Here he comes, here comes speed racer — he’s a demon on wheels! That’s right everyone’s old favourite is back on the track and the big screen this winter with a new blockbuster film. Movie to game conversions have a reputation for being notoriously bad, and with the blockbuster film being universally panned by critics, this game seems to have everything stacked against it right from the offset. However does the game, like Speed Racer, still come out on top against all adversity?
The movie and game seem to be closely related on the surface. They’re both set in Speed’s hometown, Cosmopolis, home to the rollercoaster like racing stadiums oft seen. All of the cars are poached directly from the film, as are many of the racing stadiums. Matthew Fox (Racer X), Christina Ricci (Trixie) and of course, Emile Hirsh (Speed Racer) lend their voices.
That’s where the similarities end though. The game’s story is set an entire year after the events of the movie but the lack of any real storyline makes this disappointingly irrelevant.
You start out competing against 12 CPU controlled racers, and as you advance through the World Racing League you’ll find yourself head to head with
up to 20 experienced practitioners of Car-Fu. Yes you read correctly, Car-Fu is martial arts — for the car, turning your car into a weapon to literally take your rivals out of the race. The simplicity of the moves however cheapens the experience completely.
The tracks are well designed with an exuberant and fluorescent colour palette. Reminiscent of roller coasters, every track features something new and exciting, be it large sweeping corners and tunnels, or huge leaps and jumps, every track features something new.
The lack of a decent multiplayer mode definitely hurts Speed Racer, leaving little depth after a short single player experience. Players can race 1 v 1 split screen only and sadly there’s no online multiplayer to speak of.
Speed Racer is a game that had potential to be a real hit, with excellent track design and an experience reminiscent of the classic F-Zero. The lack of decent multiplayer options as well as a poor attempt at a story cheapens the entire experience, as does the overly simple Car-Fu. With the healthy competition available in this genre, Speed Racer just doesn’t make the grade.