I love the Speed Racer movie.
I'm well aware of it's many, many flaws.
But when I see stuff like that, my inner child just squeals in joy.
The bright colors. The silly cars. The beautiful CG. The sliding heads. The hammy acting and crappy dialog. The story that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The lame jokes. The ninjas.
Everything about that movie just speaks to me on a level I cannot comprehend. I watch it, and know it's not that good, but I can't help but smile every time I see it. For me, it's that
movie. One that brings an indescribable amount of joy.
But let's not talk about the movie. Let's talk about the video game.
Speed Racer: The Video Game
(which on the box is one word but I hate red squigglies) came out a few years back. I remember renting it from my local Blockbuster (which for those of you too young to know, is like Netflix but with the fun of driving to a store), enjoying it immensely for my 5 day rental period, returning it, and then forgetting about it.
I was at Gamestop, browsing through the used games section. The Wii Section has been regulated to a single shelf towards the back, stuffed full with games squeezed tight. I'm always drawn to those sections, because you can usually find diamonds in the rough with a little patience. Speed Racer: The Video Game
is my diamond in the rough.
And it only cost me five bucks.
While other people my age are there pre-ordering Grand Theft Auto or buying Call of Duty, I'm proudly buying an old and almost forgotten licensed game.
And having way too much fun with it.
Speed Racer: The Video Game oozes licensed game from the moment you turn it on. The presentation is quite bland, first of all. The load screen is white with some barely noticeable darker spots to add texture. The introduction is just badly compressed gameplay footage strung together. The start screen is boring. The menus are dull.
There aren't many options. Single Player and Multi-Player. Both have championships and single races, with Time Trials to wrap it up. That's it.
That's all you need.
Once you actually get into a race, the game becomes something joyous to play. You can choose to play as one of many Speed Racer characters (who may have been hidden in the movie or part of the anime) and race around on what can only be described as giant Hot Wheels-style tracks.
Driving is quite easy, with a gas and brake button, and you tilt the Wii Mote to steer. Rather than steering completely around the track, you're more or less sliding left and right, and you can't fall off without considerable back luck.
Doesn't sound so great yet? We haven't talked about Car-Fu.
Car-Fu is basically the game's combat system. By jabbing the Wii Mote in certain directions, you can jerk your car to the side, jump, do flips, use your car as a a homing missile, and all kinds of other crazy moves. And it's satisfying to pull off! You can drive up behind another car, do a backflip and land right on their roof, spinning them out! You can slam into a car next to you.
You can do combos!
You haven't lived until you landed on a car in front of you, shoved into the car next to you (getting a combo) and boosted out of the way to the front line. It's incredibly satisfying, made all the move so by the way the game slows down and the other drivers deliver taunts. Nothing feels better!
The game was released to fairly mediocre reviews, and despite my squealing, those reviews are deserved. The game feels unfinished in a lot of ways. The racing itself is great, but as I said, the menus are bland. Winning a championship results in sliding artwork with little fanfare. Load times are long. There is little artwork for each character. And outside of the championships, there just isn't much to the game.
But it seems like the developers knew where to put their focus--in the gameplay. And that gameplay is some of the most fun you'll ever have. There isn't a lot of tracks, but what's there is quite a blast.
There are far worse ways to spend five bucks and a few hours.