Turbo, Arcade

Sega‘s 1981 arcade racer, Turbo, was designed and programmed by Steve Hanawa and was manufactured in three formats: a standard, full-sized upright cabinet, a mini cabinet, and a deluxe, seated cockpit cabinet. All three versions had a steering wheel, a gear lever with high and low gears, and an accelerator pedal.

Turbo was an impressive arcade game at the time of its original release and it came out a year before Namco‘s Pole Position, making it a leader in the racing game field for a while. Pole Position changed all that in 1982, though. I remember playing Turbo in arcades back in the day, and being quite impressed by it. It was fairly ubiquitous in British video game arcades (and chip shops) in the early 1980s.

The aim of Turbo is to drive as fast as you can, and to pass as many opponent cars as possible, before the timer runs out. The bar at the top of the screen counts how many cars you’ve passed, and when you reach enough to pass the threshold you qualify for the next road – as long as you don’t crash.

Collisions with water puddles will make your car wobble uncontrollably for a split second, and you’ve of course got to avoid hitting other vehicles, or the side of the road (because this will either cause you to slow down, losing valuable time, or even make you explode in a cloud of smoke). There’s also an ambulance that occasionally drives up the middle of the road, past you, which you’ve got to avoid and allow through. If you manage to reach the first checkpoint (shown by a waving flag at the top of the screen), and have passed enough cars, the game will award you with extended play, and you’ve then got to try to keep it going for as long as you can without crashing.

The roadside graphics change as you drive along, but there are no real track undulations – hills are shown as primitive splits in the track that hide cars coming over the brow. There are corners, tunnels, bridges, and chicanes, though, although these too are relatively primitive in how they’re depicted. There’s also a jarring transition when corners change, which can make you crash into other cars if you’re not careful.

Turbo is still reasonable fun to play now. You might need to look around to find a version that works properly with analogue controls, or at least find an emulator that can replace them with digital controls, but it’s a game worth booting up now – especially if you’re interested in the history of driving games.

Turbo was also released for home consoles, including for the ColecoVision and Mattel Intellivision.

More: Turbo on Wikipedia
More: Turbo on YouTube

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