Only eight this week (it’s been a busy week…), but several are among the system’s best games, so enjoy!
Games this update
Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole
Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters
Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar
Lost Vikings, The
Lost World, The: Jurassic Park
Lotus Turbo Challenge
Lotus Turbo Challenge II: RECS
Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole – 1 player, battery save to cartridge. Landstalker, made by Climax Entertainment and published by Sega, is an amazing action-adventure game, and my favorite game like this on the Genesis. This game is one part Zelda and one part isometric platform-action game, essentially. The isometric view is divisive, but it works better here than in almost any other game I have played. I found it fairly easy to get used to the controls in Landstalker. There are times when you’ll miss jumps because judging distance in isometric 3d is difficult, but the game won’t kill you for it, you’ll just fall down to a lower area and such. This helps make the game less frustrating than some other isometric games, such as Light Crusader below. Landstalker has great graphics, a nice anime-cartoony art style with a good look to it, good music, a large world to explore, and a somewhat lengthy quest to take on. This is a big game, and it isn’t as straightforward as Beyond Oasis, either; you will often be wandering around the game world trying to figure out where you’re supposed to go next. This can be frustrating at times, but do stick with it — the game is well worth the effort! You play as Nigel, an elf adventurer off to find a great treasure with the help of a fairy who supposedly knows where it is. The story is fairly light in tone, fitting the cartoony art style, though some serious things do happen. Still, this game can be amusing at times, and shows it right from the start. Landstalker doesn’t have a great story, but it is an amusing one and helps keep you going through the game as you try to figure out what to do next, or how to beat the next challenge.
This is an isometric game, so you move at an angle. All areas of this game are broken up into areas that are a few screens large, and connect to the next area via connecting ‘doors’ that are generally in the middle of the side. The general concept is similar to how Zelda: A Link to the Past, Beyond Oasis, and others work, except for that Landstalker uses clearly-marked connecting doors, instead of just ‘walk off the edge to scroll the screen’. I like this style, and it works great. The broken-up world helps keep you focused on the current area, and makes each one different. This is an action-adventure game in the Zelda vein, though, so you don’t just explore a world; there are also a lot of monsters to fight and puzzles to solve. Landstalker has a unique feel to it, though, as the Zelda/isometric platform game hybrid is interesting and makes this game feel different from any other. Landstalker’s puzzles are not like Zelda puzzles, either. While in Zelda or Crusader of Centy puzzles usually focus on using the items/helpers you have collected in the right ways, Nigel here mostly just fights with his sword. You will get inventory items, but your sword will always be your main equipment. There are some block-pushing puzzles of course, ‘kill the enemies’ puzzles, jumping puzzles, and many switch-hitting puzzles, but the game has some logic puzzles as well, rarely for this genre! Landstalker is mostly focused on platforming and action, but the variety of challenges helps keep the game interesting. Nigel’s sword has a pretty good range and this game controls great, so combat is easy and fun. Compare this to Light Crusader below where your character David’s starting attack range is far too short for a nice comparison of good versus sort-of-bad isometric game design. Landstalker is a challenging game for sure, though. If you die and don’t have a resurrection item or something, you go back to the main menu and have to load your last save; your progress is lost. This can be pretty harsh, as save points are mostly at towns, not in dungeons. So yeah, try not to die at bosses, getting back there can be a pain, and bosses will often take some practice to beat. Some of those jumping puzzles can be tricky as well, and I wish that the game gave you better clues about what you should be doing sometimes; wandering around lost is never fun. Still, the game is mostly great and is worth the effort.
