The Media Man Reviews: Wacky Races 2000 (PC version) ft. Jack the Critic
Who doesn't love Wacky Races? Among the many, many, MANY franchises and properties created by Hanna-Barbera, Wacky Races ranks among my favourite of the bunch alongside Tom and Jerry and Scooby-Doo. Not only did I grow up watching the original show via re-runs on Cartoon Network and Boomerang, but I also grew up with playing one of the video-games too, which is the subject of this review.
Wacky Races has had a few video-games over the years with this particular one coming out in the year 2000. This game, simply titled "Wacky Races" (but for this review, I will review to it as "Wacky Races 2000") was released for Windows PC and the PlayStation and remains a nostalgic childhood relic of mine. Me and my brothers would spend HOURS playing this game with each of us taking it in turns to see if we could beat the Wacky Races and come out in first, unlike the continuously unlucky Dick Dastardly. XD Sadly, I had to get rid of the game because my computer is too advanced for the game to function on. I mean it came out in bloody 2000, it'd be a miracle if the game would work on today's machines at all! We do plan to get the PlayStation version as I still have a PS2 to this day (yes, I'm old. No need to remind me!) and that'll remain my only way to play this Wacky Races game.
Still, my memories are fresh enough to be able to review this despite having not played in a while. So is this nostalgic blast-from-the-past a wacky race worth participating in? Or does it deserve to trundle past the finish line behind Dick Dastardly? Well, I'm not doing it alone here for this review, I'm being joined by one of my brothers. The Media Man's Media Blog wholeheartedly asks that you welcome my amazing brother who has chosen to go under the name of Jack the Critic for this post. Say hi Jack!
Jack: Hello everyone, pip pip, tally-ho, Jack the Critic here. And I must say it's an honour to join my brother in this joint review of a valuable piece of childhood for us both.
Media Man: Indeed. So let's fasten our seatbelts and drive into Wacky Races 2000...
Section 1: The Gameplay
Media Man: As we grew up with the PC version, we're reviewing that version specifically. Also, we're skipping straight to the gameplay as there's no actual plot for this game. It's just a racing game, no story behind it or anything so no need for a plot section.
Jack: Yeah, at most there was the slightest piece of story where Dick Dastardly offers us a deal to drive his car and win him the trophy, but that backfires on him by the end as although no one is seen in the driver's seat of the Mean Machine - it's meant to play out as if we - the players are kicking him out of his own car and making off with it - but that's not saying a whole lot.
You're mostly just playing around as some of the characters and you get to try and win single races, championships and for bonus features you even get a two player mode where you can race or battle each other and a time trial mode to beat records Dick Dastardly has set. I suppose the main objective is to unlock Dick Dastardly and you do this by winning all of the Championships at least once, but then after that there's not much else to do other than complete the Dick's Revenge Championship, which is unlocked when you also unlock Dick Dastardly. But does that stop the game from being fun? Well - no. It's always very enjoyable to play and I always loved killing a couple of hours messing around on it.
Media Man: Indeed so. The game may not have much in terms of replay value as basically once you beat all the Championships, unlock Dick Dastardly and unlock the Dick's Revenge Championship, you've pretty much done it all. But the game is still a tonne of fun to play regardless of what there is to do. One thing I like about the gameplay is the high-rush feeling you should get from playing a racing game. The game has a great a feeling of speed to it as the cards drive through these race tracks and it really feels enjoyable as a result. Also each Wacky Racer feels fun to play as (with the exception of Turbo Terrific) with each racer having their own weapon or flying ability. While it might seem a bit samey, the cars all have their own performance rates with some cars being faster than others and some cars having better handling or acceleration. Their weapons also vary in effectiveness too with some weapons like the Creepy Coupe's dragon fire or the Boulder Mobile's boomerang being able to hit from long distances away while some like the Compact Pussycat's pancake flipper or Turbo Terrific's kicking boot requiring closer range in order to hit the opponent. This in turn can make each race you play feel different as no car plays exactly the same and there may be one car that you prefer to play as over the other as all gamers have their own preferred playing styles.
