Hot Wheels Velocity X is a significant improvement over the Hot Wheels games that were previously available for the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. Developer Saffire made the wise decision to drop the first-person viewpoint and instead go with a tilted two-dimensional presentation that leaves enough of the GBA's resources free to include a pleasant and varied game design as well. Velocity X does a good job of re-creating the toy car experience, and the inclusion of power-up items and weapons doesn't take away too much from your ability to perform tricks or speed through loops.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2003/gba/hotwheels/0001.jpgA corkscrew and tiny cars: This is Hot Wheels.
You won't be blown away by the visuals or the audio, although they certainly are appropriate. Each of the 15 different cities is full of streets, ramps, and loops that you and the other cars have to navigate. You see everything from a vantage point located above your car, which means that you can't see the entire course at any given time. This can make it difficult to manage an unfamiliar series of sharp turns, due to the reaction time involved, but overall it's not a major problem since there are arrows that guide you to each successive checkpoint. The cities are colorful and generally resemble the Hot Wheels play sets you'll find in stores, which means they include the frequent use of features like corkscrew loops, twists, and turbo launchers. The cars themselves look fine, but that's where things start to get a little shaky. For whatever reason, there's just no animation to convey the sense of a car's interaction with the environment. The wheels don't move and the bodies don't gleam. The cars always look the same no matter what direction you're traveling or what you're passing under. A similar situation exists with the game's audio. The music is saccharine, but not terribly diverse, and the sound effects do their job, although there really aren't many of them.
Even so, the flaws in the presentation don't kill the fun you can experience while actually playing the game. There's a story mode where you compete against rival gangs and carry out missions in order to unlock new cars and challenges. You can also use the cars you earn in the story mode in the other two modes. The race mode lets you set up a custom race against six other opponents, while the challenge mode lets you compete in destruction derbies and tag matches in any of five separate arenas. Each car has its own unique characteristics in terms of speed, acceleration, traction, and armor, so there is some incentive to switch cars and figure out which is the best to use for each specific track or mission. For the most part, it's really easy to drive in Hot Wheels Velocity X, since you only need to steer and accelerate. It may seem odd to be missing a brake, but the cars slow down pretty quickly when you take away the gas. The other three buttons are used to activate the power-up items you collect during the race and to perform tricks when you leap over ramps. It's not a complex setup, but the juxtaposition of loops and jumps with oil slicks and missiles is enjoyable.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2003/gba/hotwheels/0002.jpgDrop an oil slick to distract opponents.
Truth be told, Hot Wheels Velocity X does bear the signs of a product designed for a very young audience. Tricks are easy to perform, but that's really only because there are just seven of them. At the same time, the missions and races you'll face aren't altogether challenging. If you speed ahead of the pack, you can abuse the oil slick item and stay there. If you're lagging behind, you can grab a turbo boost or a machine gun to blast past or literally blast apart opponents.
Nevertheless, while the easygoing nature of the game is something to be wary of, it also doesn't significantly detract from how enjoyable the game is. Hot Wheels Velocity X feels like a Saturday morning spent playing with toy cars. That's its purpose, and to that end it succeeds nicely.