Sunday, February 21, 2021

Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge

Looks like 2021 might not suck after all?

Today is a great day because I've just been given the honour of playtesting a preview of Jonathon Thomas' enhanced Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge for the Atari STe. He's been working on this project for a while, on and off, to improve the original racer in a number of different ways using the often idle enhancements of the Atari STe.

After "mulling it over", he's returned to this project with fresh ideas and assistance from our (fantastic) community over on Atari-Forum. In fact, he came back stronger and managed to develop a playable release after only a few weeks!! Oh, and for those wondering yes, he is the same racing fella behind Pole Position.

The practice track. I need this more than you realise...
We begin in Italy and Mmm look at that sky!

In fact, Italy is looking a little better these days all thanks to the Atari STe palette.

Put the pedal to the metal!

Yes, everyone loved and still loves Lotus Esprit because it's a frantic racer with fast graphics, cool music, great driving mechanics, and even allowed for another player to join in. Okay, those collisions lose too much precious speed and I hate the person who decided to leave dangerous rocks on the road but, this is a thrilling racer alright. Who doesn't enjoy zooming passed cars or sliding around each of the curvy and hilly corners?

However, there are a few limitations in the ST game that aren't immediately obvious during the frantic racing. Well, these have obviously bugged Jonathan enough for him to take on the challenge to fix them...

"It wasn't until recently that I realised how much of a massive difference there is between the Amiga and ST versions - the magazines of the time didn't seem to make much (if anything) of this difference in their reviews of the time. I've been meaning to take a closer look at the Lotus code on the ST for a number of years now, but it was upon realising the degree of difference between the two versions (along with a relatively quiet period at work) that I decided something needed to be done!"

Mexico now has a skyline quite apt to the feel of this country.
Okay, let's try and not crash into any objects when trying to grab a screenshot!
Oh, bummer!! Playing and capturing screenshots is a tough job.

Judder be gone!

It's funny, but I hadn't really paid much attention to these issues myself and it wasn't until I went back to the original that I could tell what was going through his mind. For me, the nicest improvements are to the sky and how the cars move across the track. However, the game feels fresh and is far better than I ever imagined...

1) The tracks are quite barren and devoid of much detail so the Blitter will now render the road and pit lanes with extra details to lane markings and widened rumble strips.

2) The sky was one solid colour which was okay but that has now been replaced by a 16-step gradient that makes full use of the enhanced STE palette.

3) Cars and scenery move smoothly without the old judder of side to side in 16-pixel blocks.

4) The already zippy framerate has been improved with more tweaks on the way!

5) Thankfully, the Ben Daglish chiptunes are staying but the effects are going to be replaced with samples pumped through the DMA hardware. (with a possibility of DMA sounds and YM music together!)

Also, minor improvements are being considered to the rev counter, fuel indicator and player two will soon have the new sky gradient. There is also the possibility of new and extra trackside scenery being added. Heck, he's even mentioned that there might be a few new tracks on the way too - oh yes!!

Iceland and everything looks rather chilly.

Ahem, there was ice on the road. Honest.

Check out those widened rumble strips!

The CryptO'pinion?

Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge was originally programmed by Shaun Southern and Andrew Morris and is an excellent racer. However, Jon has improved it to the level Lotus should have been all along for the Atari STe and I cannot express just how exciting it's been to see this project develop, especially over recent weeks.

The new colours, speed and smoothness all help give this racer a new coat of paint so bring on the extra framerate and sampled DMA sound effects! Yes, it's shocking just how fresh it feels running on the Atari STe so I'm really looking forward to what comes next. My greetings to Jon. Watch this space for the next release...

For more information check out Jon's YouTube channel and his thread over on Atari-Forum.

Vroooooom!! Let's head off into that Spanish sunset...

Wow, look at that lovely sky. And those dodgy billboards.

Tap the breaks, hit the accelerate and corner like you're a Ridge Racer!


  1. How great it is to see a retrofit of this excellent game on which plenty of players spent time. Let's see now the improvements brought by this version. Let's hope that more games will follow this path!

    1. It's hard to believe the commitment that people like Jonathan and Jamie have. It must take so much time and effort to upgrade these games, in their spare time too! So much respect to both and other similar ST/e developers.

  2. GOOD WORK !!!
    There is still missing games for the STe. There was Wings of Death - but there was 10x more silimar games on the Amiga. I remember game for STe developer but Atari like title +/- White Water Madness. Good GFX, but to late and low playability.

    1. Thanks! Sadly, Whitewater Madness wasn't ever released, even though it was finished. Don't knock it, it's an incredible game