Despite being unconvinced by the plot, concept and general aesthetic of the game, I actually enjoyed playing it! Obviously it's a kiddies game, and as such it's very cutesy and unrealistic, but that's not the point. The plot centres on the chipmunks Chip and Dale, famous of course for their escapades in frustrating Donald Duck and other Disney characters. While strolling around Disneyland, they came across the big black machine that sprays out fireworks all night long, and for a prank poured some acorns into it. Not liking this one bit, the machine decided to let rip and spew forth its bits and bobs all over Disneyland. So now Chip and Dale have to go get them back before tonight's show! Obviously this is about as far-fetched as a racing game plot can ever be, and it has more loose ends than a bad teen-crime novel. Why do Chip and Dale have to take part in a racing tour around Disneyland to collect the parts, and why are their 9 other racers trying to beat them to it? Why don't they just go and round up the bloody things? And more importantly, if you're trying to get it all done before the night's show, why do two of the races take place at night!? Still, as I said, that's not the point, the point is racing, or more specifically karting, and MRT does one of the best jobs yet of banging the nail on the head for the 32-bit console generation. The most impressive aspect of MRT is the way in which the developers have managed to build race tracks around 12 genuine Disneyland rides. Obviously the measurements are imprecise and at times a disconcertingly so, but it's all in the name of fun. I originally sat down to play the game alongside a friend, who has been to Disneyland, and he spent the entire hour and a half yelping about how he remembered this bit and that bit was really funny and so-on and so-forth. Each track sets you off alongside 9 other racers, racing around in place of whatever vehicle or gizmo propels you around in reality. For each course, you can also select to power the indigenous vehicle. So for Space Mountain for instance you can choose to operate a space ship, and in Pirates of the Caribbean you can take control of a little boat! The way in which Crystal Dynamics have compensated for the static routes taken in the real-life rides is to allow you free reign of which route you take. To use Space Mountain again as an example, when you're flying through space, you have to pick up power-ups to help propel you faster. Other interesting little features include the arsenal of Disneyesque weapons, including the ability to drop Tea Cups (read: Banana Skins) to usurp your opponent, and magical fairies wishing you luck around the track occasionally forcing your opponents into walls or off the racing line.
Nippers Apply Elsewhere
Disappointingly for the little ones, MRT is actually very hard - I had trouble placing first in most races consistently, and I wouldn't fancy the chances of most children, or even their parents! You can race around quite happily in the practice modes, but winning races is too darned tricky. Also disappointing is the general aesthetic. It's cutesy of course, but that's acceptable, however what is unacceptable is the enormous compromises in visual quality that Crystal Dynamics have made in the sake of maintaining the high velocity of gameplay. As you zoom past certain areas, the textures are little pixellated at anything below top speed. Even at top speed the effect is a little distressing. To use Space Mountain yet again as an example, the initial part where you are propelled through a light gate into outer space is just two textures repeating over and over. There's not even any screen-warping, which would obviously have solved the problem. At the moment the graphics in certain sections simply look substandard and blocky. To be fair, MRT has its moments, visually. When you're skipping along the water in Pirates of the Caribbean you wonder why most games can't look this good. The overall Disney completeness is very prominent throughout. On the whole, there's rarely a point when you think "gosh, that looks a bit unfinished", aside from the aforementioned problem areas. Bringing things back to the flaws though, sound isn't up to much. I don't mean the tunes aren't impressive - this is Disneyland for heaven's sake - but the way they've been presented is most irregular. Having been given access to some of the most popular and downright entertaining musical scores in the world, Crystal Dynamics have chosen to use short loops of classic tunes. This simply doesn't work. At the real Disneyland, carefully positioned wall speakers play the right part of each tune at a set point and create a fluid audio background, but in MRT you're just reaching for the TV remote control to turn the volume down after about five minutes.
Despite its flaws, Magical Racing Tour is still very clever, if a little hard in places, and it does enough to the karting genre to keep it afresh. At times things look a little ropey and the sound is done in a questionable manner, but it's got that Disney charm, and thanks to that, you can't help but feel endeared to it.
What The Scores Mean
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