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Stunt Car Racer differentiates itself from other racing games by having races that take place on an elevated race track with nothing to prevent the player from accidentally driving of either side of the track. Most of the race tracks in the game gave large gaps in them to give more challenge to the races, often causing serious problems to the driver if he or she fails to clear them. If the player doesn't make it across these gaps or falls of the elevated race tracks, the player's vehicle is hoisted back onto the track by a nearby crane, costing valuable time to the player. There is a feature that allows you to go faster called Turbo, but can only be used in a limited amount of time in each race. Damage occurs to the player's car when the player lands too hard on the track. when the player accidentally drives off the track, crashes into a wall, hits an opponent's car or falls into one of the gaps in the track.
The amount of damage done to the car is indicated by a crack in the frame of the car at the top of the screen. When the circles and crack reach a certain point, the vehicle is completely destroyed and the player will instantly lose the race. A hard crash will make structural damage appear in the frame above the windshield. Holes will remain on the car for the rest of the season, and increase at a rate at which the crack in the frame advances.The single player portion of the game has a league table split into four divisions of three drivers each, making a total of twelve racers, including the human player. There are two tracks in each division, making a total of eight tracks in the game. Each division gets progressively harder as the game goes on.
On the Atari ST and Amiga versions of the game, the player can compete with another live player via connecting two of the same computers up with a null modem cable, each with their own TV or Monitor. The game had received many positive reviews when it was released. These reviews described the 3D tracks as resembling a kind of roller coaster, which was something new for players, and is ofter described as an especially fun racing game, with a special kind of track design.