Approximate Release Date: April 16, 1992
Developer: Gremlin Interactive
No, Top Gear is not based on the British television show.
I suspect many readers will be disappointed by that fact. It’s a beloved TV show that has existed in multiple forms since the 1970s. Well, fans, you dodged a bullet because Top Gear isn’t a game you want associated with the show.
For me, the make-or-break part of any racing game is the sense of speed. If I’m going 140 miles per hour, it better feel like I’m going fast. Top Gear fails so bad at this it’s incredible. The car doesn’t seem like it is moving at all, as if it were on a giant treadmill-road. When I hit the nitro button the game says I’m going much faster but I just can’t tell. This is always a problem that exists in these Rad Racer-type racing games, but the better graphics here exacerbate the issue.
Top Gear follows RPM Racing‘s lead in annoying me by always having the game run in split screen. This was probably done because the game’s developers wanted multiplayer in the game and the easiest way to budget for that in terms of performance was to have the game run in split-screen mode all the time. I get it. It’s commendable that Gremlin Interactive was able to get it working. But having that second screen be a random car in the race is actively wasteful of half the screen. Put something interesting there so I don’t feel so claustrophobic.
Lastly, in the tour of things Top Gear does that drives me crazy, the music is terrible. It’s not quite The Chessmaster level of cacophony, but it’s close. I’m no expert in music, but each song has so many layers that compete with each other. The main menu music has tinkling in the background that distracts from whatever tune the developers were trying for. The song for the second track has at least three separate things going on at once at the same volume. It’s dreadful to sit through.
F-Zero showed how racing games could benefit from better technology. Top Gear is an antique, using NES-era game design when better alternatives exist. At the time, this was probably an okay but forgettable game. I have no idea why you’d want to play this game today.
Tomorrow: It seems fitting that the Super Nintendo’s first same-console sequel would be True Golf Classics: Pebble Beach Golf Links. That’s right, more golf!