If you thought Infogrames and Kemco were the only publishers known for quality Game Boy Color racing titles, then think again. Continuing its foray into the EA Sports license, THQ brings us NASCAR 2000, and - unlike the failure that is Triple Play 2000 - the game lives up to the name. Offering 33 unique cars, 16 tracks, real-life drivers, a season mode, a variety of car-tuning options, and a two-player link-cable option, THQ has crammed a great deal into this pocket-sized beauty.
In terms of gameplay, getting started is as simple as choosing a race type and a car. For beginners, the exhibition mode lets you get a quick feel for the game. Seasoned veterans will want to try the season mode, which lets you experience a year in the life of a professional NASCAR driver. Regardless of mode, however, you can vary the level of realism to your liking. Simulation fans can tweak the engine and tire aspects of their cars, as well as race with a manual transmission. Arcade fans can coast along with the subtle joys that an automatic transmission provides. Actual gameplay is similar to most GBC racers, in that you use the D-pad to steer while accelerating through a pile of cars ahead. If you're in first place after the requisite number of laps, you win. Car handling is a bit stiff at times, especially around corners, but the attention to detail mitigates this factor. Just as in real auto racing, you can run out of gas, wear down your tires, or witness spectacular crashes. Opponent vehicles will even attempt to veer you into the rail or hog the road as you try to pass. By adding a variety of subtle nuances to the standard handheld racing game formula, NASCAR 2000 succeeds where many fail, and - unlike competing offerings - it can display more than three onscreen cars at a time.
As mentioned above, NASCAR 2000's gameplay may be a touch above standard, but its visuals are off the hook. For years, Kemco and Infogrames have been using the same tweaked 2D racing engines to churn out sequel after sequel. THQ's NASCAR 2000 takes a different approach: 3D graphics. While it's obvious that the developer simply overlaid a variety of 2D sprites in order to create this effect, the result is nonetheless spectacular. It literally looks as if you're playing a 3D racing title. While track detail and variety is a bit on the low side, the game animates smoothly and doesn't exhibit the Pole Position effect that other GBC racing titles suffer.
About the only area NASCAR 2000 doesn't excel in is sound quality. Maybe after coding the game's intricate gameplay or 3D visual engine, the developer ran out of space for decent audio. Whatever the case, the solitary background track and four sound effects get old well nigh instantly. The scaling engine noises are a nice touch, but this is about all NASCAR 2000 has going for it with respect to audio. Despite this shortcoming, though, NASCAR 2000 is still a worthwhile addition to the GBC's stock of racing titles. It is a decent arcade-style racing game with simulation elements, and it succeeds at being both fun and engaging.