Rather than "capturing the speed, excitement and andrenalin-pumping danger of the world's greatest sports spectacle" as the box blurb would have you believe, Nigel Mansell's Grand Prix tries too hard to be authentic, and ends up being a bit pedestrian - more a case of "Nigel Mansell Drives Down to the Newagents for a Packet of Fags (on Sunday)".
Like many other racing simulations, your car appears centre screen and the track swerves left and right. The backgrounds of hills and clouds are fairly naff, but more annoying is the yellow-and-black striped sidestrip which is guaranteed to give you a headache as it flashes by. The graphic of the car itself though, is excellent, nicely detailed and smoothly animated.
Joystick or keyboard controls allow you to accelerate, brake, steer and change gear. In the centre of the instrument display is your rev counter, which tells you when to change gear. Ignore it, and you'll burn out your gearbox and spin off the track.
Before racing you have to complete a qualifying lap to determine your position on the grid. As you zoom along an empty track, slowing into the curves and accelerating out, your performance statistics appear in the display at the bottom of the screen. This shows your speed, lap time, average speed, best lap time, distance to finish, fuel consumption and so on; all factors you'll have to bear in mind in the real race.
The main instrument display shows your oil temperature, pressure and turbo temperature. The turbo-boost is a pressure pump which increases your revs and acceleration; the problem is that it also increases your fuel consumption. While all these instruments might sound deadly dull, the fact is that you have to pay just as much attention to them as you do to the track. If you overheat, or otherwise push your car too far, it will lead to failures which put you out of the race. The skill of the game, then, is in getting the best from your racer without bashing it to bits.
While the practice lap sections are pretty uninteresting, once you get going the excitement mounts. Swerving around curves, bouncing off other cars and keeping an eye on several instruments at once proves pretty challenging. If your performance deteriorates for mechanical reasons, you can pull into the pits, where an automatic sequence changes your tyres and oil, wipes your windshield and probably gives you a free tumbler with every six gallons.
To help you out, scrolling messages from the pits inform you of your position, and the driver of the next car in front of you. There are sixteen courses to complete, each detailed on the accompanying leaflet. On the 48K version, the courses are loaded separately, on the 128K, all at once. The 128K version also features nice engine-revving and collision sound effects which make it much more enjoyable.
There's nothing wildly original about Nigel Mansell's Grand Prix, except little touches like the wing mirrors giving you a view of the opposition sneaking up behind you. A five-lap race (you have options for five, ten, twenty or even sixty lap races, each of around a minute per lap) just about holds your attention, but I don't think I'd have the patience to play through all sixteen tracks. The trouble with the game is that it's pretty cool technically, but for me doesn't capture that elusive feel of power and excitement which really makes a racing game stand out from the pack. Not exactly "back to the pits", then, but no real reason to crack open the champagne.
Author: Looker Brothers
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Technically superb but not especially exciting racing simulation.