All right, stop what you're doing, because I'm about to ruin the image and the style that you're used to. Are you sick of Pole Position knockoffs on the Game Boy Color? Don't you hate it when arcade-style racers smell like feet? You're not alone. Thankfully, Infogrames has the solution to this dilemma: Wacky Races. Based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the same name, Wacky Races is a Mario Kart-style racing game that packs quirky gameplay and playful looks into the Game Boy's 160-pixel screen.
Unlike similar titles, Wacky Races attacks from all directions with tons of options. There are four game modes: arcade, endurance, championship, and time trial. The arcade mode features three progressively difficult cup stages of three courses each. The fun cup features Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi; the super cup highlights Nevada, Alaska, and New York; and the crazy cup features Oregon, Michigan, and Hawaii. The endurance, championship, and time-trial modes offer other longer, more taxing variations on the above themes. Initially, there are four characters: The Slag Brothers, Rufus Ruffcut, the Ant-Hill Mob, and Penelope Pitstop. If you manage to beat the crazy cup, you can unlock other characters, such as Dick Dastardly and Muttley, Peter Perfect, Sergeant Blast, and Red Max. Of note, a password save feature is available to safeguard your new character and vehicle acquisitions.
If you've played any GBC racing titles, be it Top Gear Pocket or V-Rally, you're no doubt used to Pole Position-style gameplay. You know the kind: car in the middle, course weaving around it, and the background staying put. While Wacky Races is guilty of these traits to an extent, a great number of enhancements lift it above the usual fare. Instead of just swinging from left to right, courses undulate and tilt as if they were real terrain. This really helps put a person right in the middle of the action, as speed, braking, cornering, and other real-world physics nuances come into play.
Another facet that Wacky Races excels in is car handling. Each vehicle has different speed, weight, and composition characteristics. Penelope Pitstop's Compact Pussycat is fast, but it has poor collision recovery. On the other hand, Sergeant Blast's Army-Surplus Special can roll through opponents like butter, at the cost of speed. Wacky Races also fixes another common GBC racing-game flaw: stupid collisions. Usually, if your car collides with another car, you go spinning off to the side while your opponent speeds off into the distance. Thankfully, Wacky Races ditches such elementary-school coding efforts for a more realistic "rubbin' is racin'" feel. If you're in a heavy car and you bump a lighter one, it will fly off to the side. If you happen to be the lighter car, you'll bounce away and lose control for a brief second or two.
Since this is Wacky Races, you don't just have to rely on skill and speed to win races. One of the more endearing traits of the Wacky Races cartoon show is the tricks and traps that Dastardly and gang execute to win a race. In the game itself, each track has a number of W symbols scattered about the course. By picking one up, you'll be given one of ten random power-ups, such as turbo, ghost, ice missile, and lightning. With a tap of the B button, you can unleash these weapons on unsuspecting foes. Forget about "drat and double drat," Wacky Races' gameplay is spectacular.
If Wacky Races' gameplay is excellent, then its visuals are off the charts. The developers took the Test Drive Le Mans engine and stretched it fifty ways from Sunday. Backgrounds are lush and colorful, with grassy hills, snowy mountains, and lava-dripping calderas. Roadside visuals, such as cacti, houses, and signage zoom by at a rapid pace. Some of these hazards actually come out to get you! While you're driving, be on the lookout for bumbling tumbleweeds, rolling boulders, and oncoming traffic. As stated previously, there are eight characters, each with his or her own vehicle. There are no two-tone Hondas here, folks. Each car looks just as it would in the cartoon, right down to crooked wheels and dented fenders. As if this tasty sundae needed a cherry on top, Muttley and crew bear out the series' plot with numerous cutscenes.
It's rare when a licensed racing title turns out good, and even more rare when that game is on the Game Boy Color. In every category, be it gameplay, sound, visuals, or replay, Infogrames' Wacky Races turns in a solid performance. The lack of a two-player mode is unfortunate, and password saves are a bit tiresome, but the hilarious gameplay and wacky antics more than make up for these minor quibbles. Now, if only Infogrames would make a Stop the Pigeon game. As Muttley would say, "Hee hee hee!"