As for the available cars, for some weird reason, not all 11 of the Wacky Racers are actually available in the game. For playable characters, there are only Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect, Sgt. Blast and Private Meekly, the Gruesome Twosome, Red Max, the Slag Brothers and Dick Dastardly (who is unlockable). The Ant Hill Mob, Professor Pat Pending, Rufus Ruffcut and Lazy Luke & Blubber Bear are all absent here, which is confusing to me. I dunno if this was down to budget cuts or whatever but I find it strange there's a Wacky Races game that doesn't have all of them.
It's even stranger when you consider that Rufus Ruffcut in the Buzz Wagon is right there on the cover and the Ant Hill Mob appear in the game's instruction booklet. So was there plans to include the rest of the cast but they had to cut them out in the end? If anyone can find any behind-the-scenes info on this game to answer these questions, I'd really appreciate it.
Anyway, out of all the characters in the game, Dick Dastardly and Penelope Pitstop have the best cars with the Mean Machine and the Compact Pussycat having great speed and flying abilities while the Mean Machine has no set weapon and gets a random weapon every time it runs into a Wacky Symbol so you can literally hit your opponent with anything it gets. The Compact Pussycat's weapon is also very effective as it flattens the opponent into the road and stuns them for a minute. The rest of the cars also play well too...except for the Turbo Terrific. It is the worst car to play as in the game due to an atrocious turning circle that makes it harder to drive by comparison. I know the car's really long but still, it shouldn't turn anywhere near as badly as it does here. I often had the hardest time winning anything with this car because its bad turning circle would more often than not cause me to crash or fall off something.
Jack: You're telling me. The AI on the game makes it looks so easy but of course when it's our turn, it's no way near as glamorous. You lying son of a gun AI you... But that aside, Turbo Terrific does have good acceleration and its weapon which is a boot on a spring is effective enough.
I also always enjoyed using the speedy wheel feature on a hill and then activating the fly when playing as the Crimson Haybailer if one of the symbols was available because what with being a plane - for a moment it actually does fly which made it a very effective player for completing the Chilly Thrills 1 track when it comes to taking shortcuts on the track - we'll cover them more later on.
As for the symbols, there are three different colours. Blue, Orange and Purple.
Yes if you like. The orange ones are the cars' main weapons and flying features and you can collect up to three at a time before needed to restock. But they're all over the track as there's no need to worry about running short.
The blues and the purples can only be collected on at a time however. The blue ones contain a gadget of some kind like the speedy wheel I mentioned earlier, big tyres which allow you to run on water, a wacky barrier which defends you from any attack and a police siren to slow other players down thinking the police are coming. Each gadget you pick up from the blue symbols only lasts momentarily so it's always best to use them at the right times. The purple ones are always some kind of weapon or hinderance such as a log to drop in front of the players, a wrong way sign, an oil patch, a thundercloud that zaps players, even a rocket launcher! So you certainly get some variety to really take the wackiness up to the max.
While it mostly selects random - what's nice that I can remember was that pressing the question mark key for the blues and the shift key for the purples would allow you to pick the one you want so long as you timed it right. The speedy wheel and the rocket launcher were always my favourite respective blues and purples.
Media Man: I would always enjoy using the speedy wheel gadget and thundercloud weapon myself when playing the game. Anyway, the controls for the game are dead simple, especially for the PC version. As Jack mentioned, the weapon is activated by pressing the shift key on a standard computer keyboard and the flight or gadget is activated by the question mark key. Naturally, the arrow keys are how you move. There is a key that allows you to look behind yourself and see how far behind your opponents are but we can't remember which one so sorry about that.
