Review: Speed Racer: The Videogame (Nintendo Wii)

Speed Racer: The Videogame
Genre: Racing
Developer: Sidhe Interactive
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Release Date: 05/06/08

Ok, so the constant trend of non-originality in theatres is of course going to spread to gaming consoles because it is an easy way to make money. Filmmakers can’t possibly get their imagination running one bit so they go back and take old films, old video games, and even old cartoons so that they can get motion pictures moving again. Hence is the case with Speed Racer which I have not seen in theatres, but am not sure I’d really enjoy knowing what epilepsy or a cocaine high is like.

Thank you Wachowski brothers.

Moving onto the game though and you have to wonder how things can really go wrong here. Speed is a well known character that has been around for decades and with today’s technology; it could turn into a very successful racing game. I kind of doubt a franchise because you can only do much with it since there would be no new characters and such to put into a second game unless another film is released. Racing games though are far and wide very popular (Mario Kart, Need For Speed, etc…), but there appears to be a problem even though I didn’t see the theatrical production of Speed Racer. Epilepsy still may have set in.

Story / Modes

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Ok, so Speed Racer is a guy that is driving around in the Mach 5 and doing whatever he can to win races for his family. His nemesis is the mysterious Racer X who pretty much shows up anywhere that Speed is and looks to defeat his arch enemy in each and every race. Speed has a few friends helping him along the way in the form of Pops, Mom, Trixie, and a pet monkey named Chim Chim. You wouldn’t find the monkey anywhere in this game, and if he is then he is well hidden. And believe me I would have loved to have seen him somewhere.

Other then that, there isn’t much else to the story of Speed Racer. That isn’t just because this is a racing game, but that’s all the story ever really was in the cartoons as well. From what I understand, the theatrical version got a bit more substance to it, but it’s still just a bunch of racing.

Story Rating: Mediocre

Graphics

Credit must be given where credit is due, but it’s not like this was anything that impressive either. The visuals are very sharp and things look brighter then most starbursts, but while playing this game, I began to think. Something just wasn’t quite right in my mind while playing Speed Racer because memories came flooding back in large amounts and in quick succession. Memories of playing games at my cousin Trey’s house when I was a young teenager because my Super Nintendo was broken. Memories of searching through his games and looking for one that either I didn’t already own or that didn’t look incredibly boring.

Memories of…F-Zero.

You can’t play this game and tell me that isn’t what it looks like. There are overly bright colors and tracks that twist and curve making you look cross-eyed or with a tilted head to see what is coming next. The only thing about F-Zero is that you could actually see the power-ups ahead of you before you came right up on them. It was frustrating looking for a “speed up” track and being on the opposite side of the track and passing it before it even came into view. But that isn’t exactly a graphics’ problem, but a creation problem. The graphics in Speed Racer are sharp and nice, but they look rather kiddie-ish and not anything new.

Graphics Rating: Poor

Sound

Speed Racer doesn’t really pick up points in this category either. I’ll be quite honest with you and didn’t even notice any music the first four or five times I played the game because my concentration was focused on trying not to freak out, but more on that later. Well, I did notice the overly loud and annoying little tidbit of music that plays when you select the game off the Wii menu. My girlfriend ran out of the bedroom and yelled at me to turn it down even though it was on a very low volume. The music is going to be the first thing that will probably get on your nerves because the tunes played out during each race are just bothersome. They are like bad versions of techno music made from the original soundtrack of the animated series.

Kids probably won’t even care much about the music even though it would probably appeal to them more. You see, if I paid no mind to it for a while because of focusing on control of the game, then you can almost bet good money that kids won’t have any clue there is even any being played.

Sound Rating: Bad

Control / Gameplay

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I’m sorry to keep going in this negative direction; especially since Speed Racer could essentially be considered a kids’ game, but I have no choice. The game can be played either with the Wii remote turned sideways or with the new Wii Wheel accessory that came about thanks to Mario Kart. Not having yet purchased Mario’s new racing game with all his friends; I played this game by just having my Wii remote turned to the side. Am not really sure the wheel would have changed my mind anyway.

The controls are actually rather simple as one button is held down for the gas and you just title the Wii remote to turn your car in the direction you want to go. It sounds simple doesn’t it? And believe me, the controls are simple to learn, but rather difficult to master. Let me take that back. The controls are easy to master if you can somehow avoid being anywhere near any other racers. Once you are tapped or Heaven forbid, Car-Fu’ed, then you are going to lose it and have a hard time regaining any control of your car. If you can possibly get back to a straight path without fishtailing back and forth at least four times, then I give you all the credit in the world.

Control/Gameplay Rating: Mediocre

Replayability

In the case of wanting to play this game over and over again? Well, I’d play it enough to unlock all the championship courses and different racers, but once that is done, so am I. There’s just no appeal in the game that makes me want to throw it back into my Wii and play it when I’m bored or looking for some fun. It really isn’t anything at all like Excite Truck where each course is enjoyable to play no matter how many times you take out some trees or plow through a shallow pond. Speed Racer‘s courses are virtually all the same but with different psychedelic backgrounds.

The good thing about it is that there is a ton to unlock. You only start with about four or five racers to choose from and have sixteen more that can eventually be unlocked by finishing different championship levels. Even those different levels need to be unlocked by finishing a certain rank in earlier races. You can unlock a bunch of new cars and some cool power ups which makes for a lot of competitive spirit when first playing the game, but that fades after everything is available.

