No mascots were hurt in the making of this game.
Remember all those kids you hated in second grade? There was the bully and his crony, the brain, the kid who liked to burn stuff, the princess, the brat, and the kid whose parents bought him everything. Well, they're all back and they all have driver's licenses.
In Speed Punks, you get the chance to get even with all those kids who made your adolescent years a living hell by ramming them, shooting them, cutting them off and then blowing them up as you speed past to the finish line.
Formula is the name of Speed Punks' game. It does just about everything by the book: 6 racers, 24 tracks, 4-player mode and several easter eggs to keep you playing again and again. There are power-ups and power slides, city tracks, sand tracks, boys and girls, fast cars and slow cars, speed boosts and spin outs - you get the idea.
The graphics in Speed Punks are clean, though not exactly breakthrough. The design is similar to games like Ape Escape, with characters possessing large heads, small bodies and a fairly low polygon count. Thankfully, each character is made of bright colors and crisp lines that keep the game's graphics looking fresh.
The simple character design fits with the mood of the game, but just because the characters are simple doesn't mean that the game lacks detail. The graphics become impressive when you realize just how many things are on screen at once. Waterfalls, roller coasters, pirate ships, windmills and many other elements have all been integrated into each track and add a lot of atmosphere. Amazingly, all these extra elements don't slow down the game at all. In fact, I don't think I ever experienced any slow down or pop-up, and that includes the 4-player mode.
The tracks in Speed Punks are pretty much what you'd expect from a kart racer these days. There are 12 tracks in the Tournament mode and 12 variations of these tracks in the VS. mode, which creates a total of 24 tracks. You race on a variety of locations on an assortment of different materials. Most tracks contain a few steep turns (more in the later levels) and almost every track has a secret route or shortcut (which you'll need to find if you ever want to place first).
The Tournament tracks are generally a little more complex and take longer to get through, which is sometimes nice as it gives you that extra 30 seconds you might need to win. The V.S. tracks are shorter, making it hard to stay away from your friend with the missile for very long.
The game physics are pleasantly complex. There are enough factors at work that an experienced player will have an advantage, but they're also forgiving enough to allow new players a fighting chance. The karts have the standard boost and power slide features and learning to balance them is essential on the later tracks.
The physics do get annoying when you're trying to get power-ups. All too often I'd line myself up to get a power-up but the kart would slide just a little too much, leaving me defenseless until the next power-up box. Not a huge complaint, but a common enough occurrence to be irritating.
The power-ups themselves are well balanced. There are several offensive power-ups, as well as several defensive, and some power-ups can be used for both. The items range everywhere from invulnerability to tire poppers to bombs that drop a few feet in front of your enemy and just about every item is worth picking up.
There only real problem with the game is the limited character statistics. While there are technically 6 racers to start with, two pairs of them have the same statistics, so there are really only 4 different kinds of karts to chose from until you unlock the secret character and then the number jumps to a whopping 5. The game suffers a little from the lack of diversity.
Frankly, there is very little in this game that hasn't been done before, so why pick it up? Why bother with a game that boasts so little thought and so much formula? Simple - because the formula works.
The beauty of kart games is that they're entertaining for an hour or for that five-minute period before you leave for work. Everyone should have a game like this in their collection and the fact of the matter is that Speed Punks is a step above most. So if you're a fan of the kart genre or you're looking for the right game to introduce you, then give it a shot. It may not be a breakthrough, but it's fun.