Visually, Landstalker looks quite good, though Beyond Oasis looks even better. That game did release a few years after this one, though, and Landstalker still holds up very well. Environments are static and do not animate, but that’s normal for the time, and the art design and detail is impressive. Areas are well-designed and complex. The level designs here definitely take a lot from isometric action-platformer designs, but it’s all made more accessible than those games often were — think of Solstice for the NES for example, for a particularly harsh one. And again, I really like the games’ art design. Overall Landstalker is a fantastic game, and easily one of the best RPG-ish action-adventure games of the generation. It’s probably #3 on my list for the generation, after only Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the GB and Illusion of Gaia for SNES. The sometimes unclear objectives and harsh penalty for dying are minor complaints compared to the games’ many strengths. Landstalker has good graphics and music, great level designs, highly polished gameplay, very good, responsive controls, a sometimes amusing story, fun if simple combat, some intresting puzzles with a fair amount of variety, and more! This is a really outstanding must-play game. The isometric perspective may take a few minutes to get used to, but don’t let you stop you from playing this classic. Climax made several more isometric games after Landstalker, including Lady Stalker for SNES, Dark Savior for Saturn, and Time Stalkers for Dreamcast, but none quite recapture the magic of the original. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games. Since cart copes do have now very old batteries in them which are starting to fail, unless you can switch out those batteries yourself maybe a digital copy on a modern system might be a good idea…
Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters – 1-2 player simultaneous, Justifier light gun supported. Lethal Enforcers II is the sequel to the then-popular light-gun shooter Lethal Enforcers. I have the first one on Sega CD, and this one on cart, so see my Sega CD list for my thoughts on that game. While the first game was something of a hit, this Genesis/Sega CD sequel didn’t do quite as well, though the gameplay is just as good. The gameplay is more of the same, but the setting has changed; while the first Lethal Enforcers was set in the present day, as the title suggests this game takes place in the Wild West. I like the new setting, it fits very well for a light gun game. As with the first one, this is a very, very simple game: You simply need to shoot all badguys as they appear on screen, without hitting the innocents who like to run right into your sights. You can play with either a Justifier light gun (if you are playing on a CRT TV) or with the gamepad. The game controls better and is more fun with lightguns, of course, but it is playable with a pad. This is a very simple game. Just shoot the baddies, shoot some more badguys, then shoot some more. Every so often you will move to a new environment chasing the badguys around, but most areas are static screens. As with the first game though sometimes you will be on a moving vehicle, here carriages instead of cars of course, as a background loop scrolls past. This game has decent graphics with the same digitized-actors look that the first game used. At the time digitized people in games was considered really awesome stuff, but it has aged since; this game looks okay, but looking back the visuals are nothing special. The gameplay has no depth either, and isn’t quite as fun or varied as, say, T2: The Arcade Game is. Still, Lethal Enforcers 2 is a fun little lightgun game, worth getting for a few bucks if you like this genre. This game has aged much worse than many of the other popular Genesis games, but there is still some fun to be had. Arcade port, also on Sega cD. The SCD versions of the Lethal Enforcers games have improved audio and maybe also graphics, but mostly seems to be the same as the cart releases.
Light Crusader – 1 player, battery save to cartridge. Light Crusader is an isometric action-adventure dungeon-crawler game from Treasure. Treasure is famous for their great games like Dynamite Headdy or Gunstar Heroes, but also has a history of making … more average … games as well, and this is one of the latter type, unfortunately. Light Crusader is not a bad game, but it’s not all that good, either. This is a simple, small-scale game. The game has a very Western art style, an interesting choice for a Japanese game. The game looks okay to good, but isn’t really impressive looking, particularly for a 1995 release; Treasure could do better. You are Sir David, and need to save the kingdom from evil by going through a six-floor dungeon. Yes, this one dungeon with town above is the whole game. It will be a challenging journey, and I lost interest somewhere around floor two of the dungeon, but the scale of the game is limited. As with most isometric games of the time — Solstice, those numerous ’80s European computer games, etc.– the world is broken up into screens, each a separate challenge. You have a map on the pause menu, thankfully, to help you navigate the maze of rooms. This game really is Treasure’s attempt at a game like Solstice and such, and it shows throughout, from that Western art style, to the kinds of puzzles and challenges you will face in the rooms, to the general look and feel of the game. I don’t like Solstice all that much, though, and don’t care for this game either. Of the isometric games I have for the Genesis, Landstalker and Sonic 3D Blast are the good ones, while this is well behind in third.
