The worst mistake a gamer could make is to dismiss this game as just for kids and take a pass on it. While the game holds all the standard fare for a racing game, the nostaglia involved in playing, not to mention the pure fun you have makes this offering from Stormfront Studios (published by EA) one of the best games in the racing genre.
Let’s face facts — we all played with Hot Wheels cars growing up. We had the funny cars, the buggys, and of course the Scooby Doo lookin’ Mystery Machine van. One of the best parts about this game is that you can race all of them. Who doesn’t remember crashing their Hot Wheels cars into everything all around the house? Who doesn’t recall making all those "Vroomm, Vroom!" sounds as you pulled your Hot Wheels along the ground? Who doesn’t want to relive all the times the kids in grammar school would throw Hot Wheels cars at you because they said you were different? Okay skip that last one, but you get what I’m saying. Now you can race and crash all those Hot Wheels cars on some of the best tracks in any racing game on the market.
Not only are the tracks creative, but many sections of them are actually parts from your old Hot Wheels racing sets. That’s right, you’ve got the all-famous blue loops among other parts that send you right back to age 7 on the floor in your bedroom. Additonally, there are enough short-cuts and alternative ways of completeing the tracks to keep you exploring for many, many days.
And you’ll have to do quite a bit of exploring because the absolute numero uno part about the game is that they hide the top cars from you. You have to either win races, win a Championship mode or actually find them in boxes hidden on the tracks themselves. There is no better moment in the game than after you finish a race waiting for the screen to come up to show you which car you just found. It was just like Christmas all over again.
You’ll do almost anything and go three miles out of your way to find those damn boxes. As in most racing games, you can also open up whole new hidden tracks by winning a Championship mode.
The game is not just about making across the finish line in first place though. Half the fun is the amazing stunts you can do. Pulling off the best stunts leads to getting turbo boosts, which are essential to winning races.
It was a nice uncomplicated way to link risk-taking action to overall performance. If you’re well-ahead you can play it conservative and not do too many stunts to get turbo boosts, but if your behind, you’ll have to pull out all the stops and do some radical stunts to beef up on turbos in order to catch up.
The cars themselves are very well done graphically. You’ll think you just opened the box with all the detail they throw in. Also the cars are made to look small when compared to the track they’re racing on, adding to the feel that you’re playing with your Hot Wheels back on the playground.
The soundtrack is decent but nothing to write home to mom about. It does boast big names like Metallica and Primus though. However, the sound effects are top notch. Between the tires screeching and the announcers marvelling at your triple barrel roll, the sound effects definetley add to the gaming experience.
The one real fault that the game has though is that the races can become like marathon sessions. It’s six laps, rather than the standard three or four to win a race in the championship mode. Thankfully you don’t have to win every race to move on, but you only have to have the most points at the end of the series of races in order to be crowned King of the World.
I’m worried that this game will be overlooked because A) It’s yet another racing game in an already over-crowded market and B) Hot Wheels does make you think the game is only for kids. While the game is indeed for kids, I would argue that adults (or at least semi-adults like my wife keeps telling me I am) will enjoy the game even more thanks to the memories of childhood the game is bound to bring to mind. Of course if memories of your childhood have you reaching for your bottle of Prozac because your dad used to crush your Hot Wheels when you were an evil little person, you might want to take a pass on this one. Otherwise enjoy this 4 GiN Gem offering. I know I did.
Platforms: Nintendo 64, PlayStation