Nostalgia is a pretty powerful thing. Bad fashions disappear for a decade or two and then all of the sudden someone feels the least bit nostalgic for them and they’re back bigger than ever. Television shows that were kitschy and silly die off only to be resurrected twenty years down the line with an even more kitschy and silly feature film. People like to remember the good old days and snap up things that make them nostalgic faster than they can be produced.
Enter the new Wii game Wacky Races: Crash & Dash. Based on the short-lived but much loved Wacky Races cartoon series, Wacky Races: Crash & Dash has cartoony graphics that are neither bright nor vivid, much like the show it’s based on. And, again like the show it’s based on, the game sports terribly little interactivity. Not being very interactive may seem like an odd choice for a video game, but it’s one that Wacky Races: Crash & Dash seems to embrace wholeheartedly.
The game, nominally, is a racing one. It allows players (up to four) to choose between several different teams that were on the series, not that the choice makes a great difference as the game opts for sidelong view most of the time, switching as necessary to a top-down long distance one. Yes, the cars look different from one another, and they’re all able to utilize different special abilities (which we’ll get to later), but they don’t seem to have different specs in terms of speed, handling, braking, acceleration or any other myriad of things that a typical racing game provides.
While that in and of itself is distressing, it is nothing compared to the incredibly overly rudimentary controls allocated to the player. Users can control whether the car goes left or right, and can perform a speed boost – referred to as a “Mad Dash” in the game – by shaking the remote or nunchuk, but the cars’ basic speed is controlled completely by the game. No trying to slow down to make a corner or avoid a hazard here, but the game forgives that too, after all, the point of the entire game is right there in the title, it’s to crash and dash.
In fact, the game forgives all crashing and negates all dashing, keeping all the cars incredibly close to one another at all times. No matter how much of a power boost players have available, computer racers keep up. If, somehow, a player falls too far behind they are instantly transported back into the thick of things and a nominal, unimportant penalty (the elimination of some stored speed boosts) occurs.
Placed throughout the 24 mundane courses are special cogs that allow players to either activate a speed boost, an attack, or some combination of the two. The various boosts and attacks do differ depending on the racer chosen, but in the end none of them eliminates other racers or gets a player far enough ahead for them to be bothered with.
Sadly, Wacky Races: Crash & Dash can’t even set the pace of the game properly. Races are run quickly enough where there would be a modicum of enjoyment to be gained from playing, but the game then kills all the momentum by interrupting the race for inane mini-games. The mini-games are “created” by Dick Dastardly and Muttley and require players to do anything from swinging the remote to bat bombs away to grabbing nuts and bolts and placing them in appropriate spots.
Not only are all the mini-games either incredibly easy or completely impossible with no middle ground, but they don’t really affect the race in a meaningful way. Winning a mini-game tends to earn the racer a reward (an extra temporary power) and losing one costs the racer some of their accumulated speed boosts. However, as the game keeps everyone in a position to win the race at all times, gaining rewards and losing a speed boost that can always be refilled (that happens automatically, and more quickly if a player is in first) doesn’t make a big difference.
Though speed boosts can be used at any point in the race by shaking the Wii Remote, they are really only meaningful at the end of the race during the “Mad Dash” to the finish line, which is essentially a sprint to the finish. Simply not using speed boosts earlier in the race tends to mean that a player will have enough built up (even if one has lost all the mini-games) to score a victory in a race during the final dash. Shaking the remote at this point does become tiresome and a little painful, but it is the most interactive portion of the game.
Wacky Races: Crash & Dash sports some unlockable content, mainly in the form of extra courses (only four courses are available when someone starts playing) and added information about the characters. In addition to the regular game mode, there is a “Trap Challenge” mode that allows players to play one mini-game after the next and a customizable race mode. This latter mode allows players to edit race characteristics such as race difficulty and the ability to use special powers. Sadly, there is no toggle in this second race mode for making the game fun.
The one bright spot of Wacky Races: Crash & Dash is its cartoony nature. With its announcer and the weird power-ups given to racers it truly does adhere to the foolishness that made the series fun to watch. Unfortunately, that by itself does not make the game fun to play.
Wacky Races: Crash & Dash is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence. This game can also be found on Nintendo DS.
One star out of five.