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Wacky Races

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Infogrames
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing (Kart)

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Wacky Races are absolutely stunning. From the get go, you feel like youíre watching a cartoon, and that feeling never really fades. None of the boxy clunkiness youíre used to from racers -- Wacky Races looks and feels like a Saturday morning marathon.

That is, until the frame-rate drops. Whenever thereís a lot of action on the screen, the game gets jerky. It never gets to the point of unplayability, but it sure is annoying at times.

The racers themselves look authentic, and theyíre all animated quite nicely. There are plenty of vehicles out there to race, quite a few not appearing until you unlock them, and they all have their own visual bent. The way ĎPeter Perfectís Turbo Terrificí actually bends when itís turning has to be seen to be believed.

The voice-acting in this game is quite good. Every racer has a few quips that they spout, and youíll hear them a lot. My personal favorite is the Creepy Coupeís exceedingly droll ĎI canít remember when I had so much fun,í but each one has its own little humorous appeal. The announcer, on the other hand, is up there with the Pokťmon Stadium guy... ĎSomeone was just passed!í Wow. Thatís terribly deep, thanks. Youíll learn to tune him out soon after booting the game up, though, so thatís not much of a problem. The sound effects in the game are appropriately, er, wacky. Nothing all that special, but it certainly fits the game.


Gameplay:

And that pretty much sums up the gameplay of Wacky Races as well. Nothing all that special, but certainly fitting, and quite entertaining. Wacky Races certainly isnít a revolution in the racer genre -- itís basically a repackaged Crash Team Racing with a different way of doing weapons and much better graphics -- but it never fails to entertain.

You start the game by picking a racer out of the starting lineup and picking a handling style. Picking ĎKartí will bring you maximum enjoyment -- in Wacky Races, ĎAdvancedí means ĎRacing engine we programmed, didnít like, but felt we spent enough time getting to where it was that we couldnít just throw it away.í Avoid.

Youíll then be thrown into a miniature world, a la CTR (although nowhere near as complex), where you zoom around finding signposts that you can bump into. Each signpost (at least, at the beginning of the game) hosts five tracks, of which you can probably only race on one or two. Getting first place on a track nets you a star; collect enough stars and you open up new tracks and eventually new areas to race in. Beat all the tracks at a post and you can race a Challenge, where you must win enough points F-Zero X-style to come in first. Succeed, and you get even more neat track options.

The actual racing is simple and effective. You pick which weapons you want to assign to X, Y, and B, and since you only start off with three weapons (you can win more later), youíll probably want to pick certain Ďtypesí of power-ups to go on certain buttons. Once you do this, the race starts after a countdown, and youíll find yourself pressing the trigger button to zoom along.

Hereís where the gameís few problems become apparent. The A.I. clumps the racers heavily -- which is cool, as packs are something that is rarely done well in racing games. But the game, as stated previously, tends to slow down whenever thereís a lot of action on the screen, and since youíll be firing weapons and everything into the pack, youíll oftentimes be better off closing your eyes, waiting for the mayhem to end, and seeing where you end up. It gets that confusing, unfortunately.

The other racers also seem to always be one step ahead of you, in terms of speed and control. Youíll find yourself fighting for first place constantly, and once you get it, victory is in no way assured. This is nice, as it keeps the game interesting, but it doesnít work the other way around -- last place to first place finishes are few and far between. And where does the game always start you off? Thatís right, in the back. Youíll find yourself replaying races over and over to shave that extra second off.

Despite all this, I found the game very entertaining. Thereís something about the style, both graphically and gameplay-wise, that draws me to the title, and I wasted many, many hours opening tracks and completing Muttley Challenges.


Difficulty:

Youíre going to have problems coming in first until you find a few strategic shortcuts on tracks or learn to use your power-ups effectively. Flying over large bodies of water is always a good way to do it, or, if youíre going fast enough, just skipping over the water. Some of the tracks are hellishly difficult despite this, however, and I must have done the Convert-A-Car challenge with the Buzzwagon 50 times before I just gave it up. Argh. The drive to open new tracks and get new weapons is a strong one, though, and itíll make you persevere.

Game Mechanics:

The controls are a little soupy at times, more so than your typical kart racer, but youíll soon learn to overcome that. My finger started hurting like crazy after playing this for many hours straight from holding the trigger button down, but thatís a minor irritation. The menus are clear and understandable, and the one time the announcerís not annoying is when heís explaining the various game modes to you, which is a nice touch.

Wacky Races, while gorgeous, is flawed. Itís not innovative, but itís not as adrenaline-pumping as Speed Punks and Crash Team Racing. Despite that, itís still a damned fun play, and any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to at least try the game out and see how they like it. Chances are they wonít be disappointed.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Sega Dreamcast Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour Sony PlayStation 2 Bad Boys: Miami Takedown

 
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