Genre: Racing
Year: 1993
Developed by: Gremlin Interactive
Published by: Vic Tokai
Platforms: SNES, Sega Genesis
Feeling Like: Shifting Gears

I’m playing Gears 5 with Eric at the moment. Like every other Gears game before it, the testosterone filled monster smashing is a delight, complete with waist high walls, impossibly fun firepower and biceps the size of linebackers, even on the scientists. This is a world where everybody eats their meat and veggies. And creatine smoothies.

I was trying to recall how many times we’d played a game together cooperatively, through a campaign or story. There were very few instances, despite our gaming friendship of almost 25 years. Most of our forays were via competitive multiplayer, either against each other or online. It’s a refreshing change of pace to have my greatest Smash rival by my side, for once.

Until I’d reached number 341 on the 500, I’d forgotten there was another instance of us working together. A long time ago, in Eric’s room on Clarke Road, we combed through Top Gear 2’s entire circuit in 2 player mode. And, despite having no interest in sports cars, I absolutely loved it.

Sports cars are red, sports cars are blue, I can’t think of a good caption, can you?

It helped that the controls were perfect, even on the button-limited Genesis. The tracks were varied enough to ensure a fair level of challenge and whisked us away to famous locations around the world. Nabbing money icons strewn upon on the track, and doing well in the race, will get you cash that you can then spend to get the ever desired upgrades. Each race truly felt like Eric and I were driving on the same team, as he’d be kind enough for me to pass him so I could get 1st place and upgrade my engines, tires and nitro with the prize money.

It’s a terrific gameplay loop, heightened by an extremely good soundtrack. The melodies flat out rock, and I can’t help but listen to bLiNd’s remix “Dance Nation” and Sir_NutS’ remix “Velocity Shift” as often as I can. They enhance what are already two great tracks, designed to get you hyped up before a race even starts and keep your heart racing until the checkered flag. 

Hard to tell if this photo is bad quality, or that’s just how CRT’s looked in the early 90s.

Top Gear 2 nails the ease and fluidity of an Arcade racer, but still has some remnants of realism. You can’t just book it around corners without slowing your roll and braking appropriately. Nitro boosts can be powerful, but only on long stretches. It’s difficult to come back from an early deficit; no crazy rubber banding like in the Mario Karts.

The anticipation of securing the fastest car always meant for a white knuckled finish. The Grand Prix mode is a lengthy one, and will certainly give you ample practice to refine your touches around opponents and improve your chances of surviving harsh weather conditions.

The 3D effect is effective

Once we got every upgrade we wanted, races were a joke…at least on the difficulty we were playing. I’m pretty sure we only ran through the game once, but it’s hardly a short affair. It left a lasting impression on me, to the point where I began actively seeking other car racing games that didn’t include red shells or banana peels.

Looking back on it, Top Gear 2 was the total package for a racing game in the early 90s. The visuals and animation have held up remarkably well, despite their rudimentary nature. It’s clear they’re not going for authenticity, but rather focusing on speed. Thanks to the track looking truly 3-dimensional, complete with hills, twists and turns, it achieves that goal. The upgrades mean that you really feel a progression through the Grand Prix, and the multiple difficulties mean you won’t be short a true challenge.

And that soundtrack has aged beautifully. What better way to spend a rainy day with a buddy? Aside from hunting locusts and hiding behind waist-high walls, naturally.

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