Speed Racer: The Videogame Wii Review

When a game is based on a movie you have every right to feel wary in its presence, given the poor quality output of many licensed games. There’s exceptions though, where love has not only been shown for the game itself, but for the source material as well. Speed Racer: The Videogame, whilst quite a distance from being perfect, zooms past mediocre with its slick nature and speed.

If you’ve played futuristic racers such as WipEout and F Zero, Speed Racer (the videogame, as the title patronisingly confirms) should be familiar to you, with its eye melting speed and reliance on a few underhanded tactics to help you go speeding into the lead. The expression “life in the fast lane” is certainly very fitting here, slowing down is never much fun anyway.

Indeed the only dull part of the race is when you are waiting on the starting line for the race to commence, the rest of the time you’ll be speeding like a boy racer and employing the use of your Car-Fu.

As the rather rubbish name suggests, Car-Fu allows you to pull off some fighting moves with your car. There’s no missiles flying, mines lying in wait for any unfortunate victims, or anything of the sort, rather it’s all about using your very car as a weapon. There’s much fun to be had hopping cars onto the opponents that are silly and brave enough to get close to you, and much also has to be said for the intuitive and responsive controls.

The game can be played with or without the lovely Wii Wheel, and like Mario Kart Wii it gives you more of a feel of steering a car, something which holding the remote horizontally could never emulate as successfully (credit where credit is due, at least it attempted to do so before the Wheel arrived). Both options work really well and many of the actions are pulled off in a similar manner, whether it’s shunting your opponents or jumping on top of them whilst using Car-Fu. The rather in depth tutorial should perhaps be your first stop to let your brain absorb all of those control gestures as well as the potential racing strategies that you could employ.

When you do actually take your T-180 (it’s the name of your vehicle by the way, not a new Terminator unfortunately) into a race, you’ll be met by tracks with vivid rollercoaster like curves and massive jumps, although some do feel a little samey and unimaginative. It’s the visual flair that the game possesses that really brings them to life, and as a result it’s certainly up there with the sexiest graphics that the Wii so sparingly has to offer.

Options are adequate (championship, single races, time trials, and split screen multiplayer), having just enough but not being overly generous. The championship is unsurprisingly the mode where you’ll be unlocking new content for the game by finishing in the top three in various championships and classes. In a nice touch, recording the best lap time and using Car-Fu will earn you bonus points towards your championship score.

A 2-player split screen mode adds to the longevity of the game, and fortunately the pace of the single player has been mostly kept intact. Championships or single races can be played against another player, but the Car-Fu may see you disowned by a relative, dumped by the opposite of sex and cause you to lose some friends. You’ve been warned.

It’s just a shame that, with the striking polish of the game and the overall fast paced fun, that the AI has to be so damn cruel and irritating. The game doesn’t have any difficulty levels to speak of, but rather gets progressively more difficult depending on the class and championship that you race in. This means that by the time you reach the second class (of three) things take a turn for the rather unfair, and from then on a single mistake will see you lose your position to the cheating AI scum. Sure, this makes races all the more exciting (as well as artificially extending the lifespan), although the likes of Burnout have done it far better.

Speed Racer: The Videogame is a slick and speedy game and is one of the best looking games ever, well at least on the Wii it is. It provides plenty of fun and some thrilling racing and is one of the finest of its type on Nintendo’s popular console. You might get frustrated with the AI though, so if you’re getting therapy for anger management, then this movie licence may be one to avoid, but then again there’s certainly been worse reasons to avoid such games!