Wii

North America

Speed Racer

by Nick DiMola - May 5, 2008, 7:58 pm PDT
Total comments: 19

7.5

One part F-Zero GX, one part Burnout, and a pinch of Mario Kart.

Speed Racer is not your typical movie game. Instead of looking to recreate the movie experience, it strives to create an extension of that experience. It strips away all of the elements of the movie and focuses solely on the core concept: racing. The full cast of racers from the movie are represented along with their custom rides and the voices of their real-life counterparts. Along with that, some of the film’s music is also featured in the background.

The core of Speed Racer is an interesting blend of fast-paced racing and car combat, a seemingly perfect blend of F-Zero GX and Burnout. Similar to Burnout, you are able to impede the progress of other racers by attacking them. But instead of performing takedowns, you perform “Car-Fu.” Car-Fu consists of a variety of moves including shunts, tail-flips, jack jumps, torpedoes and smackdowns, but its influence on each race is far deeper than any mechanic in Burnout. Not only does Car-Fu build your boost meter and put a temporary halt to your opponent’s progress, but it also builds up points which ultimately aid your placement in the overall competition. As mentioned earlier, Speed Racer takes cues from F-Zero GX in terms of both speed and track design. Featuring up to twenty competitors per race, Speed Racer brings the same crowded tracks found in F-Zero GX.

The aforementioned details add significant depth to a seemingly simple racing engine, and the Ally/Rival system only further accentuates this depth. Before each race, you can request and break alliances between the other racers participating in the tournament. On the surface this seems simple enough, but its complexity lies within finding the perfect balance of allies and rivals. Building as many alliances as possible decreases the frequency with which Car-Fu will be performed on you; however, you begin to realize that you can’t leverage these other racers during the race to perform Car-Fu. Conversely, this holds true with breaking alliances and creating rivals. Too many rivals and you will be incessantly bombarded with Car-Fu attacks; however, you will have the ability to perform massive amounts of Car-Fu, which when executed on rivals, nets additional points and boost.

The final layer of core gameplay depth is constituted of boosting and drafting. Drafting, known as slipstreaming in the Speed Racer universe, becomes yet another double-edged sword. It will decrease the drag on your vehicle and ultimately let you travel faster, but it tends to anger computer players. Striking a balance is absolutely critical, because slipstreaming too much results in being pelted with non-stop Car-Fu, and doing it too little prevents you from keeping up with the other racers.

Boosting is also critical as it will keep you in the race. Avoiding the edges of each stage and performing Car-Fu will build up your boost meter. Once full, the boost meter will refill again, storing a full boost in your inventory. Up to four boosts can be housed at one time, and unlike other boosting systems, all four of them can be dropped back-to-back to put you “In the Zone.” When In the Zone, you are immune to Car-Fu and you max out your engine speed. Boosts also double as a health supplements; when Car-Fu is performed on you, your health meter will decrease until it hits empty and you explode. Exploding isn’t race-ending, but it severely hampers your progress and makes success in the higher difficulty settings nearly impossible.

As you can see, the racing system is quite layered with a strong emphasis on using the full gamut of your arsenal to win. Thankfully, the control setup does an excellent job of making all of it accessible. Steering is performed by using the Wii Wheel, or Excite Truck-style holding the Wii Remote like an NES controller. Performing Car-Fu is done through quick jerks of the remote either upwards or sideways; holding different directions on the D-Pad allows you to perform different moves. Shunting someone with a quick jerk of the Wii Remote feels very natural, visceral, and satisfying. Accelerating, boosting, braking and health are mapped to the various buttons on the Wii Remote, and are well laid-out and quickly accessible in the heat of a race.

Unfortunately, Speed Racer lacks in a few other departments. The track design is very bland and uninspired; with only five different track environments, you grow tired of seeing the same settings in each and every circuit. It falls short graphically as well; the tracks themselves look good as do the racers, but the surroundings are low-poly, low-res and outright boring.

