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Hot Wheels: Beat That!

Score: 57%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Eutechnyx
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing (Arcade)

Graphics & Sound:

I think you would be hard-pressed to find a male in the United States who didn't own at least one Hot Wheels car while growing up. Few of us took the toy to its ultimate height, those great orange tracks, but everyone had at least one car that they raced across every floor, wall and table they could find. Hot Wheels: Beat That! is an attempt to recreate that feeling in a videogame without much success.

Beat That! isn't among the 360's shining visual achievements, but is isn't one of its worst either. The visuals do a respectable job at capturing the look of the cars and the tracks many created for them. Most of the cars come from later Hot Wheels models, which feature a much more creative design then the scale representations of real cars I remember collecting, but they are still instantly recognizable. Even smaller elements in the track design, such as the cleverly hidden advertisements, stand out and help to sell the game's feel and give it a nice charm.

Sound is... well, its sound. Music is repetitive and will quickly become an annoyance. What is cool, however, is the "clack" noise that cars make after sticking a jump or running into a wall. The odd thing about collisions is that running into other cars produces a sound that sounds more like real cars crashing, which takes some of the charm away from the experience.


As a racing game, Hot Wheels: Beat That! falls somewhere between "kart" and "arcade." This leads to some interesting gameplay moments, though few are actually good ones. A majority of these "interesting" moments are a result of some really neat "Hot Wheels" physics on a gameplay model that really doesn't handle them all that well.

Beat That! does have a few moments that should appeal to Hot Wheels fans. Besides the design of the cars, which are pure Hot Wheels, the track designs are creative and should bring back all sorts of childhood memories for anyone who ever tried to create the ultimate race course. The orange tracks and launchers appear and are joined by an array of off-beat track obstacles like books, skateboards and even hamster tubing. The downside is that the tracks don't support the car handling all that well; some turns will jump right on top of you while some ramps don't exactly line-up with the area you think you're heading towards. Although the courses are linear, it is actually possible to get turned around and lose your bearings, especially in the darker areas or when you attempt to search for hidden shortcuts.

As far as gameplay modes are concerned, Beat That! is fairly standard. You begin with a modest selection of cars that all handle about the same even though the stats say otherwise. In fact, I stuck with one car through majority of the game. After selecting a car, you race through several race types over a series of tracks. As you gain points on each, you'll unlock new event types and eventually a tournament that leads you towards another set of tracks.


Hot Wheels: Beat That! has a pretty steep learning curve, which is surprising for a game aimed at a younger market. Handling is perhaps the biggest obstacle, though the lack of good explanations is a close second.

Each race type gives you a set goal as well as optional side-goals. Winning is usually your main goal, though how you do it typically depends on the type. For example, in one race you simply have to destroy all of the cars in front of you before time expires, while in another you need to avoid being last in the running order. Of course, you probably won't figure this out until you've lost the race a few times since there is little (obvious and clear) explanation about what you have to do in each race. This also bleeds over into weapons usage. I went through a number of races before I realized that I could use weapons at any time and not just when my supercharger meter was filled.

Game Mechanics:

Not to beat a dead horse, but handling is by far the game's biggest issue. Just driving a car isn't too complicated, even if you've never played a racing game. However, the cars don't feel right.

For those who grew up never knowing the awesomeness that is a Hot Wheels car, they aren't the sturdiest of vehicles. They can stand up to horrific torture, but at the same time, they were just cheap plastic or metal bolted onto plastic wheels. Even if you took them on the aforementioned orange tracks that were designed for racing, they were so light and stiff that they would easily fly off the edges or stop moving. The same thing happens with the digital cars; one moment you are cruising along the track without any problems only to have the slightest nudge against another car or an obstacle knock your car off course. Worse, it is sometimes hard to recover from these instances, which is a pretty cheap way to lose a race.

While racing through each course, you can collect weapons to help you eliminate the competition. These range from missiles to parachutes that attach to the back of cars to slow them down. Though they look like they would add a fun element to gameplay, most are pretty useless. Take the smokescreen power-up, which seems to have little effect on opposing racers; it is almost like they can see right through it. Then there are missiles, which are handy if you can land a hit, but given the loose handling, this is pretty tough. Each weapon can also be supercharged by jumping, drifting and drafting while driving. Supercharged weapons are supposed to give you a major leg-up on the competition, though few seem worth the effort and are useless.

Hot Wheels: Beat That! has a lot of potential for being a fun game. The cars, courses and basic gameplay are enough to support a decent game - at least for younger players or those out for a little nostalgia. However, a few key design trade-offs aren't made, resulting in poor mechanics which pull the entire experience down.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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