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November 25 2008
Speed Racer - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
6/11/2008WB GamesSidhe Interactive1-2GEasy
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
KBStereo PLIIYesNoNoneYes

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Tracks include plenty of twists and turns.
While the movie Speed Racer has been out since May this year along with Nintendo DS and Wii videogame tie-ins, the PS2 version has been a little while coming. Taking place one year after the movie, Speed, Trixie, Racer X and the other favourites from the film are back, each vying to become the next world racing league champion. While Speed Racer: TVG is based upon the movie rather than the cartoon, don't fear if you haven't seen the movie (like myself) – the game is very accessible to pick up and play. Has the extended wait improved the PS2 version of Speed Racer: TVG over the quite average Nintendo versions? Read on...

As you might have guessed by now, Speed Racer: TVG is purely a racing game. From the main menu you aren't graced with a heap of options or race types, with only single race, championship and time trial options available. For a game based upon a movie, the story here is really lacking… well, actually it's non-existent (yes, I realise this is a racing game, but still just ‘something' would be appreciated). Basic and advanced tutorials are available, but unless the concept of a 4 wheeled device otherwise known as a 'car' is foreign to you, you'll save yourself from some boredom by avoiding it.

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More bright Speed Racer colours.
To make the Speed Racer: TVG stand out from every other car racer, they've come up with a few extra bits and bobs. Firstly, prior to the race you have the option to make and break alliances with other racers. This in turn tunes the AI in the race such that certain racers will be hostile towards you, whilst others will tend to avoid you given the chance. This then ties in with the concept of 'car-fu' – think of it as takedowns in the Burnout series. Ram into racers that you aren't allied with, and you'll earn car-fu which will in turn give you bonus points. However, do the same to your allies, and they won't remain allied for very long at all. Driving flawlessly will reward you with boost; this can then either be used to get a speed boost, or alternatively it can be absorbed to repair the car from damage sustained during in-race bumping and grinding.

Track layout is very well done in Speed Racer: TVG, and as can be seen in the screenshots there's your fair share of loop-the-loops, jumps and corkscrews. Speed arrows litter the track, and as you'd expect, they make your car speed up. The tracks are perhaps a little wide at times, and as such forgiving to making mistakes, but this is understandable given the slightly younger audience which this is targeted at.

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Visually Speed Racer impresses.
What's soon apparent after putting some time in with Speed Racer: TVG is that it is quite a short game, and there isn't really a heap to do once you've completed the championship mode. There's very little urging you to come back for more in the way of unlockables or extras, and while the gameplay is fun at the time, it's generally not enough to keep you coming back for more repeatedly. Another niggle I had is that cars are tied to each driver; so once you've started a championship with a driver, you're stuck with their car for the duration of the races. I can partly understand how they've kept a one-to-one matching with racers and the cars, but in comparison to other games available these days, it just seems so… well... like something from the 16-bit era.

Speed Racer: TVG is a simple but nice game to look at – almost like a giant-rollercoaster-on-crack kind of scenario, the courses are generally big, bold and colourful with plenty of animated extras going on in the background to add to the visual charm (such as waterfalls and spotlights). The track layout doesn't vary as much as you'd hope between tracks sadly, so while two tracks may look quite dissimilar in terms of scenery and colour, the actual gameplay seems a little too familiar.

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Another PS2 Speed Racer screenshot.
For a first in a car racing game, there isn't much in the way of engine noise or tire squealing in Speed Racer: TVG; I know they've gone with the whole futuristic racing thing here, but having 'stealth' cars just seems odd. There are sampled voice quips from the various movie actors too (you might have noticed that Matthew Fox narrated the trailer also), which are a nice touch, but ultimately are just a superfluous extra given the lack of story behind the races.

On the whole, Speed Racer: TVG isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It's just unfortunate that it's lacking the depth and replayability that we've come to expect from late generation PS2 games. The racing itself has a similar feel to F-Zero and Mario Kart; there's some sense of speed, but it's oddly 'floaty' and quite forgiving to mess-ups. So, Wipeout fans who are used to unforgiving speed, tracks and AI and seeking similar might want to stick with the Wipeout franchise though – this will seem like a step in the wrong direction. However for an accessible racer at a discounted price, Speed Racer: TVG is one to look out for this Christmas season, or at least hire one weekend for a simple yet fun racing fix.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSNice scenery is busy most of the time, with a nice sense of speed.
SOUNDNice voice samples, but with an apparent lack of variety.
GAMEPLAYIt plays well, but soon suffers from more-of-the-same syndrome.
VALUENot much replayability, but split screen multiplayer is solid. Cheap RRP too!
OVERALLSpeed Racer: The Videogame might seem a little shallow for more experienced racing fans but it's still fun with a racing style that will keep most gamers amused for a little while. At a budget price however, this is great value, particularly for younger fans of the movie.

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