With a game like Speed Racer, you know what you want going in: full-tilt racing, crazy stunts, and the opportunity to crash your opponents as often as possible. This DS speed demon delivers all of that.
The game picks up where the movie left off and lets you get behind the wheel as Speed Racer, Trixie, Racer-X, or any of 13 other familiar characters. The Mach 6 is present, of course, and each car offers three different paint jobs. Multiple cups, stunt competitions, and battle events also give you the chance to become intimately acquainted with every hairpin, turbo pad, and launch ramp located on the game's 19 individual tracks.
Most of that stuff is locked in the beginning. To unlock those goodies, you need to gain fans. And to do that, you have to perform stunts and win events.
Which brings us to the racing itself. This is a smash-a-riffic arcade style racer that is fast, fast, fast. Nuances inspired by the film - such as the ability to perform stunts and land on your opponents - allow you to refill your boost reserves and keep the speedometer pinned at 350 miles per hour.
Just like Speed could in the movie, you can make the car jump, spin, or flip from anywhere on the track simply by pressing a button. Get close enough to an opponent and you can activate your “Car Fu,” a fancy name for a quick, Matrix-inspired minigame that usually ends with you bouncing the other guy right off the track.
They didn't include any actual video or voice work from the movie, aside from an introductory clip, but you probably won't mind that since the vehicles and action are otherwise faithful to the film (and the whole Speed Racer franchise, generally speaking). The 3D tracks look great, and they're loaded with loops, half-pipes, and insane jumps that literally whiz by. The roaring engines and pulsing techno soundtrack also fit right in with the flashy surroundings of Speed's futuristic world.
A short list of negatives is worth bearing in mind: It's too easy to ram CPU opponents and avoid their attacks, the offline multiplayer requires everyone to have their own cartridge, and you'll probably win every event in a day or two.
While those negatives seem significant on paper, the reality is that when you're actually playing, you'll find that the game's intensity has a way of luring you back for more. After all, making your car do a sideways flip off of a course boundary and land on another car while rocketing along at 350mph is awesome whether it's the first or the 101st time you've done it.
May 13, 2008