Import-savvy fans will recognize Penny Racers as the domesticated version of Takara's Choro-Q 64. Basically the N64 addition to the Choro-Q series, which originally made famous on the PlayStation, revolves around a slew of wacky superdeformed cars and trucks that, naturally enough, are all trying to get to the finish line first. Duh! Penny Racers attempts to improve on this "concept" by adding four-player racing to the mix. Does it match up, or surpass, the previous installments of its 32-bit counterpart? Hardly.
Sure, the cars and tracks found on the PlayStation were cartoony enough, but the graphical complexity found in Penny Racers sinks to a new low. Simpler than even Mario 64 or Pilotwings, Penny Racers makes Mario Kart 64 look like Sonic Adventure. Bland, color-by-number track design offers little in the way of detail, and the complete lack of light sourcing and the generally slow pace of the game give Penny Racers an anemic visual impression at best. Perhaps the most aggravating thing is that the cars (which are simple, low-poly-count designs) still have the blocky, non-anti-aliased look of the PlayStation version. Surely with all the power of the N64, the cars could have been made to look a touch better?
Graphic faux pas aside, the gameplay has also taken a turn for the worse. Driving in Penny Racers feels like you're always riding on a dusty highway, and while that may be fine for some of you cowboys out there, the utter lack of grippage in this game wears extremely thin on the patience. Sure you can do barrel rolls(?), but this technique adds little to the game. Presumably this tactic was added to give you an option, while trying to avoid the Wipeout-esque weaponry available to all of the racers. Whoa, is that a land mine? Hey, barrel-roll out of the way!
Once you adjust to the slide-a-thon, you might actually wind up in first place, at which point you'll be able to start upgrading your car, which is really the only saving point of this game. The Choro-Q series has always been about customization, and it's no different here. Tons of different options await the best drivers: dozens of car types and styles, multitudes of accessories and colors, etc. Having the patience to access all of these prizes is another matter.
Musically, most people will want to turn down the chirpy, 16-bit-sounding music before it raises their blood pressure too high. A tweaky, bleepy, honking apparition of a soundtrack "graces" Penny Racers, which makes one glad for the volume control in the game. The best advice is to turn it all the way down.
If you have four people in your household impervious to the many visual and musical assaults found in the game, there is a four-player mode. Due to the graphic simplicity of the game, there is little loss of detail in four-player mode, and the frame rate stays moderately high. Now four people can trudge their way through the game at once!
Basically this game is for parents who don't know any better and who want to get their kids something that will keep them out of their hair. Mario Kart 64 or Diddy Kong Racing are still better bets, since the Choro-Q 64 engine is showing its age and showing it badly.