A scheme so dastardly that it just might work!
Long ago and far away in a land called 1968, Saturday morning was home to the ultimate animated road race: The Wacky Races. Every week, 11 kooky racers would hop into their krazy karts and set out on a fun-filled, action-packed comedy thrillride. If you don't know who Dick Dastardly and Muttley are, you're definitely missing out on a great piece of comic history.
Now in the year 2000, D.D., Muttley and the other Wacky Racers have been revived in Infogrames latest racing game, the appropriately titles Wacky Races. So grab a basketball, a harpoon gun, a steel ball, and a cement truck, 'cuz it's gonna take everything you've got to come out on top.
Wacky Races is a piece of pure graphical genius. Infogrames has infused 1968 Hanna-Barbera animation with state-of-the-art Dreamcast power to bring you the best looking kart game to ever grace a Sega platform. Using 'toon vision,' 2D cartoon characters are transformed and brought to life in a 3D world. It's the perfect combination of 2D and 3D rolled up into one neat-o little package. Players can even choose whether or not the racers keep their black outlines, making the game look even more like a controllable cartoon.
Adding even more flavor to the virtual stew of cartooniness is the game's character voices. Throughout each race, characters shout out taunts and curses (all in good cartoon taste, of course) while causing wacky comic mischief for opponents. These voice actors are top notch and even bring back fond memories of the all the original voice actors. Heeheeheehee. Even the game's music matches the wacky antics.
For the ultimate in comic mischief, Wacky Races outfits every racer with their own personalized arsenal of wacky weaponry. Each character has 3 special abilities available at the start of the game as well as three more that can be unlocked as the game progresses. These weapons and power ups can be used by collecting the wacky tokens that are liberally strewn throughout the course. Tokens can also be stolen from opponents by ramming into them or by nailing them with one of your own wacky weapons.
In a great design choice, tokens are recycled. Each weapon requires a certain amount of tokens, and as you use your weapons the tokens will literally pop out of your car and back onto the track to be used by whomever picks them up. This is an excellent system that adds new strategy to the kart genre.
Weapons aren't the only things that you can unlock. There are also 3 extra cars, a battle mode, and several challenge modes to multiply the replay value extensively. One of the challenge modes, called the Endurance mode, eliminates the racer in last place at the end of each lap. As the most fun-filled mode of the game (besides Vs.), Endurance is vaguely reminiscent of a cartoon version of the popular television show "Survivor" (minus the edible rats, naked guys, and million dollars).
With kart style games, track layout can sometimes be a deciding factor for how the game will play. Boring tracks often make for a boring game. Fortunately this is not the case for our wacky racers. The 15 tracks in Wacky Races are solidly designed with shortcuts galore.
The only real flaw with the track design is their inability to capture the essence of the original cartoon. For the benefit of all you youngsters out there, the tracks in the original Wacky Races were pretty long. Long enough to last an entire half-hour show, that is. No loops were required, since it was just one big, long stretch of wacky track.
The bulk of the races in the game take place on looped tracks that require lapping, which unfortunately takes away some of the feel from the show. A few well-timed cut scenes of Dick and Muttley conconcting zany schemes would have been terrific.
Like most kart racers, Wacky Races features multiple camera views. Unfortunately, these camera angles just don't really cut it and may be a source of irritation for some gamers. There are four angles to choose from: standard, close, inside, and far. Every single one of these views has some sort of problem. The standard and close views present angles that are too close to the car to see the track very well. The inside view doesn't give you the peripheral vision needed in this type of game. The best view is the far angle, but when the racers bunch up, it becomes pretty hard to find your own car.
The camera problems even extend into the multi-player arena, making it very hard to see what's going on. I think Muttley put it best when he said $%#@&^*!!!!!
Another small problem with the game is the user interface. If you want to proceed to a new set of tracks, you need to exit your current locale and physically drive over to the new area. You also need to exit the track and drive to a certain location to access some of the game's options. This is just too much complexity for getting around the simple features of the game.
After the race is said and done, players can relive their hijinks in an excellent replay mode. With several views to choose from and the ability to focus on any racer you wish, it almost seems more like a cartoon than a video game!
Wacky Races is, without a doubt, the best kart racer that I've seen in a long while. It's insane graphics and overall wackiness is something to behold. A better camera and some lengthier tracks would have done wonders, but we've still got a winner here.