Wacky Races Hands-On

Macrospace is bringing Penelope Pitstop, the Ant Hill Mob, and the rest of the Wacky Racers to mobile handsets. We got our hands on the game to investigate.

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Wacky Races (2004)
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British developer Macrospace has developed mobile game after mobile game based upon Cartoon Network's enormous stable of characters. Some of these games, like Dexter's Lab and the Scooby-Doo adventures, have been a lot of fun, while others, like the Powerpuff Girls, have fallen flat. Judging from a beta demonstration of Wacky Races at CTIA, Macrospace is pulling out all the stops this time around. This goofy little racing game appears to have the colorful personality of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon down pat--and it also looks like it will bring some fun kart-driving gameplay along for the ride.

If you're not familiar with Wacky Races, you're in luck, because the concept is simple. Hanna-Barbera cooked up 11 bizarre teams of characters--featuring such notables as the ultrafeminine Penelope Pitstop, the villainous Dick Dastardly and his dog Muttley, and the well-meaning but bumbling Professor Pat Pending--and had them race around the world for the title of "wackiest racer." These freakish drivers had their own themed automobiles, many of which were even more memorably baroque than their owners; for instance, Pending's motley "Ring-a-Ding Convert-a-Car" was a highly unintuitive combination of four different vehicles that constantly broke down.

During our CTIA demo, we played a quick game of Wacky Races in the guise of Penelope Pitstop, who pilots a bright-pink vehicle with a frilly floral theme. Our race ran though a surreal, pseudo-3D pastel environment that was clearly based on the cartoon's backgrounds. Macrospace had loaded the game on one of Nokia's brand-new Series 40 version 2 handsets, which ran the game at a very crisp frame rate and rendered its character art with a great deal of detail. However, Wacky Races' most interesting feature is probably its terrain. It's actually possible to go up and down hills in the game, which can lower your visibility of the track ahead. Also, Wacky Races sported a really spirited, high-quality soundtrack that played during the race, although there were no discernible sound effects.

Macrospace is planning a US release for Wacky Races in Q1 2005, when the game is scheduled to appear on Verizon. We'll have more information on how the races are progressing as it becomes available.

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