With each game they star in, the cheerful little square people of the MySims world take another step away from their simulation roots. Being cute, mischievous mascotlike figures, it was only a matter of time before they ended up in karts armed with silly weapons. Their first foray into racing isn't going to knock Mario off his kart-racing throne, but MySims Racing is a solid kart racer with a few nice tricks that breathe life into a stale genre.
MySims Racing offers three modes for your driving pleasure--Quick Race, Story, and multiplayer--but the Story mode is the star of this vehicle. Your created character is on a quest to bring the excitement of racing back to a dusty old town and restore it to glory when its fabled racing star disappears after losing a bet to the evil Morcubus. The narrative isn't groundbreaking, but it's a fun, lighthearted affair that adds some variety to the standard kart-racing formula.
Story mode is set up with large over-world maps, much like Super Mario World, with different points of interest offering a variety of events. The events range from standard races and time trials to checkpoint challenges and timed collection runs. The events break up the tedium of other racers and offer some challenge outside of the actual racing events, which tend to be on the easy side. The more you complete, the more you gain access to other events, letting you drive to different maps with new tracks and events. Many of the events are optional, but earning the gold medal will net you new vehicle upgrades; some of which affect performance and some of which affect style. The optional challenges also give you the benefit of learning each track and finding the shortcuts that lead to the fastest routes. You'll likely tire of the tracks if you aim to complete every single event in the game, but for a casual play-through, the variety is nice.
The other modes, Quick Race and multiplayer, are exactly what they sound like; they let you jump into a race on any of the tracks against the computer or up to three other people. The multiplayer is vanilla, and there's no online option in the Wii version, which is odd because the DS version has completely serviceable online features. You can save your custom sim and car to a Wii Remote and use that on a friend's console, which is a nice feature, but it doesn't really make up for the lack of online play. The split-screen multiplayer is also missing a Battle mode and, instead, supports only straight races. It would have been nice to have some of the events from the Story mode incorporated into multiplayer.
The actual racing doesn't break any new ground. There are weapon pick-ups sprinkled on each track for you to use during races, and you can drift, boost, and hop. It's familiar territory, but it plays well. The weapons are generally tame, but a few are interesting additions to the standard set. These include the beehive that slows down a racer more with each successive hit, and the road-blocking acorn that produces a tree in your wake. With the exception of an extremely disorienting tornado that flips the screen upside down for a few moments, the weapons are well balanced. You won't find any cheap blue turtle shells here; though weapons can give you an edge, you have to rely more on your racing skills to win. Skillful driving (bumping, drifting, and getting huge air) is rewarded with extra boost juice. The levels are also covered in different colored crystals that fill your boost meter to varying degrees. It's a good give-and-take system that has you going out of your way at times just to snag a few more crystals.
Those crystals do more than just fill your boost meter though; they act as the currency in your garage where you can buy new parts for your ride. You won't find Forza-like customization here, but it's deeper than most games in the genre. You're given the choice of three vehicles--a mini car, a midsize, and a large truck--and you can kit them out with different parts. These include faster engines, heavier frames, better steering systems, and more. The cars all handle differently, and using the right one on the right track is key to acing some of the time trials. You can also deck out your vehicles with all kinds of ridiculous hood ornaments, spoilers, rims and more. The MySims drivers have some light customization as well. It's amusing to race through a canyon track as an eye patch-wearing ninja in an orange minivan with a skull and burning candles perched on the hood.
The tracks are colorful and fun to drive through, but they're not very challenging. Of the 15 on offer, only a few toward the end will really test your driving ability with winding roads, multiple routes, and hidden boost plates. The rest of the tracks feature wide roads, relatively easy turns, and blatant shortcuts. As long as you keep your car upgraded, taking first in many of the races is a piece of cake.
MySims Racing gives you a variety of control options, starting with the obligatory remote-only scheme, which is serviceable, but not the best way to go, especially if you're hoping to make sharp turns. Another, more precise control scheme puts the Nunchuk's analog stick in charge of steering and uses the remote for gas, breaks, and other actions. If you have a Gamecube controller, you can use that as well, though the difference in precision is negligible. The cars all have a nice feel and weight to them, letting you achieve huge air with lighter vehicles and long drifts with heavier ones.
The MySims franchise has slowly built up a cohesive style, with squared edges, vibrant colors, and cartoony characters, and they are all present here. EA seems to have a great understanding of what the Wii can and can't do because MySims Racing looks great, but it never taxes the system in ways it can't handle. You won't experience any slowdown or too many blurry textures here--just crisp, clean environments and bright colors. The only downside to the presentation is the rather slow driving speed. When boosting or zipping down a mountain, the game has a great sense of blistering speed, but in between boost pads and long jumps, the cars seem to putter along, even when you're driving a fully upgraded car.
The music and sound effects will be familiar to anyone who has played a MySims game before--collecting crystals and successfully completing events result in the same chimes and rings from previous games. The music is upbeat and out of the way, and the Sims frequently shout and jeer at each other in the gibberish Sim language.
The lack of online play takes some of the air out of this racer's tires, but MySims Racing is a worthy entry in the MySims franchise and a pretty good kart racer too. If you've grown tired of driving as the sibling plumbers or if you like the idea of a kart racer with a story and lots of customization, this one is worth taking for a spin.