Wacky, fun, and various other adjectives. - Review By Mad Carl
All of the glorious visuals and excellent design would be hampered if there weren't some great audio to go with it. Fortunately, Wacky Races has great audio to spare. The sound effects are dead on. From the crashing of cymbals to the rapid fire wooden mallet that is cartoon-speak for running fast, this game has the sound effects of a cartoon down pat. The music is great and tends to get stuck in your head for awhile after playing. I actually had to turn it off the other night because my wife was complaining that she couldn't stop humming the tunes. These aren't exactly Top 40 hits we're talking about, so having the songs stuck in your head isn't always a good thing. However, compared to some of the tonally challenged crap that passes as video game music these days, I consider it to be a compliment.
Power ups let your vehicle shoot, bomb, fly, and do a bunch of other cool things.
There is also some great voice acting from some top Hollywood talent. Billy West of Ren & Stimpy and Futurama fame shares billing with Jim Cummings, the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Greg Burson a.k.a. Mr. DNA in Jurassic Park and Boss Nass in Episode I. Also included are Janet Waldo as Penelope Pitstop and John Stephenson as Luke, who are the same actors that provided the voices of the characters in the original cartoon. Perhaps the only soft spot in the voice acting in the announcer. While his vocal abilities are top notch, some sloppy programming sometimes has him commenting on things of no importance, or things that aren't really happening at all (he's an irritant in Time Trials where he seems convinced that you are constantly losing).
The biggest complaint I have about Wacky Races is that it is incredibly derivative. To a certain extent this is unavoidable. If your job is to create a mascot-based racing game, you'd best follow in the footsteps of the masters. This means Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing are going to be studied and emulated. But sometimes I found myself wondering if certain choices were made simply because "that's how Nintendo did it". Case in point: Snow Level, Desert Level, Forest Level, etc. The music in the snow level is even stylistically close to the snow level music in Diddy Kong. Heck, the font for the game is only a few kernings short of Diddy Kong's. Likewise the level goals of collecting stars seems odd. Why not gas cans or wheels or car keys or anything that seems even remotely related to the Wacky Races?
Even though I was gushing above, there is a dark underbelly to the control scheme. When you first start the game, you are offered the choice between "advanced" or "kart" controls. The only difference between the two seems to be that the "advanced" scheme is a bit too responsive while the "kart" scheme is just right. This extra responsiveness is, in fact, what I imagine a different kart game might feel like if the programmers weren't good with their Dreamcast analog stick code. In the end, the only reward for going "advanced" is no reward at all. The instruction manual claims you'll feel good about yourself. I just wondered why I was making things hard on myself.
Unfortunately, the framerate gets majorly bogged down when the other racers are on the screen.
In the game design department, there is an odd life limit imposed upon the Wacky Cup race circuits. Once you've completed all the courses in a particular circuit, a Mario Kart style ladder match is unlocked. The top four places of each race are awarded points for finishing and the rest of the pack gets to feel good about finishing. Well, actually, the rest of the pack gets to try again and lose a life in the process. I don't get this. If I don't get points in the race, then my overall effectiveness in the cup challenge has been affected. That seems punishment enough. But most importantly, it allows the game to keep moving forward. This life penalty can result in a player who would otherwise win in overall points to take a dive and lose entirely because they ran out of lives trying to finish in the top four in the final course of a cup challenge. This is just unfair.
And speaking of unfair, let's discuss the Muttley Cup Challenge. You not only have to collect the ten hidden "Golden Muttleys" in a course, you must also finish in first place. This isn't fun. This is aggravating... aggravating to the point that it made me want to stop playing the game. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I was sure that Dick Dastardly himself created this particular challenge.
My last complaint is a slight one at best. It's this whole "unlocking" thing that's so trendy in games nowadays. You see, I want to play Dick Dastardly. The second I popped the disc into my Dreamcast I wanted to take control of car 00, the Mean Machine itself and use its big sharp dorsal fin to open up a can of whoop ass on the goody goody Peter Perfect. It's on the artwork in the jewel case -- Dastardly versus Perfect. Good vs. Evil. The eternal struggle and all that jazz. But I couldn't take Dastardly. I couldn't be evil. I hadn't unlocked the car yet. I still haven't unlocked the car. I've tried lots of things, but to no avail. Unlocking is fine when it's a secondary character that isn't important to the game (like Akuma in the Street Fighter series or the rooster character in Diddy Kong). But when the character is mentioned in your feature list (in the middle, even -- not like it was something special), I want to be able to play them right out of the gate.
The Final Word
Wacky Races has proven to me that all licensed games are not forced by nature to be worse than their source material. In fact, it has proven that a game can go so far above and beyond its source material that the source becomes an embarrassment. If Hanna-Barbera had put half as much style and polish into the original Wacky Races cartoons as Infogrames put into this game, well, the world would be a better place.
Developer: Infogrames (Sheffield House)
Genre: Kart Racing
Highs: Great animation, controls and music, a truly unique look, lots to discover.
Lows: A couple strange design decisions, stuttering framerate, some weird AI moments.
Other: 1-4 Players, VMU compatible (3 blocks for scores, 4 for each save), Jump Pack Compatible.
Intro (MPEG) - The intro gives a quick... well, intro for all the characters. [Big (8.1M)] - [Med (4.4M)] - [Small (960K)]
Gameplay 1 (MPEG) - Racing through a snowy resort. [Big (13.8M)] - [Med (7.4M)] - [Small (1.6M)]
Gameplay 2 (MPEG) - Ah, a more temperate environment. [Big (14.8M)] - [Med (7.9M)] - [Small (1.7M)]
(out of a possible 10)
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