Change the channel.
Remember your first car? You saved money from your after school job until you had the $500 it would take to buy and register a car in your price range. You scoured the Want Ads for weeks until you found the listing that matched your needs and budget. You took two buses and a train to a suburb and bought that 1982 Chrysler right off some guy’s lawn, paying cash money. It leaked oil all the way home and didn’t handle so good, what with the bent steering wheel, but you still loved it.
Sure, it wasn’t the best car but it had four wheels – okay, three and a half but still – and it got you around. Finally, you had a car … if only for the three weeks before it completely broke down and the guy you bought it from mysteriously disappeared. It didn’t really matter, though, you were seventeen and for three weeks you were a king.
Now, I know you’re sitting there asking yourself what any of this could possibly have to do with the Cartoon Network Racing
game. Well, aside from doing whatever I can to avoid writing about this jalopy of a game, my point is our expectations change as we get older and wiser. That first car you bought was okay while it lasted because you were young and you had low expectations, but if you bought that car now you’d feel like a rube. And so it is with Cartoon Network Racing, though it’s hard to say when you wouldn’t have felt like a sucker for buying it.
The game is (obviously) based around the Cartoon Network universe and you play with a character from one of the following shows: Courage the Cowardly Dog
, Cow and Chicken
, Dexter's Laboratory
, I am Weasel
, Johnny Bravo
, and The Powerpuff Girls
. Each cartoon character has their own vehicle, which is rated on a star scale (one to five) for three different categories: speed, acceleration, and handling. To be honest, though, the difference between these categories is minuscule at best and each racer performs pretty much the same.
The first problem you’ll notice with the game is the controls. As with any racing game you want to feel like you’re … well, driving and can, eventually, drive well. While theoretically a driving game, the vehicles in this game feel more like you’re skating or sliding rather than hugging the road. Let’s put it this way, even an eighty-two Impala with no power steering doesn’t float this much. Aside from not feeling like you’re driving, the handling is also poor. It’s not hard to get stuck on other racers or the environments, and you often get spun around entirely. What’s really missing is the sense that you can drive fast and furious, take corners, tear up the road, etc. Instead you just plod around the tracks with very little tension or excitement. … Actually, make that no tension or excitement.
Then there’s the AI. Despite the presence of weapons, traps, shortcuts, etc, you still never get the sense that how you drive actually matters all that much. In every race I suffered through … er, I mean played, at least one of my opponents made a late charge to either win the race or make it close. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t seem to matter how you race or what “strategy” you use, the results are almost always the same.
At a time when the gaming world is beginning to explore the next generation of the gaming experience we know better than to expect the best graphics out of a PS2 title. Still, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a PS2 game to look substantially better than a Sega Genesis or SNES title and this one just doesn’t. I know the subject matter is simple by nature but both the vehicles and different environments look childish, almost soft around the edges. And I don’t mean childish like Super Mario childish, I mean it looks like the graphics are a rough draft or beta copy, kinda like watching a thrice dubbed VHS tape.
The good news is that if you’re a fan of the Cartoon Network this game is based on the Cartoon Network and … uh, did I mention it’s based on the Cartoon Network? This game is so bad its suckiness doesn’t reveal itself slowly, but rather right away. It’s likely you won’t get halfway through your first race before the boredom sets in. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine who Cartoon Network Racing was made for. I suppose a four-year-old might like it but if you’re comfortable with your toddler playing video games, why not get them a good one? After all, if your mother or father bought you that first car, they should have known better, being older and wiser and all.