You win some, you lose some
You can't really fault Infogrames' WR incarnation in too many ways, especially not when it comes to substance; it's got barrel-loads of the stuff. It has the full compliment of characters (Muttley, Dick Dastardly, Peter Perfect et al) and they all drive the correct vehicles across a variety of entertaining tracks. The sabotage element remains in the form of a pre-race selection of one-shot power-ups, capable of knocking players off the pace, slowing them down or bringing them to a halt completely. Of course the touch of interference isn't quite as brazen as it appears in the cartoon itself, but it hardly could be, could it? The focus is definitely on the racing, with over twenty racetracks and a couple of different handling styles. There are also over sixty of the aforementioned special abilities, which include the Bubble Gum Shot, Ratt-a-Tatt-Attack and other entertaining aides. To help ease people into the action, there are different handling styles on offer. "Kart" is for the quick-thrill driver; a game you can pick up and play very easily, with powersliding round corners courtesy of the A button. It's the default, and how most people will approach the game. Advanced is for people who've had just about as much as they can take of the Kart mode and fancy a challenge that involves more concentration and skill to keep control of the vehicle, and requires that you take your finger off the accelerator all the time. You can't powerslide, but you can use the A button to do handbrake turns; something that's fundamentally important in winning a race with this handling. Once you've selected your vehicle and handling style, you can go for a spin immediately to select your mode of play. In order to do this you drive around the "Game Selection Hub", which contains a central signpost, allowing you to choose between the "Wacky Championship", "Time Trial", "Versus" mode and "Ability Gallery". The Time Trial and Versus modes are fairly self-explanatory (with support for up to four players in Versus mode!) and the Ability Gallery displays the various special powers available to each kart and the amount of Tokens needed to use each one. Before I explain the Wacky Championship, I'll elaborate on the economy of the game I briefly touched on just now. In order to use Special Abilities you have to collect Wacky Tokens as you race around the track. As a result, the race becomes quite tactical - do you go off-course and pick up some extra tokens to thwart your opponent, or do you keep on the racing line with the accelerator floored? As a strategic element in an otherwise action-orientated game it strikes a chord, and I'm quite impressed by its implementation. After all, this game will sell itself to most families, so extras like this smack of interest and courtesy.
The Wacky Championship mode is once again made up of several challenges. You unlock more challenges for each Gold Star you attain, which are collected as a result of victory in the four disciplines available at the beginning. The first of them is the "Track Challenge", which allows you to work your way through a series of single race events, with two tracks per theme available at the start and more as you finish those. The "Wacky Cup Challenge" is a five round league competition, with the top four places each rewarded with points, The "Golden Muttley Challenge", on the other hand isn't just about coming first, because you have to pick up 10 Golden Muttleys along the way and finish first. Finally there's the Battle Challenge, which takes place in a themed battle arena with the eight vehicles facing off against one another. The last car moving wins, and the emphasis is on defeating your opponents with Special Abilities to steal their Wacky Tokens. This is by far and away the most amusing element of Wacky Races, especially with multiple human players! Of the other challenges I felt that the Golden Muttley was a bit of a waste. I mean, there's definitely strategy to it, but it's very hard indeed to win consistently. As for the Track Challenge; it's far too mundane, somewhere in between Time Trial and the Wacky Cup, both of which are preferable in their own ways. That said, if you fancy playing something more progressive, Track Challenge could appeal. In the end the variety of options available to the Wacky Races player means it'll be down to personal preference which ones you frequent. The most important thing in a game like this is variety, so in that sense you can't fault it. I touched on the difficulty of the game a second ago, and obviously in a game aimed squarely at younger players it's important to get it right. Sadly though in some instances it's just too challenging, with formidable opponents who have a much clearer idea of how to maximize the potential of the special abilities, and who seem to know the courses off by heart. Sadly, such is the graphical detail that at times you lose track of where the next turn is! On the whole it's possible to beat the AI after a few attempts, but the younger player might find it too tricky.
Notably and unhelpfully, the game tends to jerk a fair bit as well, thanks presumably to problems with the code - yet I'm playing a full retail boxed copy! Perhaps a little bit of extra care in this department could have carried Wacky Races up a notch. Nevertheless, graphically it's pretty stunning, in spite of the jerks, with very luscious visuals (you'd never get this on a PlayStation). Essentially they're authentic cartoon jobs, but they've been decked out in 3D! This approach hasn't really worked for me before, but Wacky Races pulls it off with finesse. The various pickups are well detailed, as are the vehicles, right down to the Ant Hill mob in the back of their Bullet Proof Bomb and the Slag Brothers waving their clubs! The scenery is also nicely defined and more than functional for the task. In terms of sound the game also excels, with seemingly authentic voiceovers for all the main characters (Dick Dastardly is fantastic, as is Muttley and Miss Penelope's yelps and squeaks!). Fans of the cartoon (and lets face it who isn't?) will get a lot out of Wacky Races - it's the perfect embodiment of the series.
In finale, the game offers a wide variety of entertaining and amusing options, and it does it all with poise and elegance. I've played a lot of games based on films, TV shows and such and this one is probably the best adaptation yet. If you need further recommendation, just consider my first experience with the game; I raced around a track being bombarded with flying bubble gum and the toots and screeches of my favourite cartoon drivers. Couldn't be happier!
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