Ingame, you explore around the dungeon. Levels have blocks to push, switches to hit, treasures and items to collect or buy, enemies to kill, and tricky jumping puzzles to solve. Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell the perspective in this game, so jumping puzzles are harder than they should be. I have much less trouble making jumps in Landstalker than I do here, it’s just a little easier to see where you are there. Combat is also worse than Landstalker, as your attack range is far too short. Your sword barely hits beyond your sprite, so you’re going to take hits all the time while trying to fight the enemies. It’s frustrating stuff. I do like some of the puzzles, though, and the game will make you think as you explore around and try to figure out what you can do — where can I push that block? What is that pillar emitting a beam for? Etc. Puzzles start easy, but get harder as you progress in a reasonable curve. There are also occasional bosses along the way, and these can be tough, particularly with your short attack range. I’m not sure if it’s worth the hassle; sure, with enough tries you can probably beat them and you can save your game at save rooms so you don’t have to start over from the start after dying (as long as the cart battery lasts, that is), but I just don’t find this game very fun to play. I’ve never gotten past floor two, and when trying the game again for this summary I was happy to quit after dying at the first boss; it meant I didn’t have to play the game anymore. Light Crusader is an average game for its genre, overall — it’s better than some, but worse than others. The game has okay graphics and some decent puzzles, but the frustrating jumping, unfun combat, and limited scale of the game all hold it back. Probably don’t bother with this one unless you like this kind of game, or really want to play all of Treasure’s games. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.
Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar – 1 player. Lightening Force, also known as Thunder Force IV, is Techno Soft’s last and best Genesis shmup. This game released in 1992, the year the shmup genre peaked in game releases in Japan. This is an absolutely incredible game, easily among the best shmups of the generation in both graphics and gameplay. The game begins with LIGHTENING FORCE scrolling by interspersed with scenes of your ship, as the games great opening fanfare plays, and it just gets better from there! Visually Lightening Force might be the Genesis’s best-looking shooter. The story is somewhat depressing apparently, going by the ending; there is no story before the end, just as it should be in this genre, but the end is a bit dark. There are ten levels here, average for the genre, with a boss at the end of each one. You can play the first four levels in any order, which is interesting, but after finishing them the second half of the levels are played in order. The default first level is particularly amazing looking with its numerous layers of parallax scrolling. All levels in this game are several screens tall, more than usual for the genre, and have multiple layers of parallax of both the strip-parallax and full parallax layer varieties. This game has maybe the best parallax scrolling of any game in the 4th generation. The sprite graphics and art design are also fantastic and very well drawn. This game gets about as much out of the Genesis as it can, and the results are impressive. Oh, and the music is great too! Lightening Force has a really great electronic techno/rock soundtrack that adds a lot to the intensity of this already-intense game. The soundtrack is one of the better ones on the system. This game both looks and sounds incredible. It is perhaps an issue that the first level is probably the best looking, but many later stages also look really great as well, and almost all have many layers of parallax. The only issue with this game visually is that it does have slowdown, but with this much action on screen it was probably inevitable even on the Genesis. Lightening Force pushes the Genesis hard.
And behind all of the awesome presentation is a fantastic, rock-solid game with great, extremely responsive controls, a nice variety of weapons that are both powerful and fun to use, and a huge number of enemies to shoot. Enemies come from the front, back, above, and below, and you always need to remember that there are going to be enemies above and below you. Unless you have a shield you die in one hit of course, so you need to be careful. There are five weapons to get though, and each can be upgraded to a more powerful form if you can stay alive. My favorite weapon is the Blade weapon, but all have their uses, and you will switch between them regularly, particularly for when enemies attack from behind and you switch to weapons better at dealing with that. This is easy enough, though, thankfully, if you know what to do; memorization is important here, as always in this genre. If you die you respawn where you died, until you run out of lives and continues of course, though you do lose your currently-equipped weapon, so try not to die with the better ones if you can. At the end of each level there is a boss of course, and they are varied, cool looking, and often tough. Each one has a different way of coming at you, and some have cool visual elements as well. Levels are just the right length here, and so is the game; at about 40 minutes if you don’t die this game is in the middle between the short 20-minute shmups, and the long (for this genre) hour-plus games. The length is just right; those 20-minute shmups can be great fun, but it’s nice that this game has a bit more to it.
