Performance-boosting items have been a staple in mascot racing games for some time, but these arcade experiences usually encompass some sort of racing structure as well. This is not true with Wacky Races. You won't find a button for acceleration or brakes here--and don't even think about powersliding. This game requires only slightly more interaction than the 40-year-old cartoon on which it's based. The presentation will give a nostalgic glow to anyone who remembers the Hanna-Barbera series, but the actual gameplay will only produce shortness of breath and elaborate yawns.
Instead of using skill or savvy to make your way to the front of the pack, you need only tap the stylus toward the finish line and watch your chosen hero cruise to victory. The majority of races are displayed from a side view, though the camera shifts to a vertical orientation when the track design demands it. If your car breaks down or falls off a bridge, you'll find yourself eating your competitor's exhaust. You won't stay behind long, though. The computer AI is very forgiving, making sure you stay close to your competitors no matter how poorly you perform.
Though the track is littered with character-specific items, you won't need to actually use them. It's certainly more dramatic to call in help from a dragon or transform your vehicle into a rolling rock ball, but because the track design is so easy to navigate, you'll find it's possible to snatch the victory crown without ever getting help from the items. Like the rest of the gameplay, the items are exceptionally easy to use. Many of them simply make your character move faster, which means you fly to the front of the screen only to see your progress halted by the slowly scrolling screen.
If slowly navigating your way through poorly designed tracks doesn't excite you, you also have to compete in minigames during certain segments of the race. Dick Dastardly sets up roadblocks that can hinder your progress if you fall asleep midrace. These alternate between insultingly easy and completely unresponsive. On the easy side, you have to connect dots or swat at lethargic mosquitoes. On the unresponsive side, you have to slice up patches of poisonous fog. Oftentimes, the game will not recognize your frantic stylus swipes, so you end up with a mouthful of deadly toxin. The penalty for failing a minigame is slight, so there is almost no reason to take part in these mindless diversions.
The only portion of Wacky Races that you'll have to actually pay attention to is the final sprint to the finish line. Regardless of how well you performed leading up to this point, the racers are all tightly packed as they head to the end of the race. Here, you'll have to frantically blow into the microphone to outpace your competitors. This is an exceptionally awful game mechanic. Not only does it make the proceeding portions completely irrelevant, but it's also tiring and mindless. It is nice being able to win a race even if you had some bad luck in the early goings, but this design decision makes the vast majority of your racing experience worthless.
The visuals, at least, closely mirror the cartoons on which this game is based. The characters aren't very detailed, but they are full of vibrant colors, and it's easy to identify your favorite racer. The sound is true to the source material; the music is appropriately happy and the sound effects do justice to the silly items. There is also a commentator who calls out all the important developments in a race. He gets repetitive after a while, but he adds a bit of flair to the dreary gameplay.
Wacky Races is just too simple for its own good. The dearth of skill needed to win races makes this game tiresome, especially when you realize how little your input actually affects the outcome. Even with friends, this becomes boring long before you finish the first track. An accurate representation of the cartoon will only give you a short burst of happy nostalgia before the crushingly dull gameplay squashes your fond memories. There is no reason to play this game.