This game is based on a cartoon series, the same one that inspired the Wachowski brothers' live action movie spin-off. Think F-Zero and WipEout meet... Just think F-Zero and WipEout, seeing as Speed Racer rips off both of those. It's quite good fun.
There will be no prizes for originality, though. Speed Racer features championship, single race and time trial modes. You can drive different cars with different balances of speed, acceleration, handling and strength. The lady driver's car is pink. The tracks are punctuated with plenty of tunnels, jumps and loop-the-loops, and look like they've been made by squashing a disco into a ball and flattening it out with a rolling pin. The music is traditional boomchi-boomchi-boomchi nineties beats with seventies-style riffs over the top; it sounds like what would happen if Robert Miles got drunk next to a tape recorder with Earth, Wind and Fire.
Just as with Emergency Heroes and that other driving game so tedious I've forgotten what it's called in the time it took to write the preceding paragraphs, you steer your car by holding the remote sideways. But the calibration is much better here, and there's the added bonus of stunts and car combat. You can perform jumps and rolls by jerking the remote upwards, and shunt into other vehicles by jabbing it left or right. This feels intuitive and works surprisingly well. You can throw in button presses to pull off flashier moves, which adds depth and almost manages to make up for the fact the combat is referred to as "Car-Fu" throughout the game.
Stunting and shunting fills up your boost meter, as does driving over the many speed pads littered around. Save up four boosts, and pressing B four times will send you into The Zone. This means you'll zoom along at super-high speeds, bashing anything in your path off the track. Best of all, your car turns to glowing golden jelly, green and silver sparkles spin psychedically through the air, and everything else turns a bright, pulsating, brain-trembling purple. It makes Rainbow Road look like the M4.
It doesn't take long to master the combat moves, and it's easy to unlock all the tracks, characters and vehicles within an afternoon; don't expect anything like the challenge and complexity of WipEout or F-Zero. The multiplayer won't ever hold a candle to Mario Kart, either, and it's only for two players. But if you should spot Speed Racer in a bargain bin, and fancy a few hours of simple, entertaining arcade racing, it's worth a look.