The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Mickey’s Speedway USA

Hey, it’s been a while since I poked fun at Rareware hasn’t it? Nuts & Bolts was bad guys, really bad. So bad in fact…no, we’re not going to go there, mostly for the reason that it was released after my 2005 cut-off date. So with that in mind, shall we turn our attention to a different crap fest from the studio behind the Banjo the squirrel games? Let’s look through my stash of pirated…I mean, legally bought games…ah Mickey’s Speedway USA, this looks like it’ll contain enough faecal matter to stink out the lourve [what does that even mean? – ED]. Let’s crack this thing open and pour in our venom shall we?

Ok, so the first thing you do is select a character and immediately this is a problem. There aren’t enough, Mario Kart has 8 minimum characters and they’re all uniquely balanced, here we have 6 and there’s not a great deal of variation. The tier list is there, with 2 characters taking up each position, Mickey and Donald are all-rounders,  Minnie and Daisy Duck are the lightweights, and Goofy and Pete are the heavy characters, even though Goofy has never came across as being heavy. To be honest, this only really comes into any real use when it comes to the later difficulties and so is mostly down to personal preference. But if you choose anyone except Donald Duck, you are a shit. To be honest, I felt that the only playable characters were a bit obvious. You can unlock Donalds nephews and Professor Ludwig, which is cool, but when you consider the sheer amount of characters in the Mickey universe of Disney alone, just going with the bare basics felt a bit obvious and boring. I at least wanted Scrooge McDuck in there, or maybe considering Rare did the Roger Rabbit game, he could have appeared. Maybe I’m just disappointed that Mickey Mouse isn’t as cool as the Looney Tunes, or I’m just finding excuses to why Daisy Duck’s in there instead of, you know…someone good.

So anyway, the game follows its predessecor Diddy Kong Racing and decides it needs a story as to why Mickey Mouse and his friends are driving up and down America. Some weasels have stolen Pluto and so for some reason, Mickey and his friends race each other to get him back. The thing is, it’s a poor excuse plot and it’s not even needed, the title tells you the whole point of the game. Mickey Mouse. Racing. In America.  Mario Kart hasn’t got a storyline and that’s pretty popular. But the other aspect of the plot is how the game centres on racing across America, and whilst the levels definitely have the feel of the places they’re trying to capture and thanks to the sheer bonkers that is America’s ever changing climates from east, west, north and south, you get a good variety (even the ice level…) of tracks.  But then at the same time, with the exception of the touristy landmarks  on most levels (although there was no Hollywood sign in the LA level) you could probably just say the games set in a cartoony country, give the levels different, Disney themed names and it wouldn’t make a difference.

On the subject of the levels, someone’s gone out there way and made them look very nice indeed, they kind of looking a bit more realistic like Jet Force Gemini than the cartoony Diddy Kong Racing, I don’t know if this is Rare really making use of the N64’s tech or just a purposely weird decision. It still runs on the DKR engine (get it, it’s a car game and it runs on an engine…) and this becomes more apparent when you slide on an oil slick or powerslide too long. But the thing is, Rare seem to very much have been playing a fair bit of Mario Kart, because despite the more realistic style of graphics, it genuinely feels almost the same, but with mice instead of plumbers, there’s so many blatent rip-offs it’s amazing Nintendo didn’t sue…*looks at box* “Published by Nintendo” Oh there you go. No suings for anyone…except me.

The most obvious “homage/rip off ” (delete as appropriate) is clearly Louie…or Huey…or Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub  in a floating thing at the starting lights couldn’t be more Lakitu unless he has had a fishing rod, and the weapons are just worse versions of Mario Kart’s, thankfully they didn’t look into the future and take inspiration from the Mario Kart Wii items, because that would be awful…who’d want to look to the future just to see how Mario Kart’s coming along…?

Anyway, Baseballs are like green shells, RC cars and planes are like Red Shells, there’s a spray can that acts like mushrooms and and a bubble that gives you a speed boost and invincibility…nope, don’t know where that came from.  The only downside is when it decides to take Mario Karts catchphrase based dialogue and make it more engaging and have characters speak to each other during the race, this is what the kids call an “epic fail”. The stock phrases become repetitive and irritating quickly, as well as non sensical “I thought we were friends” Mickey yells as you hit him with an explosive toy car, forgetting that he’d just done the same thing a minute earlier. On the subject of throwing stuff at people, something I’m very skilled at after that year I was accidently left in the monkey enclosure, the battle mode is almost a cut and paste from Mario Kart, they even have balloon health bars, except they were from Disneyland and hence overpriced. No wonder they use crappy toys as weapons, they spent all their budget on balloons.

Mickey’s Speedway USA is Mario Kart with Disney characters, nothing else. It sounds stupid to sum it up like that, but it’s impossible to think of it as anything else, I wanted to compare it to Diddy Kong Racing, but there weren’t enough politically incorrect elephants in this, but there is Goofy…

But at least the stuff they’ve stolen is the best stuff from Mario Kart game and you stop caring about the subtlety of which they’ve “borrowed” ideas and remember that there’s a good reason they’ve copied Mario Kart. Because Mario Kart is fucking fun. It’s quite a good bridge between Mario Kart 64 and Double Dash, because it develops the genre a bit more, before Double Dash slightly re-invented it. But if you have either of those two, you probably won’t play this, because you won’t find a copy and because it’s not as good.

That’s all folks!

Wait…that’s not right.

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One response to “Mickey’s Speedway USA

  1. Jennah 25/06/2011 at 09:15

    Do you have more great artciles like this one?

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