachausgabe im Duett zu genießen.

Was bleibt, ist relativ schnörkleloses Draufsicht-Racing: Hübsche Zwischenscreens, Animationsdetails auf bzw. neben den Pisten oder Sonstige Gimmicks fehlen, und auch die Fahrzeuge selbst sehen ein wenig langweilig und farblos aus.

Aber wer vom Gas gar nicht mehr runter will und auf solides Handling sowie geradliniges Gameplay Wert legt, der kann es weitaus schlechter treffen als mit Turbo Trax - man denke nur an den weiter hinten im Heft getesteten Kolbenfresser namens "Rally Championships"... (rl)

Turbo Trax logo

The letter X at the end of a word does not exist in nature. Grrrr.

1963. Jason and the Argonauts is released. It has a plot about finding the Golden Fleece to save a country, and has as monsters a hydra, a big bronze statue and nine vehemently prissy skeletons. It is fantastically great. Characters say things like, "Aaarghh!" and "Behold!"

1975. Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is released. It has a plot about changing a caliph back from a baboon and save his throne, and has as monsters a bronze minotaur who squashes himself with a brick, the world's most useless wasp and a really cute tiger. It has its moments, and Patrick Troughton. Characters say things like, "Aaarrghh!" and "Size of the later Elvis!"

If only they'd stopped after Jason and the Argonauts, or made the later films better. Can't... do... plaid...

Turbo Tracks is hard, but it's not challenging. A challenging game would let you play a bit, pique your interest with a few surprises, kill you as if paid off by Edward R Pressman in defence of Louise Lasser, and wait confidently for you to try again.

Turbo Track does everything in its power to make you hate it. Success in driving games comes from knowing a track; when to try to overtake, when to hang back, when to go flat out, and so on. Turbo Tracks' circuits consist solely of 90 and 180 degree bends, and its graphics are detailed but uniform, so it is extraordinarily difficult to memorise a track.

When you start the game, four tracks from the six in a set (inner-city, formula one, desert, icy and cross-country) are chose at random for you to race upon in turn. You don't get to see a map of any of them. You get, in fact, six laps on each to try to get at least a quarter of the points you need to qualify for the next round. You are, in fact, fortunate if you can fix the track at all in your mind's eye, so alike does it all look.

It is a relief, therefore, to learn of the practice mode, generously allowing you to try any circuit. With a map. Except because they all in a set look the same, and because any one of the thirty could come up when you play the game proper, it is a ridiculous waste of time. (When I asked Arcane about this, they said the graphics were so complicated - here they tried to baffle me with 'blocks' and 'planes', but I retained my composure by mentally reciting the twelve-times table - there was no way to vary the backgrounds. But even numbering the tracks would give you at least a sporting chance. But no.Tsss.)

Drive slightly to the outside

Enough of the paucity of friendliness. The fun in a driving game comes from the excitement of the race; the jockeying for position, the wild lunging for power-ups, the grim satisfaction of grinding an opponent into the crash barriers, and so on.

Turbo Tracks' races for the beginner consist of watching the five computer cars zoom off and then seeing them again only when they lap you (curiously, even if you're last on your final lap). There's no difficulty curve of (say) equivalently poor opponents getting the idea as you progress. Turbo Tracks laughs in the face of those who have not put in practice enough to shave through familiar corners. (Except... oh no! Etc.)

But if you are of sufficient skill to keep up with the pack, you are not rewarded. While, creditably, the computer cars skid on the oil slicks and speed up on the turbos, they are phenomenally stupid and stick to their line. (They move only if you're in their way, but with no thought to it - if you drive slightly to the outside, they'll happily turn into the crash barriers).

They also stick to their allotted positions, carefully keeping much space between each other - if, for example, you're third, you'll again see no one else. In fairness, Arcane recognise this and have small, twisting tracks to keep everything together and thrillingly jostly, but such tracks are the exception. You're not competing against committed rivals, you're the loose cannon in a cartel. The computer cars don't want to fight each other for first place. THEY ARE HAPPY BEING GREEN.

What, then, is left? I did enjoy the time trials, for they awarded me uniquely a sense of achievement. And the handling of turbos is pleasingly eccentric - once picked up, you're required to maintain acceleration until you hit top speed, whereupon they kick in. A pity there is a fondness for placing them before corners.

There is a serial link option, but, crazily, you and your opponent are now alone on the track. In the words of, well, me a few issues ago (but probably stealing them from a 1936 Will Hay school movie, right, kids?) it merely serves to make two people unhappy instead of one.

Turbo Tracks is an inadequate racing game. Its insipidity reminds why people started putting guns in overhead racers (or not making them overhead at all), and its fierce dislike of anyone trying to get the 'feel' of it is foolish. (Arcane, after complaints, have jiggered with the points needed to qualify - this does render the game less annoying, but not to a substantially degree).

It seems strangely cruel to start mentioning Micro Machines,Roadkill and Skidmarks 2, but this does not lessen its stodgy, tasteless (and yet) abrasive nature. And the punchline to that joke's to be found elsewhere in this issue.

Turbo Trax logo

Price: £29.99 Publisher: Arcane/Kompart 0438 840004

Originally due for release last year, has the extra time helped make Turbo Trax the most playable racing game yet?

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's 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 pick-up, 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 qa 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 centering 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 o 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. An A1200 only version of Turbo Trax is also planned with more speed and AGA graphics; this could be even better.