Wacky Races: Crash & DashESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Farmind Ltd.
Publisher: Eidos/Warner Brothers
Nunchuk and Wii remote compatible
Wacky Racers is a Hanna-Barbara cartoon series that a lot of kids today will most likely not recognize. That being said, I remember watching it when I was a kid and that was quite sometime ago. Wacky Races: Crash & Dash is a new kart racer based on the series. It tries to take the genre to a whole new level of simplicity while also introducing gamers of today to the Wacky Racers universe. And after taking some time to play the game I would have to say that although it is a great effort, it just doesn’t have the legs that fans of the genre may hope for.
The visuals in Crash & Dash are pretty well done. A lot of people who play this game may not even remember the cartoon given that is not one of the ‘big ones’ that many kids are watching these days. That being said, the game itself has a great cartoony look to it. The translation from TV to videogame is pretty well implemented. Colors are bright and vibrant and have a bit of punch. The animations are pretty smooth, if not simple given the source material for the game. For those who remember the cartoon series, each character and their corresponding vehicle is recreated perfectly and it really will give those with knowledge of the series a “walk down memory lane” so to speak. For those who have no memory of the cartoon, or just don’t know who these characters are, the presentation of the game really does provide a good introduction to the crazy characters and their just as crazy contraptions they use to race.
As with the visuals, the sound seems to match the cartoon theme to a tee. The music is quite upbeat and matches the on-screen action in front of you. There is also an in-game commentator whose job is to call all of the highlights of each race as they unfold. He does a pretty good job too as he seems to add to the frantic atmosphere that the game is trying to portray. If there is any negative to him it is that he does become somewhat repetitive during extended gameplay sessions. In terms of the sound effects, from the skids and squeals of all the vehicles to the sounds of all the special power ups, you definitely get the feeling that you are playing in the world of a cartoon racer. I would say that most people should be happy with the audio in Wacky Races: Crash & Dash.
There really is no main storyline in Crash & Dash, which I would expect in a simple kart racer. The game is just all about racing as fast as you can and making it to the finish line first. Right from the start you get 10 Wacky Racers to choose from. Pick from such names as Peter Perfect and his Turbo Terrific, The Slag Brothers and their Boulder Mobile, or Professor Pat Pending and his Ring-a-Ding Convert-a-Car. All of the Wacky Racers and their vehicles have four power ups that make for some pretty cool special item abilities. You will race on 24 cross-country tracks against all the other racers in an effort to be number one.
The main game mode in Crash & Dash is the Crazy Circuit. Here you try to win all six Crazy Circuit rallies including the Ring-a-Ding Rally, Crazy Cuckoo Rally, Bingo Bananas Rally, Ding-Dong Rally, Zappy Zonkers Rally and the Way-Out Wacky Rally. Each rally has four tracks and you are awarded points based on your placing in each race. Of course the racer with the most points at the end of each rally is declared the winner.
There is also a quick race mode simply titled Wacky Race. Here you can race tracks individually. You just choose a track from any rally that you have unlocked and away you go. You can also adjust a slew of options in this mode, from difficulty, number of computer opponents, wacky powers, surprises and traps. This mode is a simple way to get a quick race in without having to participate in a full rally.
So everything seems pretty good right? You have a great selection of original characters and vehicles, a relatively large number of kart tracks, and some great rally racing to do. However this is where all the good seems to stop. Control of Crash & Dash has been over simplified to allow all ages and all levels of gamers to play. There is no acceleration or brake button to be found. You only need to press your analog stick to steer your car towards the finish line. What I found strange is that in most of the races you find yourself involved in are displayed from the side. The in-game camera does shift to a top-down perspective when the game calls for it, but the majority of your racing is done in a side scrolling manner. This is very different from all other kart racers out there where you are actually racing on the track from behind, or even in, the kart of your choice steering around all the madness that the other games offer. During the races in Crash & Dash all racers are displayed on screen at once too, so you will find yourself racing in a pack for the duration of the whole race.
As you make your way down each track you will also find it littered with character-specific power ups. These are very neat at first as each character’s power up matches the cartoon that it is based on. From Peter Perfect’s Inflate-O-Tire Power to the Ant Hill Mob’s Getaway Power, they are all very interesting to watch. Power ups come in two flavors too, Wacky Power and Way-Out Wacky Power with the latter being what many would consider a ‘super’ power up. However, as you race you’ll find that these power ups are not really necessary to win a race as the climax to each race, the Mad Dash at the end, is where a race is won or lost.
As you race you must fill up as many Mad Dash Cogs as you can. These cogs enable you to drive faster then your opponents during the Mad Dash which happens at the end of each race. As noted earlier on, you’ll always be racing in a pack given how the game plays, so once you reach the Mad Dash portion of the race your ability to pull of a win is quite high as you are already bunched in with the rest of the racers. This Mad Dash is somewhat interactive as you have to shake the Wii remote as quickly as you can in order to go faster. Of course the more Mad Dash Cogs that you have filled, the more speed that is added to your dash as well. I found this feature somewhat disappointing given that it really didn’t matter how well I did during the whole race as it always came down to how quickly I could shake the Wii remote at the end. I actually think that the Mad Dash should have been done mid-race, if not at all, given how the each race was determined by the end portion that the Mad Dash represents.
After my time with the game I just can’t help but be somewhat disappointed with the gameplay. It is far too simple for regular or casual gamers who enjoy kart games as it most likely won’t keep their attention. The visual approach to the actual gameplay is not only non-traditional, but takes away from what kart-games are supposed to be about, racing around a track. But that being said I really do give the developers some kudos for what I believe they were trying to do, make the game accessible, especially for the younger audience out there. And in many ways they do a great job at this as evidenced by the fact that my four year old daughter, with a little sit down advice by myself while she was playing, was able to win races more often then she should have, given her young age and lack of experience with videogames as a whole. So on that note, the game is great for the wee-little ones to fool around with as it is easy for them to play, but it will most likely be a bore for the more mature or experienced gamers for sure.
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