With the glut of kart racers that have been hitting the consoles over the past few years, it seems like any company with an adequate license is pushing one out the door. First there was Mario Kart, then Diddy Kong Racing, Crash Team Racing, and finally Wacky Races. While each game has tried to one-up the one before it, in the end, these games all feature the same over-the-top arcade racing action with a few small additions. While Looney Tunes Racing attempts to follow this same pattern, it includes very little, if anything, that hasn't already been done in another game with more success.
The heart of any kart racer, Looney Tunes Racing included, is the championship mode. Here you race in circuits against five other racers, and you must place first in order to proceed on to the next one. There are three different circuits: rascal, stinker, and despicable. Each one features four to six courses that must be completed with an aggregate ranking of first to unlock the next circuit. Each of the 15 courses is representative of a specific Looney Tunes character's cartoon setting. For instance, Marvin the Martian's stage has a large death ray that you cruise past, and the Roadrunner's stage is set in the desert, complete with falling anvils. As you proceed through the championship mode, new tracks are opened up in the bonus levels area for use in the single-race option or two-player mode.
The gameplay in LTR is just like that of any other kart racer. You cruise around the tracks, picking up weapons to take down your opponents with. The weapons in LTR fit right in with the ambiance of the Looney Tunes license. There are eggs to chuck at opponents, a cloud that follows players around for a few moments before striking them down with a bolt of lightning, and red bombs to place in high-traffic areas. To collect power-ups, you must pick up the green and red coins scattered throughout the levels. If you pick up two coins of the same color consecutively, the initial weapon will be boosted to a higher power. There are also turbo strips located throughout the tracks that you may drive over to get a much-needed speed burst. One feature that is unique to LTR is the presence of gates at various locations on the tracks that, when driven through, trigger track events. Some will send mammoth sheep lumbering onto the track to take out those in front of you, while others will drop large shields in the middle of the track to bar the way or trigger lasers that blast your opponents off their wheels. Most of the gameplay elements in Looney Tunes Racing have been borrowed from previous kart racers, and the few innovations that have been added are fairly minor. In a crowded genre, this isn't exactly the type of game design that sets the title apart from the competition.
Looney Tunes Racing's most impressive facet is its graphics. The tracks look great, with a Day-Glo color palette, a lengthy draw-in distance, and clear textures. There are no clipping problems, and pixelization is barely noticeable. All of the 19 characters are accurately modeled and look just like their cartoon counterparts, and they all have their own taunts. You can play as the usual Looney Tunes characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck or as some of the more obscure ones like Lola Bunny. Even the karts the characters ride in are fitting. Wile E. Coyote rides an Acme rocket, while Bugs Bunny gets around in a carrot on wheels. The tracks are quite large, and there are independent events taking place on a regular basis. Rockets take off and fly overhead, boxes in a factory tumble onto the track, and pianos fall from the sky. It all comes together to really pull you into the Looney Tunes universe. The shortcuts, usually a mainstay in most kart racers, are rare and not all that exciting.
The most unfortunate part of Looney Tunes Racing is the gameplay. It's just way too easy, and anyone with any amount of kart racing skill should be able to complete all three circuits in less than two hours. As long as you manage to stay on the track, first place is virtually guaranteed. Even in the harder difficulty levels, the competition is far too meek. This keeps you from ever really learning the finer points of the control and, ultimately, from returning to the game once it's beaten. This may not be such a big issue for young players, but the older ones may find that there isn't enough meat to the racing to keep it exciting. There is an Acme challenge mode, where you are required to perform specific objectives such as tagging six opponents and finishing first. Completing the challenges opens up more tracks and even more characters. There is also a two-player mode - where you may battle or race head-to-head - that gives LTR some semblance of replay value. But again, the gameplay is so last year that you'll be wondering why you didn't just try to shave an extra half-second off your best Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing times.
If you're looking for a racing game for the kids, Looney Tunes Racing is a wise choice. The gameplay is simple, the difficulty is laughable, and the graphics are bright and fun. If you're a dedicated kart racing fan, LTR doesn't offer anything that hasn't been done better many times before. While a solid offering that represents its respective license quite well, Looney Tunes Racing isn't the genre-busting piece of software that a last-generation game is supposed to be.