Review / Speed Racer (Wii)

If you’re a fan of anime chances are you’ve caught an episode or two of Speed Racer, which was an American adaptation of the Japanese hit Mach GoGoGo. The series was one of the first successfully styled shows to break out of Japan and revolved around the racing exploits of the title character Speed and his eccentric family and girlfriend, and featured a revolving cast of treacherous villians. And who could forget the car? The Mach 5 was equally a big draw to the show as Speed. A race car that featured an assortment of gadgets at the press of a button and saved Speed’s tail from many a demise.

Fast forward to the now, where everything old is new again and this brings us to Warner Bros. live action Speed Racer flick by the Wachowski brothers which in turn spawned the eventual videogame developed by Sidhe Interactive, the same company responsible for GripShift.

Go Speed Racer Go!!!

Speed Racer: The Videogame isn’t really an adaptation of the movie, but rather a game that revolves around the idea of the movie. The game features tracks that alternate between indoor and outdoor, twist turns, loops, and jumps. Graphically the game falls between a futuristic colorful vibrant, cell shaded, anime style that works. Most of the background scenery is very bland and uninspired, but you’re usually going so fast that you’re not paying attention to the row of blocky trees you’re whizzing by. There are nice speed effects, namely when you tail another racer and enter their slip stream, here you’ll be able to see anime style wind blurring around the edges. It’s very subtle but it adds to the needed sense of speed – after all, these cars are traveling at 400+ mph.

Keep That $#!^ Off Of My Track!

Control wise, Speed Racer plays a lot like the Wii launch title Excite Truck, and that’s a good thing. You steer your car by tilting the Wii remote left or right (there also the option to use the Wii Wheel). You accelerate using the 2 button, break (yeah right) using the 1 button, and the trigger on the Wii remote activates your boost special. The directional pad is used for executing what has been dubbed as Car-Fu. I know that sounds silly in name, but in practice it works out well. You can execute it by either sliding the Wii remote left or right, or whipping it forward or backwards to execute a variety of moves, sending your car spinning, barrell rolling, or flipping in the air or on the ground. Control varies on the attributes of your driver and their respective vehicle. With a roster of up to 30 racers (most of them you unlock by winning races), you’re sure to find a racer that plays to your strengths.

Round and Round

The tracks in Speed Racer can make or break your bid for the top spot. The one major downfall of this game is that there just isn’t enough of them. There’s about 5 different tracks and that’s it. You’ll race through 3 circuits with 2-3 brackets in each in 2 minute intervals, and during the course of each circuit you’ll play the same 5 tracks numerous times, so after the middle of the second circuit you’ll find yourself maybe wanting a little bit more variety. What makes the tracks that are there worth playing is though the level of intensity you’ll face from the enemy AI. Speed Racer has very agressive rubberband AI, but the thing is it actually works within the perimeters of the game. You can go from first to last in the blink of an eye. No matter what position of the pack you’re in, you will always be within a second or a couple micro-seconds of the people behind or ahead of you. The longest distance I was able to draw from the pack was 5 seconds, and that’s not even safe. This is largely due to the fact that scattered throughout the tracks are “speed burst” that are sometimes together right after another in succession. Not to mention that as you drive you build up a special speed meter that you can use to give you an extra boost, factor all this in with the fact that the computer AI has the same advantages that you have and it makes sense.

The sound consist of some techno speed induced compositions and the racing sounds boil down to generic engine hums and tire squeals. The computer AI will always have something slick to say whether they are on your tail, taking you out, or eating your dust. This didn’t really bother me much but I could see it annoying some gamers.

Honestly

Speed Racer: The Videogame is a solid, fun game. While not really a movie adaptation, it does have ties to it and it pulls them off quite well. While the game doesn’t look as good as Excite Truck, which I personally feel hold the best graphics for a racer on the system hands down, it’s pretty solid. The sense of speed is staggering, especially when you get 4 special boost build-ups and trigger them. Sadly though, there is only local multiplayer and no online, which for the life of me I can’t understand? If Sidhe Interactive had managed to find a way to work in online gameplay this game would’ve surely found a home in many gamers libraries. But sadly, I’m sure a lot of gamers will overlook this for Mario Kart Wii.

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