Oh no! The weasels have kidnapped Mickey's dog, Pluto, and are taking him on a cross-country road trip. Developed by Rare, Nintendo's Mickey's Speedway USA tasks you with getting Pluto back--not by running and jumping, but by pedal-to-the-medal-style kart racing.
In a game that easily rivals Konami's Woody Woodpecker Racing for the title of best handheld kart racer, the Game Boy Color version of Mickey's Speedway USA boasts a laundry list of features. Initially, there are six different drivers to choose from, including Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Pete, while Huey, Dewey, Louie, and a bonus fourth car are available upon completing the game's time challenges. In terms of tracks, there are 22 in all--sorted into five groups representing each of the major geographies of the United States. As far as gameplay modes, Mickey's Speedway USA offers a single-player grand prix, time trials for every track, a Gran Turismo-style driver's education course, and a comprehensive two-player link-cable versus mode--each with three levels of difficulty. As you progress on your journey to rescue Pluto, you'll collect a number of trophies and postcards, which can then be viewed in the game's trophy room or printed out on a Game Boy Printer. If that weren't enough, you can also use the Transfer Pak to swap bonus tracks and a hidden character with two other games: the GBC version of Mickey's Racing Adventure and the N64 version of Mickey's Speedway USA. Wrapping it all up, three battery-backed save slots are present to record your achievements.
The hallmark of a great kart game isn't just options, of which Mickey's Speedway USA certainly has plenty of, but gameplay itself. To that end, Mickey's Speedway USA is a highly approachable and forgiving game that packs exactly the right amount of challenge to keep you interested. Each race pits you against three other opponents. Depending on the character you've chosen, your innate statistics (namely speed, acceleration, tire grip, and weight) will decide just how much effort you'll need to exert to win. As three laps quickly erode, your goal is to mash the accelerator and navigate a series of sharp turns, lofty jumps, and dangerous hazards. Finding the best route through the turns, hills, and traps of each course is your main strategy, but you must also battle your opponents for the right to hold first place. Cautious braking and fearless power slides are necessary to achieve top honors, while the threat of careening out of control looms with every subsequent collision. Mixing things up, there are power-up items located at regular intervals on each track, giving you and your competition the chance to acquire turbo, basketball, homing pigeon, oil slick, thunderstorm, and invincibility status enhancements. The overall flow of the game is speedy, the AI is smart, and the handling is a perfect balance of realistic go-kart physics combined with wacky bumper-car antics.
Similar to Woody Woodpecker Racing, Mickey's Speedway USA makes successful use of an isometric pseudo-3D viewpoint to portray the action. As a result, cars and character designs are colorful and readily identifiable. Even on the Game Boy Color's tiny screen, you can easily tell Mickey apart from Minnie and Donald apart from Daisy. The game's backgrounds are even more over-the-top, with plenty of buildings, foliage, signs, jump ramps, snow banks, and water hazards to juxtapose one environment with the next. Most impressive of all, Rare has managed to animate every stream and puddle without causing the entire game to stall or slow down.
In terms of audio, Mickey's Speedway USA does something no other handheld kart racer has done since Wacky Racers first debuted more than a year ago: It sounds excellent. There are different musical selections for each track, many of which are whimsical re-creations of well-known Disney tunes. Original themes also crop up from time to time, such as Western rodeos and urban techno. As is common with the genre, each power-up also affects the speed of the game's soundtrack, speeding it up or slowing it down as required. Sound effects aren't plentiful, but every collision, crash, engine murmur, and weapon sound effect is crisp and emphatic.
Just as everyone expected, Rare and Nintendo have wrapped the Disney license around the best Game Boy Color kart racer currently available. Varied gameplay, diverse options, gorgeous visuals, and ample two-player support make Mickey's Speedway USA a class-A title.