So yes, this is a hard game, and it is constantly challenging you with new enemy types and fire patterns to deal with, but there is something which can help: a 100-lives cheat. All you need to do is go into the options menu before starting a game (it’s kind of hidden, but just hit the right button at the start screen), set lives-per-continue to zero, and presto, you now actually have 100 lives per continue, not zero! On this options menu you can also change the difficulty and such; though the game is tough on any setting it is easier on easy than hard, at least. I have finished this game with the 100-lives code, but not without it, sadly; it is very easy to die, and you do have limited continues. Losing your current weapon upon death is also a huge issue, as when you lose good weapons it can be hard to recover and not lose a lot of lives in a hurry. That is a classic, time-tested shmup design idea commonly seen in Gradius and R-Type games, for example, and I don’t mind it, but it does mean that to win without that code you will need to practice this game a LOT. With as great as this game is that is probably worth it, though, if you have the skill. Overall, Lightening Force is an absolutely exceptional masterpiece. This game has some of the best graphics, music, and gameplay of the generation! This is my favorite game by Technosoft, and my favorite shmup on the Genesis as well. Lightneing Force, or Thunder Force IV, is an absolute must-buy. It’s not cheap anymore sadly, but get it for sure. I know some people like Thunder Force III more, but I think this one is probably better. (Yes, I don’t have TFIII, though I do have II, IV, and Thunder Spirits for SNES. I have played the game, though.)
Lost Vikings, The – 1-3 players (with Sega multitap), password save, 6 button controller supported (and highly recommended). The Lost Vikings is a really great game I have a lot of nostalgia for. This side-scrolling puzzle-platformer from 1993 was developed by Blizzard under their original name “Silicon & Synapse” and published by Interplay. The original concept apparently was a more platformer-styled Lemmings-type game, and it is that and more. The game has great cartoony art in what would become that classic Blizzard style and fantastic, highly-polished gameplay that is as much about solving puzzles as it is about fighting enemies. I got the PC version for Christmas in 1993, and while I did not know the Blizzard name yet, a few years later I would, and in retrospect it was a step towards my later love for Blizzard games. This was the first Blizzard game I played, and it while it’s nothing like their most popular games such as Warcraft or Diablo, it is a very good game for its genre. I mostly know The Lost Vikings as the PC game I played in the ’90s, but this Genesis version is also great. The graphics aren’t quite as good as the PC or SNES versions, unfortunately. The game looks pretty good and I like the cartoony graphics; they look like a predecessor to Warcraft’s style. Even though this version does look worse than the SNES or PC versions but it still looks pretty good and close to the original. I love the graphics and animations in this game, they’re funny stuff. The music is good as well, and certainly is better than the almost nothing I had back in 1993, since our computer only had a PC Speaker and not a sound card; with PC Speaker audio the PC version has a main-menu theme, but that’s it for music. but it makes up for it with several Genesis-exclusive levels and a Genesis-only 3-player-simultaneous mode; other versions are either one player only, as I think it is on PC, or two player max, as it is on SNES. The exclusive levels particularly make this version worth getting, as no other version has exclusive levels, so this is the only way to play every level of The Lost Vikings, and you’ll want to! With good graphics, gameplay, level designs, and writing, the game is great.
The game is funny, too. I love the writing in this game, there are frequent amusing comedy moments. The interactions between the Vikings are great, as they see things completely beyond anything they can understand, from spaceships full of laser traps to ancient Egypt, the age of the dinosaurs, and more. The Lost Vikings is the comic story of three medieval vikings, Erik, Olaf, and Baleog who get kidnapped by a time-travelling villain called Tomator. They have to escape, travel through time to find home, and defeat Tomator along the way. Each one has two abilities, and there is little overlap between the three. You will need to use all three together to proceed, and this division really is the core of what makes The Lost Vikings such a great game. Only Erik can jump and charge, only Baleog can fight with sword and bow (excepting Erik’s head-bash move which is more useful for walls than enemies), and only Olaf can guard against enemy attacks and float. In the sequel (not available for Genesis) there is a lot more overlap between the characters’ abilities, and I really think it hurts the game; this first game is better because The Lost Vikings should be about having to use all three characters to solve puzzles. When they decided to put in characters that can both attack AND jump, it kind of broke the concept. The purity of the concept in this first game is far, far better — each Viking is necessary for their tasks, and useless for the others, demanding cooperation and thinking. Each Viking has a separate health bar, with 3 hits by default, and if any one of the three dies you get an immediate Game Over. Thankfully there are passwords for every level and you have infinite continues, so you aren’t set back far. There aren’t checkpoints in stages, but that’s okay; levels are reasonably sized, and are usually fun to keep trying until you get them right. If you die enough times in a stage, the Vikings will have some amusing comments… heh. You will need to carefully proceed through each level, looking for enemies, switches, and obstacles. You will often need to block enemies, lasers, of what have you with Olaf, then switch to Baleog to fight them. Baleog has separate buttons for his two weapons, which is useful. You also have an inventory; each Viking can hold four items. You can also switch which inventory item is currently selected, use an item, give the item to a different Viking, or drop (throw away) an item. You also have button(s) to switch between the three Vikings, of course; unless you are playing in multiplayer, you can only control one at a time, and the others will just stand where you last left them. All these functions are why why the 6-button controller really is essential, the 3-button pad does not have nearly enough buttons for this game. With the right controller though the game plays great.
