Muppet Race Mania Preview

Surprising to probably nobody, the Muppets are getting their own kart-style racing game. Check out the details.

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As the new millennium dawns, the world's supply of marketable licenses is being exhausted. Ever vigilant, Midway has thus tapped a previously unused supply of recognizable characters to create Muppet Race Mania. Though we've certainly played this type of game before, the Muppets may just bring a combination of new features and nostalgic appeal that is sufficient enough to satisfy even the most jaded Gen-X gamer.

Starting Muppet Race Mania is like starting any of a dozen other kart-racing games: You pick from an initial group of eight muppets, who come with their own custom vehicles (dig Gonzo's spaceship or Miss Piggy's monster truck), and away you go. Adventure mode is geared toward solo play; in that mode, you progress against CPU-controlled opponents through a series of tracks selected by the game. Two-player mode lets you select your own track, from any of the ones available, and get down to racing.

Muppet Race Mania will set itself apart from the kart pack in two ways. First, there's a great deal of variety in the game's tracks. Most, but not all, are played from a standard third-person kart perspective. Of course, there are a variety of weapons scattered around the track that can be used to take out opponents, but not all the tracks are such average fare. The requisite head-to-head battle tracks are also available. The most striking new feature, however, is the stunt course, which is played from a side perspective and involves no opponents. The only objective in a stunt race is to finish the course, which is sometimes no small feat, since stunt courses are full of jumps, bridges, and other obstacles.

Second, Muppet Race Mania has simple Muppet appeal. The game's tracks are all based on the six Muppet movies: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Muppets Take Manhattan, A Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets in Space are all represented by two race tracks, one battle track, and one stunt track. In addition, FMV clips from the respective movies accompany these tracks. We're talking major nostalgia here. Few licenses are capable of evoking such memories for their target audiences.

Muppet Race Mania is packed with extras to unlock. Though only eight Muppets are available at the outset, a whopping total of 25 will be playable after you've unlocked everything. Even better, each Muppet can drive a variety of different vehicles, which also must be unlocked. Finally, four extra tracks are also hidden in the game. Muppet Race Mania will be available in October, so old-school Muppet fans should prepare to start their engines.

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