Name: Top Gear Overdrive
Format: Nintendo 64
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Publisher: Kemco
Year: 1999

After the reasonable success of one of the first racers on the N64, Kemco decided to keep the Top Gear license going, and employed Snowblind Studios to come up with this.

This game was, at heart, an arcade racer. The cars you raced around the 5 courses could be upgraded with cash from each race, but only in the areas of acceleration, top speed and handling. Gran Turismo this ain't. However, as a purely arcade pedal to the metal game, it satisifies, although only for a while.

The game featured excellent graphics - some of the best realistic car models on the system in my opinion. At the time, they were enough to compete with most of what the arcades were offering, and to come out not looking too shabby. The music is another good point - the real life band Grindstone provide the music, with 6 full length tracks appearing. The band are a mediumly heavy rock band, but that's all I know about them. I've never heard of them outside the game, but I'm sure someone out there has. Anyway, they provide a reasonably adrenaline pumping soundtrack to the game, but it can get a bit grating, hearing the same songs over and over.

The game gives you cash for every race you win (only if you come in something like the top 3 places) which can be used to buy single use Nitro boosters, upgrade the car in the three areas mentioned above (with each successive upgrade in an area costing more than the last) or, if you have enough cash, trade your model in for a newer car. You can only have one at once, so the amount you can spend is defined as the value of your current car, plus any spare cash. Unfortunately, spendig $250 on an upgrade for the car does not increase the value of the car by $250, so if you want to get new cars quicker, you can forgo upgrades to build up more cash.

There is a selection of cars to choose from, but only 2 can be bought at the start. You have to build up cash in the Championship mode (which can accomodate up to 4 players) to be able to race the cars any time in the Versus mode (also for up to 4 players). The cars are not officially licensed from any real world manufacturers, but some of them look uncannily similar to some real cars. There are almost exact clones of the Volkswagen New Beetle, a Humvee, a Dodge Viper and more that I cannot recognise (but look familiar).

The tracks deserve a decent mention - while the basic course is usually quite a wide road all the way round, there are huge numbers of shortcuts you can take, which can cut out extensive loops of track. These usually involve knowing exactly when to steer off the road. These can be learned, however, over time (and with the amount of times you race the same course in the championship mode you have ample practice). The shortcuts eventually become necessary, as after a while, the game is made more difficult by having the car in Pole Position start half a lap ahead of you. Without shortcuts, catching them up to take the flag is very difficult - but you need to do so to amass a decent amount of cash.

There are only five courses, but each has a number of different routes and shortcuts to learn, and in the course of going through all 6 seasons in Championship mode (you'll want to do this to unlock the best car) you will play each track in a number of suitably beautiful weather conditions, and mirrored versions of all of them.

As well as shortcuts, the tracks are adorned with a few other elements - jumps, breakable barriers (which don't seem to slow you down at all, so may be a little pointless, except when they block the path to a shortcut) and panels on the road with either a Nitro or a dollar symbol. These panels, when driven over, give either a single use nitro burst (which makes a load of flashy fire come out the back of the car) or an amount of cash - the amount multiplies every round, so if a particular spot gives $50 on lap 1, by lap 2 it will give $100 and lap 3 $150. However, for both the panels, there is a short "recharge" time between when one car drives over (and gets the bonus) until the time when another car can get a bonus. Whether a panel is "active" is indicated by a traffic light in front of it.


Not exactly a haven of non-stereotypical ideas, but there you go.

The handling of cars while racing, and gameplay generally, is definitely geared towards "fun" rather than "realism" mode. Whether this is that bad is debatable, but be prepared to experience, instead of realistic body deformation when you crash, a huge fireball which engulfs the car, before another car is deposited on the track for you to continue racing. You don't even need to pay for the write off you just made. And the unrealism continues - it is quite possible to take an upgraded car for a spin on a course and hit a jump so fast that you disappear off the track, and sometimes off a cliff. Naturally, apart from a slight delay as you are placed back on the course, there are no ill effects.

Overall, the game is reasonably good fun for a while, and the excellent graphics will please. However, after you finish the main game, you may find that you can't be bothered to go back to it. In addition, the game never really lives up to the "kerrazy fun" style blurb on the back, which advertises being able to force your friend's cars into trackside obstacles. This may be possible, and may be a load of KERRAZY FUN, but to be honest, I usually concentrate on not loosing the race.

Anyway, the game is fun at least for a while, and so if you see it lying around in a bargain bin (highly likely in my opinion) I would recommend picking it up. The 4 player mode is at least a reasonable laugh.


Owning the game.
Back of box + manual

This node posted while drunk, but not written while drunk. That would just be silly.

That is all.

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