Images of Lindsay Lohan are included in the game! She's also featured on the box.
C'mon Herbie! Let's go the distance! We can do it!
When slotting Herbie: Fully Loaded into my GBA, I must admit that I was secretly hoping the game would be a 2D platformer where the player would control Herbie, who would be walking on his two rear wheels hopping from platform to platform while collecting oil cans peppered throughout the levels. Sadly, developer Climax has instead gone for the more predictable racing game. Let's see how that fares instead.
It's us against them, let's show them what we've got.
Herbie is a racing game that uses a Mode-7 style engine, and... oh, forget it. I'm not going to sugar-coat it. This game is awful. It has three modes: "Story" Mode, Free Race Mode, and Championship Mode. They are all bad, because they are all the same thing. Story Mode has you racing through eight various courses, including the desert, a mountain, and an amusement park. Now, I must admit, I haven't seen the film, but I don't remember seeing a desert in the trailer. As for the amusement park, it must be one of those NASCAR-approved amusement parks that I've been hearing so much about lately. Free Race lets you race in one of the tracks you've unlocked in Story Mode. Championship insists that you play through every single track that you've unlocked, one after the other, scoring you after each race depending on how you place. Here's what happens when you beat each mode:
Apparently, Herbie hasn't had a tune-up since 1968, because he controls like the shopping trolley I always seem to get at the supermarket with the wobbly rear wheel, the child seat broken off, and leftover lettuce leaves plastered to the bottom of the basket. He also seems to have the same amount of acceleration as said shopping trolley -- and I'm not talking about when you give it a huge push and then ride on the back, either.
C'mon Herbie, let's keep them in the rear view mirror.
Herbie, like other novelty racing games, includes "wacky" and "zany" powerups. These include the ability to shoot a tyre out of the hood, the ability to make Herbie jump, a turbo boost where Herbie does a wheelie, and, for some inexplicable reason, a turbo that reverses the car around. Now, I don't know about you, but making the car turn around so it looks like it's driving backwards doesn't sound like a good idea for a powerup to me. There were multiple times when I tried to actually 'correct' this, before realising that's what the powerup was supposed to do. Novel? Yes. Practical? Hell no.
We might not have the pole position, but let's go for the checkered flag.
Herbie also has a "unique" feature called 'Herbie's Mood'. Most of you know that when the word unique is written in quotes, it doesn't bode well, but I'll let the manual do the talking this time:
Herbie's Mood - Herbie is happiest when he is leading the pack. Taking damage or falling behind will change his mood. If Herbie is in a bad mood, his performance will suffer.
So basically, if you suck at this game, your chances of winning will be even lower. What audience is Disney aiming for, exactly? "Oh! Let's make it so that if Herbie is losing, he'll slow down and get upset!" "Um...okay, you see the problem with that is that it will make it unnecessarily unfair for novice players, who in this case are most of our audience." "You will do as I say! Now put a sponge cake on your head! Oh, I love being an executive."
Let's burn rubber Herbie!
The menus for Herbie: Fully Loaded are clean, simple and easy to navigate through -- well, except for that bug where if you try to back out of story mode after having just won a race, you can't get back to the main menu. Aside from that though, they're nice. They go for a simple presentation, and it does the job quite well. The in-game Herbie car model looks lovely. It is a pre-rendered sprite that has lots of detail for the various animations. This would be expected, though, as the game is based around Herbie. Opponent cars, on the other hand, look as though they have come from the Lego Rally. They are all the same blocky model with different colour schemes. The assorted locations, including the Pro Racing Oval and the Waterfront, all look quite nice and are reasonably varied.
It's victory lane or bust.
Sound for the game is pretty stock-standard, what with all the tyres squealing, engines revving, and so on. It's what you'd expect from a racing game, and gives the impression of driving a car, which is what it's meant to do, so this is good. The music has a surprisingly varied amount of tracks, which is impressive. They all seem to be a bizarre combination of thrash metal and Eurovision, which is quite worrying, as it means that more people will discover what Eurovision actually is. I must admit that I am partly to blame for this, and I sincerely apologize.
Herbie, Kevin totally tricked you out. Let's get to the winner's circle!
By the way, these apparently random pieces of italicised text are the "story" in the "Story" Mode. If you can decipher a story out of that, then my nonexistent hat is off to you, good sir or madam. It's okay, Climax -- you could have called it "Lindsay Lohan Mode". We all know that's the only reason it's there anyway.
In summary, Herbie: Fully Loaded is a mediocre powerup-driven racing game that has one mode of play disguised as three. The "Story" Mode, probably the least painful of the three, can be finished in under an hour of solid play. The game also comes with a poster! Perhaps my Herbie platformer would have been the better choice after all.