I've always contended that scooters were built as more compact wheelchairs for the world's heavier children, or at least I held that belief until a year or so ago when scooters became the new "in" thing and children everywhere were snapping them up or begging their parents for some snapping money. Sure enough, there's no fat kids to be found in Razor Freestyle Scooter, what is the last Dreamcast game from third-party Crave Entertainment. The build at E3 was extremely easy to get into and fun to play, so I was really hoping that Crave would see it through despite the Dreamcast market being what it is today.
Thankfully, Crave has released the game, and I'm a happy house dweller. As pleased as I am by this prospect -- Razor Freestyle Scooter is a fun game and a great addition to the Dreamcast library -- there are a few things which annoy me, most of which I think can be traced to the difficulty in allocating funds to a product when it is almost guaranteed to take a loss. Still, what's here is quite nice, and it's only upon seeing how excellent the title is that you begin to become annoyed or angered by what could have been or should have been.
Kids grinding pipes on their scooters. What the?!
Razor Freestyle Scooter really is a great game that's sure to fly under the radar of most Sega fans just waiting with bated hope, ticking down the days till the first-party games are finished and pushed out the door. Let's face it: No Sega gamer is going to keep watch for what appears to be a children's scooter game when stuff like Alien Front Online and Bomberman available or coming soon. That'd be unfortunate, though, because while Razor is certainly targeted toward a younger crowd, it's just as engrossing for adults as it is for those who still have to get their condoms in school. It's quite fun and has an interesting score system (mostly cloned from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and copycats) to make it exciting to play and replay.
You begin by selecting one of two fictional kids -- Chad or Ami -- and outfitting your Razor scooter with one of five colored wheels. (I know colored wheels are a big thing with scooter users, but, sheesh, they're just wheels -- you can hardly note the difference in the game.) The character and wheel select screens roll by very fast and the game loads almost instantly. You begin on the very promising Scooter Park level, a solid and fairly large stage loaded with oodles of halfpipes, ramps, and other objects to grind for points. There is a list of six challenges: two score totals, a high point combo, a long grind, earn 100 second bonus, and collect all the wheels in the level. As you clear these challenges you'll unlock the other stages which require the same feats with the bar raised just a bit.
With each completed challenge you'll also unlock one of the bonus stages. Here you must rescue one of the Razor crew that has been captured by a "crazed robot" by completing his challenges so that he or she will breathe "once more the sweet air of freedom." Here you must grab all of the wheels along a difficult sky fortress within one minute as opposed to the three minutes you have during the main stages. There's a total of six bonus challenges, and you should be able to infer that this means you'll find six bonus characters to unlock as well. Each character has his or her own stable of tricks though the vast majority of them are shared. As in Tony Hawk, you can link tricks together for more points, and point values decrease steadily for overused tricks to encourage you to keep pulling out new stuff. Razor is unique in that if you do enough trick combos over time you can fill up a meter and be rewarded with a ten second bonus... provided you don't fall and reset the meter.
I really like scooters being used in a trick game such as this. The scooters allow some skateboard style tricks (varials, manuals, hand plants, etc.) along with some bike oriented stunts (barhop, superman, and so on). It's a great mix of tricks and styles, and they're all animated extremely well -- easily some of if not the best trick animation I've seen in such a game. It's all so fluid and life-like, and the variety does well to prevent a lot of the trick sameness that can be found in a skateboarding or bike game. I've honestly not seen a scooter trick competition nor believe that the kids in the game would be able to do this stuff in real-life at their age, but what Razor Freestyle Scooter lacks in realism it makes up for in fun.
More kids grinding with their scooters. What's going on here?!
The control is well done, and anyone who has experience playing any Tony Hawk games will be right at home with the controls. There is a button for grab tricks (which can be held longer to rack up points), one for spin tricks, and a grind/manual button. You use the A button to both jump and accelerate (the B button brakes when the scooter is on the ground) and turn in the air by pressing left or right on the D-pad or analog stick. Pressing both the L and R triggers will activate a "free look" mode -- the clock stops and you can move the camera around to get a better view of the environment.
The levels themselves are really well designed and look great. The first technical aspect that grabs my attention is the terrific anti-aliasing all throughout, particularly on the chainlinked fences and poles which lack any kind of shimmering no matter how far they scale in from. Everything's so smooth flowing and clean with really sharp, beautiful textures. While things might look a bit too sterile at times -- bricks are bright red, outside floors look brand new, etc. -- the detail and clarity on the textures still make everything look exceptional. The levels are a decent size yet lack any noticeable pop-up, no doubt helped by the often enclosed or walled-in areas that form each stage.
The character models are also exceptional and a good bit improved from E3's N64 looking cast. I also like how accessories such as backpacks and shirts seem to actually dress the character instead of being melted on a plastic doll. Sure, they still have a cartoony look about them, but the animation and detail is so smooth and fantastic that it's difficult to not be impressed even if these aren't real characters. It's easily the best looking stunt based game available on Dreamcast, and it could have killed the competition if it shipped at 60 FPS. Still, as impressive as everything is in Razor Freestyle Scooter, it still comes off as a bit of a letdown.