The game as a whole is also very short, and really only has three modes: championship circuit, time attack, and a paltry two-player split-screen multiplayer mode. Upon exhausting the championship circuit, there is literally nothing to come back to. Online mode is sorely missed as it would have given players a renewable experience. Having experienced Nintendo’s accomplishments with online racing in Mario Kart, it makes the exclusion of the mode hurt that much more.

Speed Racer at its core is an amazing game, with great depth, control, and nice difficulty progression. Perhaps Sidhe Interactive will use this great engine (and maybe even the Speed Racer license) for another title with more inspired track design, better graphics, and a more fully-featured package overall. As it stands, its slim feature-set and exclusion of both online racing and four-player split-screen multiplayer lowers it from a must-purchase to simply a rental.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6 7 9.5 9.5 5 7.5
Graphics
6

Bland-looking environments and tracks that look bad, even at high speeds.

Sound
7

Entertaining voice acting that doubles as a functional element, alerting you of the actions and locations of other racers. It’s an element that gives the game and the races more personality. Background music is blasé and doesn’t do much to increase the intensity of the race.

Control
9.5

Controlling the game with or without the Wii Wheel works beautifully. Performing Car-Fu feels satisfying and steering never feels unwieldy. The controls only become troublesome in rare occasions when you need to steer out of a hard spin.

Gameplay
9.5

The game itself is extremely deep, requiring large amounts of strategy and skill. It’s a blast to play with the Wii Wheel, and by the time you finish everything you’ll be begging for more.

Lastability
5

You’ll get a solid eight to ten hours out of the main competition mode and that’s about it. Without online or any other sort of mode, there is little else to do. By the time you beat everything, going back and replaying the early competitions is a waste because they are significantly easier than the ones you will need to master at the end.

Final
7.5

Speed Racer at its core is phenomenal, but ultimately falters because it doesn’t have enough meat to it. Had the game been more fully-featured it could have easily scored much higher, but as it stands it’s a great rental that all racing fans should look into. Sidhe Interactive would be wise to take this formula to the next level with a new IP, and really deliver a more robust package.

Summary

Pros
  • Controls are nearly perfect
  • Outstanding core racing elements
Cons
  • No online or four-player split-screen multiplayer
  • Uninspired graphics and tracks
  • Very short
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusMay 06, 2008

I wish I could've given this one a 9, but it just didn't have enough meat on it's bones. Hopefully we see this same racing engine utilized again in a more featured package.

EnnerMay 06, 2008

After watching a few videos on GameTrailers, it looked like you don't need to turn much in the game. Now, I'm not expecting Forza/Gran Turismo-esque apex turning, but how important is it to turn in Speed Racer? The videos made the game look like it was just Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots on high speed slot cars.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusMay 06, 2008

"Turning" per se isn't quite normal in this one. Being in a bowl like track often times the momentum will carry you towards the middle. However, it becomes crucial to have full handling of your car at all times as you need to navigate towards speed ups that are on the track and away from impediments. You also want to be able to steer towards opponents to perform Car-Fu on them. Steering out of a spin when Car-Fu is done on you requires quite a bit of fancy maneuvering as well. Essentially it becomes more like course correction. Holding the accelerator without doing anything will keep you on the track for the entire race however you will most likely be lapped. So no there are no really hard turns aside from in a few tracks, but you will constantly be steering.

ShyGuyMay 06, 2008

SO NINTENDO WORLD REPORT IS SAYING THIS GAME IS AS GOOD AS MARIO KART?

Just wanted to get that out of the way. I know that's not how it works ;)

Shift KeyMay 06, 2008

Quote from: ShyGuy

SO NINTENDO WORLD REPORT IS SAYING THIS GAME IS AS GOOD AS MARIO KART?

Should have been 7.6, that'd bring out even more hilarity.

If it makes you guys feel any better: The DS version will handily beat 7.5

Shift KeyMay 06, 2008

Quote from: Crimm

If it makes you guys feel any better: The DS version will handily beat 7.5

I'm sharpening my pitchfork as we speak...

