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Wacky Races: Crash and Dash

For: DS

Well-meaning geriatric cartoon licence crashes and burns

Product: Wacky Races: Crash & Dash | Developer: Farmind | Publisher: Eidos plc | Format: DS | Genre: Film/ TV tie- in, Racing | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Wacky Races: Crash & Dash DS, thumbnail 1
Amazing but true. Eight years ago to this day I reviewed Wacky Races on the Game Boy Colour. It was a playable into-the-screen, control the road and not the car racer that took Hanna Barbara's imaginative but ageing cartoon spoof of an even older Blake Edwards movie and turned it into a Mario Kart clone.

Since then Maximus Desimus Meridius has had his vengeance, Tony Blair has left Number 10, and the Real Slim Shady has stood up. But none of this matters a jot to Wacky Races: Crash & Dash, which is out to package the same old derivative nonsense in shiny new DS wrapper.

And yet it all begins so audaciously. Wacky Races: Crash and Dash opens like Hitler invading Poland - to use a crushingly inappropriate simile (quite - ed) - with a Blitzkrieg of innovation. None more outlandish than the fact that the races are continually being interrupted with sub-games.

Every half lap or so, Dick Dastardly and Muttley will appear on your screen and you'll be catapulted – via a chucklesome cut-scene – into a short and sharp action sequence. You might have to clear bombs from your car's path. You might have to pump up your car's tyres. You might have to swat some robot mosquitoes.

The thing with the sub-games, though, is that there aren't very many of them. The other thing, is that they're not much cop. A sequence that sees you having to use the stylus to join the dots to repair a blown up bridge is particularly wearisome, and the constant interruptions soon become something of a chore.

The races themselves also burp a gust of garlic breath in the face of fashion. Wacky Races: Crash and Dash is a top down racer – like Grand Theft Auto before it was brilliant – and you control the car by swiping your stylus in front of it.

To be fair, this is a neat idea and allows you to get straight into the thick of things, barging and bumping amongst the game's large and charismatic sprites.

On later levels, though (the game's six cups are made up of three races) as the tracks become much narrower and are liberally littered with stuff to crash into, this neat idea becomes more of a niggling frustration.

Steering with a stylus is an inexact business. It seems to allow a large margin for error on the easy tracks, while success on the tougher courses demands the unforgiving precision of brain surgery.

The third and most successful innovation sees the usual controls suspended when you reach the home straight of a race, in favour of you dementedly scratching the stylus back and forth and blowing into the DS microphone. An energetic effort can lift you a place or two while humiliating you in front of your fellow South West Trains passengers. At the very least then, the developers have tried.

But for all the developers' effort the cart still grips like slick tyres in a monsoon. Some of the game's flaws are common to other Mario Kart variants; for example, winning often depends as much on luck with power-ups as skill.

The game's large sprites, the lack of braking, and unusual shifts in perspective don't give you much time to respond and add to the feeling that success is often a mere lottery. Drive like an angel and one bad mistake at the close of the race will see you back in midfield. Drive like a pillock and two good power-ups before the close will see you on the podium.

You don't need to own a well-thumbed copy of Tractatus Logico-Philiosophicus to see there's also a bigger philosophical problem here. Wacky Races: Crash and Dash is a racing game with ambivalent feelings about being a racing game. It doesn't trust itself or its audience. Over-anxious to please the attention-wandering of young children, its jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none lack of conviction ironically makes it extremely boring.

Exciting racing games, whether they be Gran Turismo, or Burnout, or Mario Kart, don't need bulking out with sub-games. If Wacky Races delivered heart-stopping pedal-to-metal thrills, breaking the action up with games of dot-to-dot would be gameplay death. As it is, Crash and Dash is a below average racer, and tacking a load of second rate sub-games onto it simply reinforces, rather than hides, the fact that it isn't very good.
Wacky Races: Crash and Dash
Reviewer photo
Scott Anthony | 9 July 2008
Despite a wave of innovations manages to be less enjoyable than the near decade old GBC version. Less of the Wacky and more of the wack
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