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Speed Racer Runs Out of Gas -- Fast

In Speed Racer, the tracks are elaborate, but the scenery grows old quickly, which hurts its replay value.
In Speed Racer, the tracks are elaborate, but the scenery grows old quickly, which hurts its replay value. (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)
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Friday, May 16, 2008

The Wachowskis helped rewrite Hollywood and video game convergence with Enter the Matrix, a game that offered an original story featuring the actors from "The Matrix Reloaded" film. With Speed Racer, they've brought actors Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer), Matthew Fox (Racer X) and Christina Ricci (Trixie) along for this virtual sequel.

The title has 17 additional playable characters and cars, including some exclusive to the game. As a result, Speed Racer offers great racing mechanics but has a rushed feel. (The PlayStation 2 version will have more time to develop; it comes out in the fall.)

First, the good stuff. The Wii game does offer the speed, thrills and excitement of the new big-screen film.

Anyone who has played Nintendo's classic F-Zero franchise will find similarities in Speed Racer, which is good, because Nintendo knows racing (as Mario Kart Wii recently proved). The elaborate tracks, which feature loop-the-loops and curves straight out of toy slot car sets, allow 20 vehicles to race at a time. Gameplay revolves around "car-fu," the ability to perform amazing attack moves such as tail-flips, jumps and smack-downs. Adding to the racing challenges are allies and rivalries, which can affect the amount of car-fu you and others can perform. Pulling off the moves is a snap, especially with Nintendo's new Wii Wheel. Even those new to the Speed Racer universe will be able to hit the gas and go.

Unfortunately, the gameplay lacks depth. There are only five racing environments, so the scenery soon grows old. Also, there's no online gameplay, which really hurts replay value. That said, Speed Racer is worth taking for a rental test drive. With additional development time, perhaps it can deliver on all cylinders with fall's PS2 version.

-- John Gaudiosi

Speed Racer Everyone; Nintendo Wii ($50) Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Speed Racer Everyone; Nintendo Wii ($50) Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment


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