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As a child growing up in the 80s, I was fascinated by all the modern-day technology. One of the electronic games that I was ecstatic to receive was a Tomy Turnin’ Turbo Dashboard Driving Racing Game. Those of you who had one of these will know exactly what I’m talking about, but if you have no clue, then let me explain. This little red car allowed you to race along a never-ending virtual road. You controlled the car using the steering wheel and controlled the pace of the car using a lever. It was absolutely enthralling, and the closest thing I came to a real car when I was a child. Now you may think, “Why on earth are you reminiscing about 80s toys, talk about the game already!” There is a very good reason for my trip down memory lane, and that is that Street Racer Underground plays out exactly like my Tomy from my childhood.

Developed by Inlogic Games and published by JanduSoft this nod to the addictive much wanted 80s driving toy tugged on my heartstrings, but may not sit so well with gamers from a different generation. The game premise is as basic as they come, buy your car, pimp it out, upgrade it, and then race in one of 2 modes. This is it, no complex back story, no love interest, and no Fast and Furious revenge plot to get your teeth into.

You are probably already turning your nose up at the idea of this game. You’ll be thinking that sounds terrible, even though the price point is low. Well, let me be honest, when I first switched it on, my first thoughts were “*sigh*, What have I let myself in for now!” But as I relaxed, and allowed myself to try this out, even if it was just for an hour, I got more, and more addicted to its basic gaming concept, that one hour turned into two, then three, and now I’ve played it for 5 days in a row, oh the shame of it all. It was like I was back in my living room as a child sat in front of my Tomy driving toy, always wanting one more go, to see if I could get the highest score.

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The two modes that you will face are; Endless and Race. The Endless mode is self-explanatory. Choose your car, and race away. You have different checkpoints that you must pass through, and a limited time scale in which to make the distance. The further you go, the more money you make. So, how do you go further? Narrowly missing the randomly appearing cars will earn you a small amount of Nitro boost. If you tie together near misses, then you will earn a multiplier, and you will boost quicker. Once you initiate that burst of speed, it can be topped up if you repeat the process. This will make you fly along the stage, just as long as you don’t crash. The race mode is essentially the same thing, but without the checkpoints, and 4 opponents to compete against. You must pay the entrance fee, and placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd will win you a cash prize. If you are victorious, you will unlock the next stage, where 4 challenging levels await you.

You start the game with a vehicle that is essentially like my family vehicle (a shed on wheels), this will be sufficient to earn you cash, but don’t rely on it too much though, because when it’s upgraded it won’t compete at any level, so don’t waste your time. What are these upgrades I mention? You can spend your hard-earned cash on 3 categories; speed, handling and Nitro. Each car has a set amount that you can improve, and unsurprisingly the more expensive the vehicle, the better it is. You have around 10 to buy, ranging from a few thousand pounds, to over one hundred thousand pounds. Once you have purchased your dream ride, upgraded it to its maximum capabilities, then what? It’s time to pimp it out. A selection of paints, rims, window tints and more are available to make your hideous square box car look slightly less ghastly. The custom options don’t add a lot to the game, but they give you a sense of personality and style to this racing title.

The world in which the action takes place is rather bland to look at. A hue of Midnight blue makes up the road and dominates most of what you see. Your rectangular car sits at the bottom of the screen, as the world rolls towards you from top to bottom. Cars will randomly appear at the top, where they will stay running in the same path as a general rule. You whip past each vehicle, and if you have timed it right a small Nitro bottle sign will flash, and you will see the gauge in the right-hand corner fill with a blue glow. The speedo is shown in the same location, but doesn’t add a lot to the gameplay, as you have little control over acceleration, other than to miss everything in sight. The graphics on this are last gen, or possible mobile quality. They are well designed for the level at which they work, but they won’t wow anyone. Though it doesn’t look pretty, it runs smoothly, and in a game where near misses are a must, this is an essential element that the developers fortunately got right.

Music is an area where personal tastes will dominate whether or not you think a game has done well. In Street Racer Underground I detested the music, the harsh tone, and fast beat felt like drills going off in my head. But, the style of music works very well with this genre. The high tempo sets the tone, and its aggressive nature inspires you to take risks. Luckily, there is an option to switch the music off, I did this, and was left with the shrill engine noise of faux car sounds. I’m not sure if I should have just put up with the ear-splitting music. Would it have been wrong of me to play this in silence? Absolutely, as much as I dislike the audio, without it the game is a soulless entity, and is particularly dull to experience.

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Most racing games are all about the finesse, getting the best of the braking curve, and accelerating through the gears correctly. Not this one, you have two buttons to worry about, steering with the left and right on the analogue stick, and the X button for Nitro boost. This is the level of difficulty that you will find in the control setup, and your success or failure is down to your reactions, and nothing more. I absolutely loved this simplicity, and this again reminded me of my Tomy toy. It was you, the steering wheel and a moving screen, and that’s all you have to concentrate on. It’s easy to understand, and infuriatingly difficult to master.

You may think, “This game is as basic as they come, how have you got days’ worth of fun out of it?” It’s a grind fest, and the only way to get to the end race is to just keep plodding away. Each mode is quick and can be over in a matter of minutes. You are inspired to try just one more, and that one more go, turns into multiple tries, and the hours melt away. The lack of challenge made me want to play, and the desire to have the best car, just to see if it was any different kept me racing. This alongside an achievement list that demands a 100% completion, and you too will get hooked on what is effectively an 80s electronic toy on your large modern-day TV.

Maybe I loved this game because of the nostalgic nature of it. Or maybe it’s just my personality wanting to complete it, no matter the quality of the title. I know that this will not strike a chord with all gamers, and some will think I’m mad for even considering it. But, I think the developers have created a good game with a basic concept. It’s rare to find something that you can switch on and lose hours to without even having to think about a thing, and that’s what this does. Its presentation of sound and visuals wouldn’t be out of place on a PS2, and its attempt at custom options is honestly laughable, but yet I still loved what they had done. Do I recommend this? Yes, I do. Don’t come into this expecting a Forza or Gran Turismo experience as you will be bitterly disappointed. Buy your car, do it up, and repeat the cycle, you must have the best to beat the best is this 80s inspired racing game.

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