Reviewed: July 14, 2008
Released: June 17, 2008
I’m not quite sure what the impetus was for releasing the DS version of Wacky Races: Crash & Dash – but it seems to me that a top-down stylus-driven racer based on an antiquated cartoon series that aired 40 years ago would not be something that the kids of today would be spending their allowance on. Apparently somebody thinks there is gold in them thar’ hills, because that’s just what we have with Wacky Races for the DS.
A Saturday morning cartoon that technically pre-dates my own childhood (although we did get reruns in the early 1970’s), Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races series featured a colorful cast of characters pitted in a wild road rally circuit across the globe. The characters included a buxom beauty (Penelope Pitstop), a muscle-bound jock (Peter perfect), a hillbilly (Lazy Luke), even a couple of monsters (The Gruesome Twosome) and cavemen (The Slag Brothers), and many more.
The show was loosely based on the film The Great Race, and was a seed for Hanna-Barbara’s later successes with the Laff-A-Lympics. For the most part, each episode followed an identical plotline in which the main villain, Dick Dastardly, and his diabolical dog Muttley attempt to an array of sabotage and subterfuge to eliminate the 10 other racing teams from finishing the race.
The question as to why Dick and Muttley – who were almost always in the lead – would waste the time to worry about the racers behind them is beyond my line of reasoning – but it made for good Saturday morning TV at the time, so we are willing to look beyond silly details like that.
In order to bring the series to the DS, developers have crafted a top-down racer in which the chosen vehicle is driven as if being pulled by a bungee cord attached to the stylus. This means that the speed of the vehicle is controlled dynamically by manipulating the distance between the stylus and car, and the turning by snaking the stylus across the touch screen.
This control scheme is admittedly quite unique, but the lack of forward visibility that comes with the limited isometric perspective results in a slightly aggravating experience. I only say “slightly”, because the overall degree of difficulty is so elementary, that it’s hardly worth the time it takes to drag your vehicle around the screen.
Wacky Races includes a number of team-specific power-ups that racers can employ to get a leg up on the competition. While these power-ups are a great service to fans of the series (as they hint at actual bits from the original cartoon), these power-ups are hardly necessary for maintaining a sizeable lead.
As with the original show, gamers will happen upon booby-traps that have been laid by Dick Dastardly. These roadblocks result in quick cutscene mini-games that must be successfully completed to continue on with the race. These stylus-based mini-games range from swatting bugs, to wiping fog, to a simple game of connect-the-dots. None are all that difficult, but do break up the monotony a bit.
The strangest part of Wacky Races would have to be the final stretch of each race, which requires gamers to blow frantically into their DS microphones or furiously scrawl across the screen with the stylus. While this again adds a slightly different dimension to the racing genre, the overarching absurdness of blowing your way to victory is puzzling.
The presentation is authentic to the source material, and really stands out as the silver lining on this package. Visually, the characters look exactly like the original show, and the sound effects and voice clips seem to have been lifted directly off the old cartoon reels. The entire package really worked to stir up some memories of my youth, and quickly had me Wikipedia-ing loads of Saturday morning TV from my childhood.
But that’s where the game ultimately fails…memories.
You see, there is a certain nostalgic element that comes from the inclusion of the entire Wacky Races cast – but the fact that this nostalgia only appeals to the 40 and over crowd (and the handful of kids catching reruns on the Cartoon Network). it just does not make much sense to mix it with a kindergarten-quality racer.
Wacky Races stands as a nice homage to the old schoolers, but not much fun for the new.