Saturday, 18 July 2015

Checkered Flag (Atari Lynx review)

Developer: Atari Corporation
Publisher: Atari Corporation
Released: 1991

Checkered Flag was a pack-in game for the Lynx in Europe and Australia and a version was also released for the Atari Jaguar (1994).


The first thing you'll notice is how many options you have to tweak the gameplay as you can select things like your starting position, number of CPU cars, laps, and even driver gender. A massive 18 tracks are included and while some are simple in design (Woodland) others are a serious test with constant sharp turns (Mountain View). Each feels unique with interesting scenery and objects alongside the tracks including billboards for other Atari games. The modes on offer are Practice (no awards), Single Heat (winner takes all) and Tournament. The latter takes place across eight different courses and the winner is the driver with the most points at the end. At the start of each Tournament race there's some impressively clear audio where the announcer says: "Gentlemen, start your engines!" The scrolling isn't super smooth but the action is blisteringly fast and responsive. The course map displayed at the top of the screen is handy and the rear view mirrors are also a nice touch with good scaling effects. Your car always seems to be faster than the CPU opponents at top speed so even if you crash there's still time to catch up. It's a challenging game though and the later tracks require memorisation to succeed. Unfortunately you can't select which eight tracks make up the Tournament and instead the other ones are played in order once you've picked the opening course (i.e. pick course 5 and you'll play courses 5-12). The graphics are beautiful and I especially love the animation when your car spins-out as it rotates in full 360° motion. The intro music is really catchy but one criticism (and it's nit-picking) is that the SFX sound like they belong on the Atari 2600, especially the crashing effects.

Checkered Flag is one of the greatest handheld racing games of its time and it really shows off the power of the Atari Lynx. It has a perfect mix of arcade and simulation style gameplay and the sheer amount of options and tracks packed into this tiny cartridge is seriously impressive.



Random trivia: A version of Checkered Flag was supposed to be released on the Game Boy Advance around 2005 but unfortunately it was cancelled.

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