As for the game's difficulty, I wouldn't say this was a hard game exactly, but it isn't stupidly easy either. I'd probably say it's moderate at best. Some tracks are easier to win than others and some tracks are so difficult that even when you find shortcuts in them, you're not always guaranteed to win, especially with slower cars or if you're playing with Turbo Terrific and its terrible turning. Speaking of shortcuts, as Jack brought up a moment ago, every track in the game has at least one shortcut you can exploit and a lot of these shortcuts are practically game-breaking, making it near impossible to lose once you find them. Not all tracks have these kinds of shortcuts but even on the trickier ones, the shortcuts do make it easier to win once you find them. Some of these shortcuts can be used at your leisurely pleasure while at least one shortcut on Canyon Craze 2 requires the big wheel gadget in order to successfully exploit. The fact it even lasts long enough for you to exploit said shortcut is especially convenient. XD
As for the tracks, you get four different themes for each one with the themes being (in that order for each Championship) canyons, forests, a city and snowy mountains. There are four different versions of each theme, five if you include the unlockable Dick's Revenge Championship in which each track there continues the same canyon, forest, city and snow patterns that the others followed. If you're curious on which tracks are easy, especially with the shortcuts, I would say Canyon Craze 1, Silly Hills 1, Chilly Thrills 1, Canyon Craze 2, Silly Hills 3, Down & Town 3, Canyon Craze 4, Dick's Revenge 1, Dick's Revenge 2 and Dick's Revenge 4 while the tougher tracks are Silly Hills 2, Silly Hills 4, Canyon Craze 3 (ESPECIALLY if you're playing with Turbo Terrific!) Chilly Thrills 4 and Dick's Revenge 3. While some people like me prefer easier games because they're less frustrating to play, I imagine some players may find this game underwhelming because of how easy it can be, especially when using shortcuts.
Also some of these tracks are pretty short and thus over and done with very quickly, such as Canyon Craze 4, Down & Town 3 and Dick's Revenge 3, which may also leave some unsatisfied. I myself prefer longer tracks like what you'd see in Gran Turismo 3, Mario Kart Wii or Team Sonic Racing as a good long race feels more exciting than one that's over with quickly but I still enjoy racing through these tracks. Not only do many of them have creative layouts and designs to race through, but they also have the occasional obstacle to add an extra challenge to the race and potentially slow you down or screw over your opponents. A particular favourite of mine is Dick's Revenge 2 with its tornado trap that you have to be careful to avoid, lest you be swept up and taken for a spin while your opponents catch up to you. I even wonder if that's why Dick chose that track to be a part of his challenge. XD
Jack: Probably so :D So that one I reckon more or less covers the gameplay. It's fast, fun and there's no set difficulty or the option to choose your difficulty, more or less what you see and play is what you get. We always had hours of fun on it between us both. Now, let's move on and talk about the graphics.
Section 2: The Graphics
Jack: ...they haven't aged well. On the other hand, they're certainly not bad either. For the pros, for something that came from 2000 and was 3D animated, it captures the overall essence of Wacky Races very well I find. The cars look enough like how they're supposed to look and nothing looks out of place when comparing the cars you're playing as to their surroundings.
But of course nowadays due to advances in technology and so on, if the game was to be made now, the graphics would look a hell of a lot better but that's not really saying a lot as it kind of goes without saying. It's easy to tell it's a game from 2000 and that's what it is and we can't change that.
Anyplace the graphics fail would easily be the drivers of the cars as while you can tell it's them, there's minimal detailing on the faces. I especially remember Dick Dastardly being very under-detailed. On the other hand the opening and closing cutscenes were always very nice to look at. It's one of those things that happens with video games from time to time where the opening and closing cutscenes look very nice compared to the rest of the game - much like the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game for those who are well familiar with that one.
Media Man: Aye, the game's cutscenes are animated with actual CGI animation and not the game's engine so they're able to give us some neat looking visuals that while looking dated, still do a good job on recreating the world of Wacky Races in 3-D and staying true to that distinctive Hanna-Barbera style that made Wacky Races what it is. I especially enjoy the closing cutscene where the player takes Dastardly's car as it's funny watching the car just suddenly move on its own and throws them out and then the other racers run Dastardly over after he yells "GO!". Hilarious! XD If the graphics had more convincing lighting in these cutscenes, they would've really looked spectacular.
As for the game's graphics, yeah, Jack's right when he says they haven't aged well. This is very clearly late 90's-early 2000's graphics where everything still looks like it was made on a computer and textures are more just painted onto everything than looking even remotely convincing. But for a game based on Wacky Races, I feel it works in this case. This is a game based on a cartoon after all so realism isn't the aim of the game here. If anything, the painted on textures just add further to that Wacky Races style and make it look more like the world of the cartoon but in 3-D and also sticks true to the Hanna-Barbera style as the backgrounds would more or less be drawn that way.
