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Playstation 2 Review: Speed Racer

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Yes, the movie was bad, but give this affordable game a chance. It has strong, high speed gameplay featuring worldwide stunt racing (a.k.a. “car fu”), which presents most of the challenges if players want to be rewarded with large bonuses and win races (at speeds up to 400 MPH). Most of the action and game design is based on the movie.

The young Speed Racer and 15 other characters can be selected in the races, including Playstation 2 version exclusive Chim-Chim. Players get minimal background and motivations on the characters; just a beginning narration from Racer X, voiced by Matthew Fox, who also starred in the movie. Christina Ricci and Emile Hirsch also lend their voices as Trixie and Speed Racer respectively.

The racing aspects quickly overshadow any weaknesses due to narrow character development or lack of customization in the family team garage. The colorful graphics, roller coaster-like physics, and track setups make the eyes widen and the pulse quicken. At first the controls can be overwhelming, but going through the tutorial and carefully timing powerful moves can quickly give players the upper hand.

Players get speed boosts (four in a row triggers a super fast, auto pilot “in the zone” status) and several special maneuvers for assistance. Players hold the X button for spins and can turn their car sideways (square for left and circle for right), but the most effective move is the jump (R3) where players can barrel roll out of trouble and dispense some damage on other rival drivers. The quick camera action (triangle button) gives players quick glances behind the car. Players can also utilize the auto save option.

The 14 tutorials are a fast way to progress and unlock different vehicles. Players can access three different versions of Speed's T-180 race car, the Mach 6. Unlockable vehicles also feature grip tires, rotary saws, a periscope, a deflector, and auto jacks, which allow players to jump the tracks to valuable shortcuts.

The multiplayer mode features championship and single races with split screen presentations while the single player mode adds a time trial mode. The theme music is curiously missing, but award-winning composer Winifred Phillips covers the hard driving beat pretty well and the environments have a nice variety (and practical use – i.e. trees). Language options in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese and optional heads up display. A solid addition to a game library and essential for racing fans, developers may have short changed themselves a bit on the very affordable price (most stores at $19.99 instead of the SRP of $29.99), most likely enacted to rid audiences of the perceived failure through association of the long, chaotic film from co-directors/writers Andy and Larry Wachowski.

Speed Racer is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS and Wii.


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