Midway sent over the latest preview version of its PlayStation 2 combat racing game Freaky Flyers recently, and we've spent some time with the game to see how it's shaping up as its release date approaches. Freaky Flyers has been in development for quite some time, as the game was announced two years ago, and Midway now says the PS2 version is on track for an early May release. The game features an enormous number of playable characters, both initially available and unlockable, as well as a visually diverse assortment of tracks and several game modes to play around with.
Freaky Flyers is most directly comparable to the flying portions of Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64. It takes madcap, Mario Kart-style racing and replaces the typical go-karts with small planes, which gives the course designers extra opportunities to create shortcuts and alternate paths through the levels. As you race, you'll find item boxes marked with a question mark hovering around the level, and when you fly through one, you'll receive a special item or weapon that you can use during the race. These items include homing missiles and speed boosts, among others. Furthermore, each level has a great number of collectible items--the forest level has you collecting acorns, for instance--and when you collect enough of them you'll receive a special bonus, such as a second item slot so you can hold two items at once. Each level also has an assortment of secondary goals that you can optionally complete, like dislodging a dam to let loose a river. Completing these goals can change the course of a race while you're still playing it.
There are a number of game modes to plow through in Freaky Flyers. The primary mode is adventure, which lets you pick one of the 13 initially selectable characters and run through a story-based progression of levels. The characters are all designed in an outlandish, over-the-top style reminiscent of the classic Looney Tunes characters. Each one has a large amount of FMV that tells his or her storyline as you play through the races. The game features a huge amount of video, so we're guessing these sequences may be pretty interesting, but the video in our preview build is merely a placeholder, so we couldn't evaluate its quality. A simple race mode is also available if you don't want to futz around with the storyline--here you can just pick your character and course and get to racing. Peppered throughout the adventure mode are a few minigames, and these are also available separately in a stand-alone minigame mode. One of these, for instance, has you protecting an Alamo-like fort from marauding banditos while you wait for help to come. Another has you spelunking through an intestinal tract in your attempt to escape the body. Clearly, the sense of humor in Freaky Flyers is quite irreverent and a little off-color, which will likely appeal to many fans of kart-racing games.
Graphically, Freaky Flyers looks pretty good so far. Each course has its own distinct look, with accompanying geometry and textures. There's a snowy forest course, a desert course in the Old West, an Arabian course, a city course, and several others. The frame rate has an occasional stuttering problem, and the control could be a little smoother, but these issues may very well be ironed out by the time Freaky Flyers hits shelves in May. Look for more on the game soon.