While the SEGA Dreamcast may not be considered super old school this is probably one of the most underrated and sought after systems today. While the system was only on sale for 17 months in the US it has one of the most unique library of games. While heavily supported by Sega of course there was strong support from third-party developers also. Infogrames was a strong supporter of the system and one of the more interesting games that they developed for it was Wacky Races.
Based on the 1968 Hanna-Barbera animated series it was a very impressive and spot on look of the series. Using cel shaded graphics that gave the game the look of 2D animation, it featured all of the racers from the show. They hired top-notch voice actors Jim Cummings, Billy West, and Janet Waldo who did the original voice of Penelope Pitstop in the series and dialog for the game.
Here is a video of the game play that will give you an idea of what the game is like;
Let’s be honest here that this racing game and every other kart based game is just a Mario Kart clone. While that is pretty evident here the thing that make the game so much fun is the sheer nostalgia of it. While the game was later ported and expanded to the PS2 that version was only released in the UK and is in PAL. So for US fan you will need to hunt down a copy for the Dreamcast. Visually the 16-year-old game holds up pretty well. The cel shaded cars and backgrounds are very pleasing and look really cool. While the game engine is a bit on the spotty side at times and the camera has its challenge but you can adjust the camera that helps a bit.
Playing the game is like the cartoon come to life. Beyond the great visuals the voices are spot on to the original series. What give the game an edge over many other kart clones is the narration during the race that is not only informative but adds a level of great fun and humor to the game. While you are racing the cars really do a great job of capturing each car and their divers rubbery animation feel that other kart game generally do not have. It give the game a very unique feel while you are playing.
The controls are good and easy to learn. One of the best things is the special weapons are player button selected and are on-screen during the race to help you remember what is what. The right trigger controls the speed while the left is the break. The cars actually handle well with the joystick and its pretty easy to pick up the game and start playing. One nice little touch is that if you have a VMU plugged in the driver that you have chosen is on the screen during the game. You can change drivers at any time during the game. Each car has its pluses and minuses but overall there are no cars that are impossible to control. One of the funnest aspect is that you will want to try all of the cars to see each of their wonderful animations.
The 22 tracks are the real key to the game’s success. The game has a ton of them to choose from but be forewarned that you will need to unlock a lot of them so you will need to win or place in the lower ones to open up the other tracks. The overall sheer number of tracks is very impressive.
While there are some frame rate issue in the game overall they don’t drag the game down and make it unplayable, it’s just noticeable but not fatal. If there are a lot of cars bunched up on the screen is when you really notice it. The audio is simply fantastic with the obvious voice acting but the music is based on the great Hanna-Barbera composer Hoyt Curtin original score the sound designers of the game were very wise in keeping it nearly the same as the series. The AI for the game is pretty easy and I never noticed that when you play the one player that the AI gangs up on you like in some games. It’s pretty forgiving here and you can catch up pretty easy.
There is a four player split mode that makes for a great party game and with the Dreamcast’s four port controllers it’s easy to set up. When you play the four player mode the graphics do take a fairly good hit but when you are playing with four players you are forgiving for that because of all of the fun that your having with it. This game is both great for young and older gamers. While it’s easy for the younger set there is a lot of deep racing for the seasoned gamer. Sadly Wacky Races is not one of the games that supports true VGA output but if you have a VGA cable it will look the best otherwise it still looks good with S-Video output over regular video output.
Overall this is a must have game for any Dreamcast owner. The game is in the $25 to $40 dollar range currently and should be fairly easy to come across. The big reason to own the game is simply because it’s Wacky Races and while the pure nostalgia would be a win, the game really has a lot going for it. The presentation captures the feel of the cartoon and all of the fun. The graphics are on the higher end for games of the period and the Dreamcast. The sound on the game is nearly perfect with a great overall mix and sound that is the biggest win for the game. The game play overall is tight and very easy to control and works on any age and skill and is easy to pick up and play. The long-term play-ability of the game is quite good with lots of tracks to unlock but a lot of great ones that are available to play at the beginning. Throw in a fun four player mode that will have your friends coming to your house a lot because once you get hook to this game it’s hard to put down.