Wacky Races Crash & Dash is an odd duck. It’s been almost 40 years since a new episode of the cartoon, but it’s still apparently viable to be made into a video game. It’s also strange that while the game is obviously designed for young children, the show it’s based on is likely older than their parents. Much like the show, Wacky Races Crash & Dash is about racing, but just barely. A strange hybrid of party game, racer, and minigame collection, Wacky Races seems to subscribe to the theory of quantity over quality.
The racing portion of the game involves pointing towards the edge of the screen and following the track as it winds about, though the spartan map makes reading what’s up ahead excessively difficult. There are no accelerate or brake buttons to speak of which eliminates any real technical challenge. The game utilizes a fixed camera that also undermines any attempt at actual racing, as it punishes you for falling too far behind AND for getting too far ahead. If you decide to pull away from the pack you also pull your racer off screen, making a wreck inevitable. While the game does reward the pole position with extra boost power for the final finish line dash, it seems more focused on keeping all the players heaped on top of one another for maximum chaos and explosions. Having a talented player pull ahead early and win the race clean would not be in the spirit of wackiness.
Throughout the race, Dick Dastardly and his canine companion Muttley attempt to sabotage you and the other racers, and in the process they also end up sabotaging the fun. Every time they appear you’re forced to play one of a dozen dull minigames that require very little effort or skill. These minigames show up at least three to four times per race, and the fact that there are so few of them means they become tiresome almost immediately. The animations of Dick Dastardly and Muttley are nice, but they’re far too few and only show up to introduce the same 12 minigames over and over again. Muttley’s raspy giggle may be cute the first couple times, but after the hundredth chuckle you’ll be ready to take him for a trip behind the barn, Old Yeller style.
Featuring ten selectable racers and one hidden racer (his name rhymes with Nick Nastardly), the whole cast of the classic Wacky Races show is represented. Each racer has a unique set of wacky special powers based on their character, some more useful than others. The power ups are scattered around the course, tempting the player to drive off the beaten path in the hopes of finding a land mine to drop on Penelope Pitstop’s head. Since the player’s ability to actually navigate the course is secondary to making stuff explode, wiping all the other players off the screen becomes a viable strategy that the game actually rewards.
Crash and Dash is plagued by control problems, as the stylus is unreliable and becomes far too sensitive in winding areas. A little slip can result in your car going from full speed to reverse in no time at all. While the idea is sound, the stylus control is uncomfortable and unwieldy, and in many cases you’ll find yourself blocking the screen with your hand to play effectively. There’s also a fundamental floatiness in the controls that creates a disconnected feel from your racer. The odd physics also result in your car doing strange things like stopping on objects that are usually breakable, and generally feeling like a car made from boulders driving on a sheet of ice. Oh wait, you are. Too many wrecks and consequently, last place finishes, seemed a direct result of the faulty controls.
The camera is so close cropped on the DS screen that it becomes incredibly hard to accurately move your car around an obstacle or gauge when a turn is coming. The game also insists you blow into the microphone at the end of every race, hard. While it’s nice to have the option to use the mic, it quickly becomes obnoxious, and leaves the player light headed to boot.
If Crash & Dash does one thing well, it certainly captures the feel and chaotic nature of the show. Bouncing around between minigames and racing, while running over your opponents in a boulder car tends to keep the player in the action. While Crash & Dash may look like a racing game, it’s really more of a party game in a racer’s clothing. It has a few moments of fun, but is plagued by its dreary, repetitive minigames, questionable controls, and fundamental lack of strategy.
Jul 11, 2008