I love the way the cars all look in the game too. Each one looks like it leapt straight out of the cartoon with a spot-on representation of their designs only in 3-D and all the details are there too from the tiles on the roof of the Creepy Coupe to the shines on the Mean Machine's paintwork. They all keep their cartoony proportions too, which makes these feel even more authentic as 3-D versions of the Wacky Races. I only wish we could've seen the Bulletproof Bomb in this game's style but hey, what can you do? While the cars are well designed, like Jack said earlier, the drivers leave a lot to be desired. The only animation on them is whenever their cars turn or if the Slag Brothers bonk each other on the head. They have no facial animations at all, always sporting the same expressions throughout and some of them aren't even rendered with actual limbs! Big Gruesome in particularly has his arms just painted on the sides of his body and in the Mean machine, Dick and Muttley LITERALLY are rendered and designed without arms! I know the cars are the main attractions here but they still could've put more effort into designing the drivers in their cars instead of having them is mostly static figures! But hey, early video-game graphics could only get you so far back then so it's not really their fault they only had so much to work with.
Another quick thing to note is that in-game, we get the occasional little 2-D animation such as Dastardly and Muttley in the game's menu or whenever the player completes a championship. There's a cutscene for each racer and the animation perfectly captures their original hand-drawn designs, although there's not that much animation to be found here. The characters go through a loop and their mouths barely even match what they're saying half the time. One noteworthy example is the cutscene where Dick Dastardly lets us have the Mean Machine. He says a whole sentence and his mouth doesn't move ONCE during that sentence! Once again, I'm sure that's nobody's fault and the crew could only work with what they had at the time so I'm not holding that against them. The fact they even went the extra mile and put in these little 2-D cutscenes was a nice touch to bring forth that Wacky Races feel and I imagine for any adults playing this game, it might've felt nostalgic to see them.
Jack: Indeed it might've. And now that we've more or less said everything about the graphics, that will now bring us onto the overall conclusion of our thoughts on the game.
Media Man: Wacky Races 2000 maybe old and outdated by today's standards and is rather simplistic with not much else to do in the end, but it's a game that me and my bro will always have fond memories of playing. It's a fun racing game that keeps true to the spirit of Wacky Races with some creative tracks and fun weapons to play around with as you drive around in your favourite cars. If you enjoy racing games or are a fan of Wacky Races, you may like this one. Just make sure you have a PC that is compatible with games from 2000 or at least buy the PS1 version and play it on any PlayStation consoles you may have that still play PS1 games. I say fasten your seatbelts and rev it up in this Wacky Race...
Jack: So overall for me, I personally reckon this game still holds up pretty well. Yes - the graphics may not have aged well and yes they could have done with making all the characters from Wacky Races playable, this game is still very decent all in all and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
All the nostalgia it holds - especially whenever I remember all the hours of fun I had on it and watching Media Man and my other brother play on it too. It could possibly also have been one of the first proper computer games I was ever able to play properly given how young I was when we first got it - so that will be a nice bonus if it was. (By proper - I mean a game with an actual objective to achieve - that being unlocking Dastardly. Any games I could do by myself were Thomas the Tank Engines ones which had individual activities.)
And so much so with the nostalgia that at the time of writing this I re-ordered the game sometime ago for the PS1 for soul purposes of replaying it out of nostalgic feeling and our computer is no longer able to play games from 2000. So if any of you would like to see a sort of mini-post of us comparing the PC and PlayStation version, don't hesitate to let us know ;)
But for now - that wraps this one from me and it has been a great honour for me to collab with my fellow brother on this one. I look forward to any possibilities of doing so again, but for now - so long, fare-thee-well. :)
Media Man Thank you Jack. It's been great to have you here.
That's it for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and as usual, feel free to share your thoughts down below. Do you like this game? Do you not like it? Do you have any memories of playing it or is this your first time hearing about it? And I hope you enjoyed my brother getting to join in with this review.
Join me next week when I review one of my all-time favourite Pixar movies. See you then everyone!
Special thanks to my brother, "Jack the Critic" who you can find on Instagram.