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Remembering classic games: Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge (1990)

Featuring: Norfolk's plastic-clad answer to the Ferrari Testarossa, the Esprit Turbo SE

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There was no greater intellectual victory as a child in the early 90s than convincing your parents that you needed a computer to ‘help with your homework’. The Amiga and the Atari ST home computers were the beige trojan horses that brought arcade quality 16 bit racing into the homes of nerdy British kids right under the noses of their confused parents. And Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge was the undisputed king of the floppy disk collection.

Lotus Turbo was a racer very much in the Out Run vein, throwing undulating roads and a machine gun spray of scenery at you while the car itself remained resolutely two dimensional. The difference was this game featured Norfolk’s plastic-clad answer to the Ferrari Testarossa, the Lotus Esprit Turbo SE.

While the game itself was designed to arcade sensibilities, it included some features we’d venture were actually bordering on realistic. Or at least as realistic as things got in a 1990 computer game. You’d have to stop in the pits to refuel mid-race and manage lower grip levels in the ice and desert stages. There was even an utterly convincing walnut veneer on the CD Player screen where you picked which music to listen to during the next event. That’s attention to detail.

The game was so successful it spawned two equally excellent sequels, Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 and Lotus III: The Ultimate Challenge, which remains the closest any of us will ever get to experiencing the long-forgotten Lotus M200 concept car. Well, aside from just driving the Lotus Elan it was based on.

Perhaps our favourite part though, is that due to technical limitations, during single player races one half of the screen was filled with the ever-present shot of two mechanics working on a car as you raced, which is about as accurate a representation of early 90s Lotus ownership as we’ve ever seen.

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