Replayability Rating: Poor

Balance

There’s isn’t a whole lot that can be said here because it’s not just the cracked out races, boring characters, and annoying music that makes the game bad. It’s also the stupid A.I. that makes you want to rip your hair out. Let me give you a prime example. The first time I ever played the game; my vehicle shot out to an early lead in the second race and was rocking out for a good portion of the race. My car wasn’t hitting any walls so it was building up a bunch of power boosts that were being saved for near the end of the lap. I hit a couple of the speed power-ups on the track and shot out ahead of the field and then plopped on three power boosts to really get a good lead. I hit the straight away near the end of the lap as my car begins to slow down…and all of a sudden another car taps my bumper.

WTF?

How on earth did that guy stick with me? This is early on in the game and I should be beating them by a whole lap or better right? That isn’t all either because as soon as he tapped me and slowed me down; three other cars passed me. I mean come on. It can be understood if that happens on some of the more difficult races further on in the game but the second one? Incredibly ridiculous. This annoyance is built up even more by the fact that there is no little map in the corner of the screen to see your race progression or where your opponents are located at in relation to you. Speed Racer would mark the first racing game I’ve ever played without that little map. At least that I can remember on the next generation systems.

Oh and don’t bother becoming allies with anyone either because they will take you out just as quickly as your rivals will. It is actually better not to become allies because if you happen to perform a Car-Fu move on any of your allies, even by accident, then you get penalized. Stupid. At least if you’re against the entire field, you can just take out people as you please and not worry about any penalties.

Balance Rating: Bad

Originality

Not much in the way of originality here because it is a racing game. Racing games can’t really be different in terms of the meanings behind them because the main objective is to win each race. The things that are different and make them better then other racing games are whether there are characters you care about, courses that are fun to race on, and cool cars that you want to see your awesome characters race in. What happens though if you don’t really give a damn about any of those factors?

Such is the case here in Speed Racer as you may not give a flip about any of the racers except for Speed himself and Racer X. I honestly couldn’t even tell you who any of the other racers really are and I used to watch the cartoon as a kid. It just seems like one of those generic racing games that chose a bunch of random names for racers they just came up with out of their own heads. The same kind of goes for the courses (which all seem the same but with different colors) and the vehicles which are totally lackluster.

Originality Rating: Poor

Addictiveness

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I don’t want to play this game any more. I do not. It has no remote possibility of ever making its way out of its spot in alphabetical order from between Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and Summer Games. There’s just no enjoyment to be had from it and it makes me want to take a bunch of valium just so my nerves can calm down from the freakish tracks they had me race on.

Sure there are more things I could unlock like a handful of extra characters or a couple more power-ups but there is just no desire any more. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think there was much desire there to begin with after playing it through a couple times. It seemed alright after reading the back of the gamebox art. It also seemed OK after having it load up and going through a few tutorials. But anything after that just made all that “it’s not so bad” go right out of me.

Oh, and speaking of load times; that’s another thing that will make you not care to play this game much. They are incredibly long no matter if you are waiting to start a race or merely trying to move from one screen to the next. Incredibly frustrating getting all pumped up to start another race and having to wait a good five minutes just to get there.

Addictiveness Rating: Awful

Appeal Factor

Gamers won’t want to play this game much and I doubt that even the casual fan will care much for it either. There are so many other racing games out there with characters people will actually care about and courses that won’t seem like they got a makeover with a sixty-four box of Crayolas that there just isn’t going to be much of a demand for Speed Racer by anyone that is old enough to buy it themselves.

As for kids, I can’t see them really caring for it either. I sat down and played this game a few days with the mindset of a child between the ages of five and twelve and just let all my negativity go away. Kids aren’t going to want to play this game much because they aren’t going to care about it. Who cares about characters that have stupid names and that weren’t in any cool cartoons or other games? Who cares about races that don’t have easy power-ups like a flying turtle shell or flames coming out the back of your car? Nobody, that’s who.

Kids aren’t going to want to play this game either because of the difficult learning curve. In order to perform some of the stupidly named Car-Fu moves, you have to be able to not only jump your car in the air but also make it do a 180 degree turn and then make it go in reverse and land on your opponent that you don’t even know where they are.

Appeal Factor: Bad

Miscellaneous

You know my thoughts on this already and there really isn’t much more that can be said to show my complete displeasure for this game. And oddly enough, as much as I hated this game, it also made my blood pump. It’s weird but my hands would hurt so much after each race because they were gripped to the Wii remote. My girlfriend would tell me constantly that she was talking to me during a race or two, but I never would respond.

I never even frickin heard her because my concentration was just set so intently on making sure someone didn’t come up from behind and cause my car to smoke or make me freak out and spin repeatedly. It certainly didn’t make me care any more about the game though because I’d be done playing after only two or three races and have to come back later. Throw something like Mario Kart in there and it’ll be two or three hours before we change games.

Maybe the intensity brought about in each race is a positive thing, but if it is, then it’s the only thing.

Miscellaneous Rating: Poor

The Scores

Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Bad
Control / Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Bad
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Awful
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Poor
Final Score: Bad

Short Attention Span Summary

It was worth a shot and I gave it all I could, but it just doesn’t merit much when the game is as bad as Speed Racer is. Things just couldn’t have gotten more annoying then they were in this game and it is a shame because the animated series was so awesome and this game actually made me hate everything Speed Racer a little bit. That makes me sad. But at least after not playing the game for a day or two now, I’m just sad and no longer thinking that I’m on drugs. Seriously folks, never before has a single narcotic entered into my body but it almost feels like a certainty that what Speed Racer showed me and made me feel makes me believe that I was only a day or two away from being the focus of the show Intervention.

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