Overall, The Lost Vikings is a great game. I’ve liked it a lot ever since I first got the game, and it still holds up very well. The game is a challenging game full of tricky puzzles, but that’s how it should be! This game is all about the puzzles so they need to be challenging for the game to stay fun, and they are. Levels are complex and multi-layered, and you’ll need to keep your eye out for items hidden everywhere. Many will be important. If you think you might be able to get somewhere, use your Vikings together to get there! Olaf’s shield can work as a platform to help Erik reach higher areas as you search around, Baleog’s bow allows him to hit distant switches, and Olaf can float slowly to the ground in areas where the other two would fall to their deaths; make use of these abilities. With great level designs, good graphics and sound, good controls if you have 6-button controllers, exclusive levels and an exclusive 3-player mode, and more, The Lost Vikings is a fantastic game I’ve liked a lot for a long time now. The game isn’t one of the all-time greats, but it is a pretty good little B-grade game and it’s absolutely worth getting. This Genesis version is a must-have for fans of the game to see those levels you won’t see anywhere else. The Lost Vikings was originally made for PC, Amiga, Atari ST, and SNES; this Genesis version came a little later. The SNES version has seen multiple ports and re-releases, including on the Game Boy Advance and for free download on Blizzard’s website, but this Genesis version is exclusive to the platform.
Lost World, The: Jurassic Park – 1-2 player simultaneous, password save. The Lost World is the third and final Genesis Jurassic Park game, and it’s different from the others. By Appaloosa, this 1997 release is also the last non-sports Genesis game released by Sega in the US. While this game isn’t great, at least Sega went out with a pretty decent game. The Lost World is based on the movie of the same name, but you do not play as one of the major characters from the film. Instead, you play as a generic bounty hunter, out to do missions on this island full of dinosaurs. It’s odd you don’t play as the movie characters, but I don’t mind; this works. This is a top-down action game, so it’s a bit more like the NES and first SNES Jurassic Park game than the previous two Genesis Jurassic Park games, both of which are sidescrollers. The game has good graphics and decent gameplay. I’ve never quite found this game engaging enough to want to play deep into the game, but it is a decently fun game with some good ideas. The game definitely looks quite nice. The dinosaurs are very well drawn and look great, and have a good number of frames of animation as well. People and vehicles also look very good. This definitely looks like the late release that it is. Some are more threatening than others, and since this game is top-down you don’t have to kill them all if you don’t want; you can often avoid them, if they aren’t your objective or attacking you. That’s good. The backgrounds also look really nice, as expected from the studio which made the Ecco games and Kolibri. The audio is nice as well, decent atmospheric stuff. It’s no Ecco CD soundtrack, but it fits.
