Stop, Speed Racer! Stop!
There is a commonly known fact that games based on movies are usually not very good. Speed Racer is no exception. You can almost feel the hands of Warner Bros. reaching into your pocket to grab what cash is left after a trip to the movies. Die hard fans of the series may be able to really enjoy this game, but everyone else may have a harder time.
To steer you hold and use the remote like a wheel, similar to Mario Kart style. The problem is that the controls are either too tight or too loose, whichever happens to be the most inconvenient at a given moment. For example, when you’re stuck on the wall, supposedly a simple maneuver will correct and put you back on the track. Oddly enough, neither cranking the remote nor gently tweaking it seems to help. Good luck getting back in the race.
Following along the same lines are the mediocre graphics. The sleek movie style of the Wachowski brothers becomes blurred and choppy when either going super sonic speeds or just sitting there. The best thing to do is just concentrate on your car and the small bit of track you can make out. While the scope is movie scale big, all the background action becomes an unwelcome distraction when trying just to discern the difference between other cars and the blurs that are random track art.
The racing isn’t just about driving though; the in-movie car combat translates into the game by a series of awkward flips, barrel rolls and spins to take out the other cars, aka “Car-fu.” Yah. Car-fu. It would be nice if the controls enabled this Car-fu but most of the time however, you just end up ramming head-on into a wall or rolled on your back waiting for someone to blow you into cartoon smoke and last place.
All this smashing and crashing has to happen somewhere, and that’s one of the redeemable qualities here. The tracks are massive and feature all the cool movie loops, corkscrews, speed boosts and jumps that made it worth seeing. The different Classes (of difficulty) have a set of tracks for each tournament cup that feel like natural progressions. So finishing a Class feels good and is rewarded by unlocking a the next circuit or the next Class.
But no matter how great it felt to finish first, beat a personal best time in the trials or finally get the spin attack down- it will not make you want to permanently deafen yourself any less. Through every race you will be berated with horrible video game script vomit being hurled on you by your fellow racers. Every one of them has to say/scream something when they pass you. Or are passed. Or are hit. Or hit you. Or turn left. Or feel like it. Mute alone won’t make it go way either because they are popping up with a headshot and the text just in case you can’t understand them. It eventually became the breaking point.
It’s not all a waste of time of course. The time trials give you a chance to work on your skills and practice with different cars and characters on the many tracks. And as you play more and more you’ll be unlocking a fair amount of both movie featured tracks and characters as well as appearances by Speed Racer anime classics. It is fun ripping around in two player mode trying to trash or out pace each other in your favorite ride, which is probably the best time to be had in the game. However, all this can’t really justify putting up with the horrible AI ramblings, poor graphics and awkward controls that make this game so frustrating and monotonous at times. All in all, your money is better spent seeing the movie and then spending fifty dollars in the arcade at the theater playing Racing U.S.A.