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Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Climax Group
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Racing/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

When Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded came in, our Editor-N-Chief (Psibabe) felt that my love of Herbie and the fact that I drive a classic Beetle made me the best reviewer for this job. Well, I'm glad she did, because even though it has a few rough spots, pretty much everything this GameBoy Advance game has to offer makes it a fun, portable racing game.

The graphics are about what you would expect to find on a GBA. The terrain and tracks are a bit pixelated, but considering the technology, it fares pretty well. What shines in the graphics, though, is the level of detail that they put into your car (Herbie). Racing bug number 53 looks smooth and clean as you swerve and weave your way around the track. The other cars, on the other hand, tend to come off blocky and lacking in details (even when you are on their bumper or right next to them). In the upper-right corner, there is even an image of the Love Bug that will jump about and react whenever you perform one of his special moves.

This picture is also supposed to show Herbie's mood. If you pay attention, he will look happier the further ahead in the race he is, but if you aren't doing so hot, then he will get sad and his performance will actually suffer. This tends to throw a bit of a gameplay issue into things, but I'll talk about that in the next section.

The music of Herbie: Fully Loaded is fun and upbeat, while the sound effects of the squealing tires and racing engines come off pretty nicely as well. Unfortunately, we don't get treated to any voice acting, but the scenes between races in the Story Mode are of stills from the movie (typically of Lindsay Lohan in the immortal Volkswagen). This isn't the best, but seems to be what Disney Interactive likes to do in their more recent GBA games (Disney's That's So Raven).


Gameplay:

Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded puts you in the driver seat of one of the most famous racing vehicles to grace the silver screen. Herbie has been entertaining movie-goers since the 60's with his come-from-behind victories and personality. Yet after all that time -- not a single game... but all that's changed with the release of the latest Love Bug flick.

In Fully Loaded, you get to race on tracks in the desert, in cities, at raceways and much more as you prove that this little Beetle has got what it takes to be a champion. Since Herbie is known for his tricks, the developers have done a fair job in putting that aspect of the character in the game. As you race around, you will be able to pick up four different colored stars (red, green, blue and yellow). Each one has a different effect that can help Number 53 come out ahead ... well, if used right that is.

The blue stars acts as a boost that has you moving so fast, Herbie does a wheelie. Red stars launch a tire from under the hood ... err trunk... bonnet... front part of the car. Green stars let the Bug hop (though I never really found a good time to use this), while the yellow ones causes the Bug to turn around and speed off in reverse making him go a bit faster than the blue stars. The yellow star is the only one that gets acted on immediately. The green, red and blue ones appear at the top of the screen and can be used at will with the shoulder buttons. But wait, that's three stars and two buttons?! If you pick up a blue star and already have a green one, the old star goes away and vice versa, so even though there are four stars -- you can only hold two at a time.

Herbie: Fully Loaded has three modes: Story Mode, Free Race Mode and Championship Mode. Story Mode is where you unlock new tracks. In order to advance to the next track, you need to come in first; anything less and it's game over. Each track that you unlock is another one that you can race on in Free Race Mode or another one that you have to beat in Championship Mode.

Free Race is just what it sounds like -- that's where you go when you want to just practice on a track or race without needing to come in first. Championship Mode takes you through each track you've unlocked, earning points based on how you placed. That doesn't mean you are guaranteed to always advance to the next track though. If you do too poorly -- you're out altogether.

So in order to unlock new tracks, you have to come in first in Story Mode... but I also mentioned above that you have to keep Herbie happy. Because of this, there are times when you just know that you can't win the race and get the next track. Unless you pull ahead early, Herbie's performance drops because his mood sours. When his performance goes down, so does your rank -- so his mood gets worse. I found that unless I was in the top three before I finished the first lap, the race was pretty much over. This is a bit sad considering that in his movies, Herbie has a habit of coming from behind. Thankfully, with enough practice, you can eventually start nabbing many of the star power-ups and pull ahead; you just have to get a feel for the track first.


Difficulty:

Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded is pretty fair. The problem (like I mentioned above) really comes in with the fact that the further back you are, the worse Herbie feels, and thus the worse you do. If you don't get ahead early, you aren't likely to finish in the requisite first place. There were very few occasions where I was able to pull ahead from behind (which is what Herbie is known for, mind you) and actually place high enough to advance.

Story Mode doesn't have any difficulty settings, but Free Race and Championship let you set the AI's mode to Easy, Medium or Hard. Each mode makes the drivers a bit faster and makes you feel like they don't slow down quite as much when you fall too far behind. All in all, each setting was pretty dead on. I found I could place first pretty much every time on the Easy setting, I had to work some on the Medium level and the game became a bit of a challenge when I tried out Hard.


Game Mechanics:

Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded's control scheme is pretty simple. You steer the Love Bug with the D-Pad, use the blue or green stars with the L-Button, and the red star with the R-Button. You use the A-button to accelerate and the B-button is used for brakes (wait there are brakes? I never even tried those?!?).

Put simply, Herbie is a fun racer that is perfect for the portable market. When you want to play, just pick it up and plow through a couple of races. If you're in it for a while, select Champion Mode and go through all of your unlocked tracks. It's got a few problems, but all-in-all, Herbie: Fully Loaded is a fun racer for the GBA.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Microsoft Xbox Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Sony PlayStation 2 Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball

 
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