Room Zoom: Race for Impact is fast and frenetic, but frustrating, too. Akin to 1999's Re-Volt, Room Zoom lets you race tiny cars through supersized environments, barreling through a bathroom, a mad scientist's lab, and a kitchen, among other locales. You'll grab power-ups, dodge power tools, blast opponents, and find shortcuts to make it to the checkered flag first. Room Zoom is simple to pick up and play and it offers plenty of action, yet the chaotic gameplay and wildly cluttered tracks can sap the fun out of things as quickly as they create it.
Room Zoom lacks any multiplayer modes, instead pitting you against artificial intelligence-controlled cars with three ability levels. You can drive in single races of one to seven laps, though most of the tracks and cars are initially locked. To unlock them, you'll need to finish in at least third place on each track as you battle through the game's championship mode.
In the championship mode, you progress through three groups of four races, with each race taking place on a different track. You can't save your progress during each four-race group--you can only save between races--so once you get started, be prepared to keep playing for a while. It's a shame the developer ignored the fact that not every gamer has the time or inclination to play for long stretches. On top of that problem, you'll find that the tracks don't smoothly ramp-up in difficulty. Instead, the game randomly mixes easy tracks with a few that will have you yanking your hair out.
At least the racing is fast and furious, with nary a dull patch. Thanks to the game's interactive environments, alternate routes, and simple power-ups (fireballs, shields, and the like), you can go from first position to sixth and back again before you know what happened. In fact, things usually get too hectic or confusing. With so many power-ups and obstacles scattered about, races often end up feeling like chaotic free-for-alls where luck, not skill, determine the winner. You'll be driving along, and suddenly all you see are blinding flashes of light and a bunch of cars--including your own--flying every which way. You can only guess why. The race circuits themselves can be a bit confusing, too. Sometimes zipping off the beaten path is allowed as a valid shortcut, but other times the game forbids it for no apparent reason and automatically plops you back on the main track.
Odd physics can detract from the fun, too. The various cars you unlock all handle uniquely, which is certainly a welcome feature, yet sometimes they bounce off giant tools or juice cartons in dubious ways. Once in a while, you might even find yourself riding sideways on a wall as if your tires magically turned to flypaper.
Room Zoom's circuits sound neat on paper. After all, it's not many racing games that let you zip between the tines of a pitchfork, weave among cereal boxes, and perform other surreal stunts. And in fact, the basic track layouts are pretty well-designed, with plenty of ramps, tunnels, sudden hairpin turns, and movable and fixed obstacles. On the other hand, many of the tracks are too similar. Also, the environments all blur by so quickly that you rarely have time to notice any of their thematic details. The fact that the graphics are very brightly colored but are ultimately pedestrian, without any unique flair or memorability, doesn't help. Sound effects, likewise, leave no impression beyond that they merely meet the basic requirements: some generic engine sounds and some generic techno tunes.
Room Zoom suffers from further failings like odd interface bugs. Yet where Room Zoom really goes off track is its paucity of content. The game lacks multiplayer and any sort of track editor, and the entire championship mode can be played in just a couple of hours. Room Zoom might keep young kids happily occupied for a while, but adult gamers will wonder why they ever bothered. There's barely enough of interest to make you want to play once, let alone twice.