Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Speed Racer

That the Wachowski brothers, having brought their blockbusting Matrix trilogy to a close, would turn their directorial attention to adapting a children's Japanese anime for the big screen was something of a surprise. But, while critics seem divided, it seems to have been a good decision where younger audiences are concerned, the combination of lightning-fast futuristic cars, wide-eyed drama and the all new art of 'Car Fu' proving popular. It's also a premise perfectly suited to videogame conversion, ripe for a Mario-Kart-on-the-moon treatment, and this Wii adaptation is surprisingly solid for a movie-based title. Welcome Speed Racer

Speed Racer
Speed Racer based on the World Racing League (WRL), a competition in which drivers streak around tracks at 400mph, use vehicle 'jump jacks' to launch into the air and slide around corners using their rotating wheels. To control the cars in Speed Racer you'll be holding the Wiimote horizontally (either on its own or in the racing wheel cradle). You steer by tilting the whole controller left and right and, to jump, you move the wheel quickly up and toward you.

During jumps you can pull off stylish flips and stunts, although, as these are triggered with the d-pad they can be a little fiddly to execute. You’ve a shunt move for smacking into opponents but it's the slide that you’ll really need to get to grips with if you’re to start winning races. Releasing the '2' button, turning the wheel and then pushing it down again will throw the car into a sideways drift allowing you to tightly follow the curves of the track without the need for hard braking, an essential technique on the road to stardom.

Speed Racer screenshot 2
This palette of moves can be combined to create more complex Car-Fu manoeuvres that help you gain advantage on the track by taking out opponents, slowing them down or evading and recovering from their attacks. Move combinations allow you to perform 360 degree roundhouse spins, torpedo-like barrel roll attacks and painful smack downs whereby you land on top of an opponent. Of course these moves are all a means to an end: winning the race and with speed boosts (if you can manage to avoid hitting the sides of the track), slipstreaming, alliances and speed up squares there's an impressive variety of tools to help you achieve this goal.

Speed Racer presents a good-sized championship to play through and you earn points in each race not only for the final position you achieve but also for the amount of Car Fu you executed in doing so. Time Trials and a simple split screen multiplayer mode provide some additional content and with multiple characters there's a decent if not generous amount of game here for your money.

Speed Racer is not going to cause a revolution in futuristic racing games and it lacks the polish and tightness of rivals Wipeout Pulse and F-Zero but, nevertheless, it does provide short sharp bursts of fun and expands competently upon the world of the movie.

car games to play: flatout - head on
mario cart: ready! steady! go!
Car Games Review

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