This is a mission-based game, and it has a nice amount of variety. Sort of like in the other Genesis JP games, you have quite a nice arsenal of weapons to collect, lots of dinos to fight, and plenty of territory to explore. The game world is fairly open, and you often will have several different missions to choose from, with a hub level in the middle and missions off to various sides. Levels are large, but thankfully there is a very useful map on the pause menu. You will often be pausing to go look at it. The pause menu also has a dino encyclopedia with information about the ones you can face in the area and also a mission-objective screen telling you what to do; this is also very useful. The game has okay controls, but they aren’t as tight as they are in the best games like this. Hit detection is also probably not perfect, though you do have a sizable health meter so it works. Running around shooting dinosaurs is fun, and you’ll do plenty of that in this game! There are even some vehicles to control, which is pretty cool. There is a nice variety of missions. Sometimes you’ll just have to kill things, but other times you will have to lure dinosaurs into giant traps, or other such things. I like that there is more to this game than just basic shooting. It’s also great that the game has passwords, not enough Genesis games have those. Still, after a while the game does get repetitive. All you really can do in this game is walk around, shoot, switch weapons, and activate things; that’s it. There are puzzle elements to the game, such as figuring out how to lure dinosaurs where you need them, avoiding mines, navigating the large and mazelike levels, and more but it’s mostly relatively straightforward. Some occasional areas do mix things up with things like some pretty nice software-scaler driving levels for instance, but most of the game plays in top-down jungles and the like. And this game is long for the platform, too — it will take multiple hours at the minimum, more if you get lost, which you certainly will. The game does have a nice co-op mode, but still, it’ll take a while. The shortest Youtube longplay video is 3 1/2 hours long, for instance. While this game is good, it hasn’t held my interest long enough to get anywhere near the end. Still, The Lost World is a good game and it is worth considering. Maybe pick it up. There are other games with this same name on other systems, but this game is Genesis-exclusive. Do avoid the Game Gear Lost World game, though! It’s a terrible, half-hour-long joke of a game, sadly.
Lotus Turbo Challenge – 1-2 player simultaneous, password save. Lotus Turbo Challenge is a simple but fun driving game from Gremlin and published by EA. Gremlin is perhaps more famous for making the three Top Gear games for the Super Nintendo (and Genesis, for Top Gear 2), but this one is a simpler game than those. And that’s where the problems lie; while Lotus Turbo Challenge is a good game, it released on Genesis at the same time or after after the first Top Gear for SNES, but full-screen support excepted isn’t as good of a game. This is a simpler game than Top Gear. Visually, this game looks like a Gremlin racing game. It’s got that distinctive look that the SNES Top Gear games also share, and the software scaling is quite good. The game plays fairly smoothly and runs fast, which is great. The art design is only average, but it looks nice enough. Aurally the game isn’t as good, though. Unfortunately, unlike their SNES games, on the Genesis Gremlin somehow managed to never figure out how to have sound and music at the same time, so while all three SNES games have both sound effects and music at once, here on the Genesis all three of their games have either one or the other but not both. It’s really disappointing, they could have done better; most Genesis racers have both sound and music, there is no excuse for this! As with the first SNES Top Gear games there are only four songs in this game, but they aren’t quite as great as the music is in that game. Forced splitscreen in Top Gear 1 aside that game looks better as well, and Top Gear 2 and 3000 look a lot better, though those did release later. It is nice that this game has full-screen support in single player, but that doesn’t make up for the lacking audio or not-quite-as-good graphical detail, compared to that game.
In gameplay, despite the issues above, Lotus IS quite fun to play, and to its credit it runs better than a lot of Genesis racing games. Gameplay matters t he most in a game, and this game plays well. This is a simpler game than Top Gear, though. Instead of being a sequence of lap-based races, this is a point-to-point game. The game is broken up into several tracks, each with a different setting. Each track has eight checkpointed sections, and you need to reach the end before time runs out. Unlike Lotus 2 or Top Gear, there is no fuel system here and no lap races, only point-to-point driving. Your only opponent is the clock, too; the other cars on the road are just obstacles you need to avoid, not real opposition. The clock is tight though, and by the third track the game gets very difficult. It is fun to challenge it though, and you get a password each time you reach the next track so you can save your progress. This is the simplest of Gremlin’s 4th-gen console racing games, but it is fun. Challenging the tracks and trying to get farther in the game is great fun here, just like it is in Top Gear, but that game is a bit more complex than this one, and does play slightly better. Still, this game is good as well. It controls well, looks okay and runs very well for the time, has one and two player play, has several cars to drive, has plenty of content considering how hard it will be to finish, and is a good fun time all around. It’s just very similar to Top Gear, but not quite as great. I really love Top Gear for SNES, though, so it’s awesome to have this game as well! This may not be an A-grade classic, but it is a good B-grade game well worth getting. This game is adapted from an Amiga series of the same name, but I don’t think it’s a straight port.
