There’s something to be said for the kitchy vibe of “Speed Racer” — the familiar intonations of the Mach 6 jumping over a rival car and the cheesy characters who never tire of competing on neon-colored race tracks. Unfortunately not much of that vibe shines through in Warner Bros’ new game based on the classic cartoon and new movie, marring what’s otherwise a thrilling racing experience. Despite its lack of personality, “Speed Racer: The Videogame” delivers a surprisingly fun and fast-paced ride that should appeal to the movie’s young demo.
The “Speed Racer” game has a colorful, cartoonish look that’s right in line with the series and gives the cars and tracks fantastic neon pop. But while the visuals and many of the sound effects are spot-on, there really isn’t a story. The characters are literally props that just show up between races standing mutely on a selection screen. The game does feature the voices of Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer, Matthew Fox as Racer X and Christina Ricci as Trixie, but they do little more than parrot the same few corny phrases over and over during races.
“Speed Racer” players steer 19 different cars from the film and series, including the titular hero’s Mach 6 and Racer X’s Shooting Star, by tilting the Wii remote. They can launch attacks on opponents by jerking it forward or to the side and pushing buttons. Game even works with the Wii wheel attachment that Nintendo recently shipped with its new “Mario Kart.” The result is a racing title that feel more visceral than most and makes slamming a competitor off the neon-colored, gravity defying tracks incredibly satisfying.
The single player championship series ramps up in difficulty a bit too quickly and may leave some feeling exasperated with the game well before it’s over. Fortunately, the split-screen multiplayer allows gamers a chance to race a friend on one television. While it would have been nice to see support for four players, the speed and detail of the courses probably would have made such a game unplayable.
The DS version of the game doesn’t have quite as much to offer as the Wii version. Stripping away the motion controls without adding much more in the way of gameplay and then forcing gamers to buy multiple copies of the game to play with friends makes this version significantly less attractive, even at a lower price.