Herbie: Fully Loaded is a lightweight racing game that's best suited for the youngest and least demanding of players. The smooth 3D graphics are the game's lone bright spot. Otherwise, the driving is too basic, the AI is too dumb, and there are barely enough tracks and play options to occupy more than an hour of someone's time.
The game loosely follows the movie. Players compete against NASCAR drivers on road and oval courses using a supercharged Volkswagen named "Herbie." At the end of every race in the story mode, images taken directly from the movie let you know how close you are to winning the championship.
Aside from the story mode, there's also a free race mode and a championship mode. These extra play modes mainly just provide an alternative method of going through the eight different tracks included in the game, since the only option you can change in either mode is the skill level of the CPU opponents. The number of different tracks and play modes is disappointing. The majority of other racing games on the GBA at least let you mirror the included tracks, and some also offer a multiplayer link mode.
Most players will breeze through the story mode and unlock all eight tracks in an hour or less. The hardest part is taking first place on each track, since finishing second or worse bumps you right back out to the menu with a "game over" screen. Even with this sadistic outcome as a possibility, it's actually fairly easy to take the checkered flag. Herbie accelerates quickly and will skid cleanly through most turns with a slight tap of the directional pad. If you do happen to smack into the track boundary and stall, it's usually no big deal, because the CPU is so poorly programmed. CPU cars spend more time driving in the dirt than they do in the roadway, and when they are in the road they have a tendency to drive through oil slicks and slam into each other.
Herbie also has a few trick abilities that can be used during the race. They're charming, but they also make the game that much easier. There are four different tricks in all: turbo speed, backward driving, high jump, and tire launcher. In order to use these abilities, you have to collect star items that are situated in the road. Once you collect a star, you can activate the corresponding trick by pressing the L or R button. The most hilarious of these is Herbie's tire launcher, which spits a spare tire out of Herbie's forward-facing trunk toward the opponents up ahead.
The smooth 3D graphics are the game's lone bright spot. Herbie has been captured from a variety of angles, and he's large enough so that his moonroof and #53 are easily recognizable. The texture-mapped courses employ the same "mode 7"-style 3D that numerous other racing games on the GBA have, but the draw distance and resolution are much better here, to the point that details such as lane markers, trees, and houses are sharp and clearly defined. If you look closely, you'll notice that CPU cars aren't as sharp or detailed as Herbie. This trade-off is totally forgivable though, considering how nice the courses look and how smooth the frame rate is.
Conversely, the audio is nothing special. Apart from a few bump and grind sound effects, the brunt of the soundtrack comes from Herbie's engine, which sounds like a lawn mower, and from a solitary musical loop that plays throughout each race. Although the sound effects and music are sufficient, there's no personality to them. Including a few Lindsay Lohan voice samples would have gone a long way toward pepping things up.
Herbie: Fully Loaded comes across as a missed opportunity. The 3D graphics are a treat, but everything else about the game is underdeveloped or poorly programmed. With a few more courses and play options, and a few AI tweaks here and there, this could've been one of the best racing games ever made for the GBA. As it stands, the game is probably OK for young kids. Anyone that's already mastered the ins and outs of third grade, however, will probably want to play something else.