Quote from: ShyGuy

SO NINTENDO WORLD REPORT IS SAYING THIS GAME IS AS GOOD AS MARIO KART?

Both games scored a 7.5, and both games are really good in certain areas but have serious flaws in others.  Two different games, but neither one of them knocks things totally out of the park and they both make you yearn for this or that.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusMay 06, 2008

Quote from: Silks

Quote from: ShyGuy

SO NINTENDO WORLD REPORT IS SAYING THIS GAME IS AS GOOD AS MARIO KART?

Both games scored a 7.5, and both games are really good in certain areas but have serious flaws in others.  Two different games, but neither one of them knocks things totally out of the park and they both make you yearn for this or that.

I was actually going to comment on this as well. Mario Kart succeeds where Speed Racer fails and vice versa. In my personal opinion, Speed Racer is much better in GP mode requiring far more skill, however after you are done with GP mode there is nothing else to the game, unlike Mario Kart.

If this game would've had an online mode equivalent to that of Mario Kart, I would say Speed Racer is better, simply because it is something new and fresh.

D_AverageMay 06, 2008

Escape From Bug Island was also fresh and new  ;)

Quote from: D_Average

Escape From Bug Island was also fresh and new   ;)

...like a just-dropped pile of dog shit.

MorariMay 06, 2008

THIS POST HAS BEEN CENSORED FOR YOUR PROTECTION.

--Bureau of Internet Morality

NinGurl69 *hugglesMay 06, 2008

Quote from: ShyGuy

SO NINTENDO WORLD REPORT IS SAYING THIS GAME IS AS GOOD AS MARIO KART?

Just wanted to get that out of the way. I know that's not how it works ;)

WHY YOU!

EnnerMay 07, 2008

Quote from: Mr.

"Turning" per se isn't quite normal in this one. Being in a bowl like track often times the momentum will carry you towards the middle. However, it becomes crucial to have full handling of your car at all times as you need to navigate towards speed ups that are on the track and away from impediments. You also want to be able to steer towards opponents to perform Car-Fu on them. Steering out of a spin when Car-Fu is done on you requires quite a bit of fancy maneuvering as well. Essentially it becomes more like course correction. Holding the accelerator without doing anything will keep you on the track for the entire race however you will most likely be lapped. So no there are no really hard turns aside from in a few tracks, but you will constantly be steering.

Ah, I figured that was the case. Can't say I'm too interested in a racing game where the corners aren't much of a threat. Or maybe that's my drift crazy mind talking. Thanks for the reply.

D_AverageMay 07, 2008

If anyone's HYPER interested in this movie/game, be sure to pick up some Reese's PB Cup Cereal this week!  Moments ago a free Speer Racer car landed in my cereal bowl....Mmmmm

KDR_11kMay 09, 2008

Quote from: Morari

So a quick movie-tie in of a crappy film based on a crappy old anime show is equal to Mario Kart? :P

Yes, not every movie tie-in fails automatically.

Quote from: Enner

Ah, I figured that was the case. Can't say I'm too interested in a racing game where the corners aren't much of a threat. Or maybe that's my drift crazy mind talking. Thanks for the reply.

They're a much bigger threat in the DS game.  You HAVE to learn to drift to beat the harder races.

EnnerMay 10, 2008

Quote from: Crimm

Quote from: Enner

Ah, I figured that was the case. Can't say I'm too interested in a racing game where the corners aren't much of a threat. Or maybe that's my drift crazy mind talking. Thanks for the reply.

They're a much bigger threat in the DS game.  You HAVE to learn to drift to beat the harder races.

Hahaha! Sweet.

The Wii game came with a $7.50-off voucher for the movie at participating theaters. Booyah.

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Genre Racing
Developer Sidhe Interactive
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Speed Racer
Release May 06, 2008
PublisherWarner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

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