Lotus Turbo Challenge II: R.E.C.S. – 1-2 player simultaneous, passwords (for creation mode only, you can’t save circuit progress). Lotus II is a game which is both good, and also frustratingly flawed. This game has ambitious ideas, but can’t quite execute on them, sadly. Released in 1993, the same year as Top Gear 2 for SNES, Lotus II is bigger and more content-rich than the first game, but still lags behind its SNES counterpart. Sadly, the audio limitation returns — once again, sadly, you can only have music or engine sounds, and not both. Otherwise it’s better, though. Visually the game looks similar to the first Lotus, but with some minor graphical improvements and with more settings to drive through. This time you can do both circuit or point-to-point races, for example, and the game also introduces the somewhat interesting R.E.C.S. mode, where you can customize your own course. You can’t actually directly design the course, but you can adjust a lot of slider bars which determine what will be found on the track and in what quantity. Once you have generated a track to your liking you can test it, and also save it via a password you’ll have to write down. The passwords aren’t too long, thankfully, only 10-ish digits. I like that they tried something different here; I haven’t seen something like this in any other linescroll racing game. Still, while it is a cool option, the editor is limited in features; you can sort of make your own track, but doesn’t add as much to the game as it would have with a Mach Rider-style track creator.
Gameplay-wise, little has changed. This game does add a fuel system like in Top Gear, you can race against people instead of only the clock, and there are more places to race in and slightly better graphics, but otherwise it is the same as before. Gremlin’s 5th-gen racers all play great, so that’s okay, but Top Gear 2 has more added gameplay features than this one. This game runs just as well as the first one, thankfully; if only Outrun on the Genesis was as playable as these games are! The controls are good as always. This game has a major problem in its circuit design, however. The clock is still your main opponent; if you run out of time it’s an instant Game Over. And once you get Game Over, this games’ biggest flaw is revealed: you get no continues in this game, and there is no saving your progress in championships, either! Unlike the first game or any Top Gear game, this game does not have progression. Instead, you can choose the length and difficulty of the circuit you wish to attempt from the main menu. Circuits are made up of multiple tracks, and tracks vary in length; some are shorter three-lap or three-segment affairs, but others can be up to eight segments. It’s not reasonable to expect people to play through ten tracks of five to eight segments each without allowing saving at any point, in a game where running out of time once at any time in the game means you have to start the entire circuit over from the beginning! There are passwords on each level-info screen, but those just let you play that layout in the RECS mode; there is no way to save your progress in a championship and you get no continues. If the time limits weren’t so easy to fail this wouldn’t be as bad, but running out of time isn’t just likely, it’s inevitable. The frustration of getting game over midway through circuits is my main impression of this otherwise-good game. With a reasonable continue system within the circuits and perhaps also a better progression system instead of just ‘play anything from the menu’ this game could have been good, but instead it’s very frustrating and quickly stops being fun.
Overall, Lotus II is an average-at-best game with some good points and some flaws. Visually this game runs well, but doesn’t look anywhere near as good as Top Gear 2 for SNES, and the music and sounds still can’t play at the same time, unlike Gremlin’s SNES racers. In gameplay, the game plays well, but doesn’t quite have Top Gear’s balance; this game is a bit harder, and the inability to save makes it too frustrating for its own good. The lack of any progression is also a problem; there is less of a sense of accomplishment when winning just dumps you back at the menu and you can play the circuits in any order, if you can manage to win at all that is. Randomly generating courses and playing them can be amusing, but still, I’d rather play any of the SNES Top Gear games; they are better all-around. I don’t have Gremlin’s last Genesis racer, a Genesis port of Top Gear 2, but as with these two games it apparently still has no way to play music and sound at once, and has graphics significantly downgraded from the SNES. Gremlin got their Genesis games running fast, but never could manage great Genesis graphics or audio mixing, unfortunately, and it holds their games on this platform back. I’d recommend the first Genesis Lotus game over this one. This game is an altered port of Lotus III for the Amiga. This game, though, is mostly for people who like hard games or the idea or RECS editing.