About the Game
Minor Character Spoilers
Gadgets. Wacky Races is one of the those games which you would of discounted immediately because it looked like one of the those cheap karting games. Which is ironic that this was one of the first PS2 games I got with the console, and remains one of my favourites. But Wacky Races isn't one of those cheap small budget games, far from it. It proves that you can make a good kart racer that isn't like that other series. Here is three reasons why Wacky Races is a classic:
Reason 1: Now here they are! The drivers competing for the title of worlds wackiest racer.
You may have deducted that this is based off the 1960's TV series. The series had a number of the wackiest racers across the planet, racing to become the world's wackiest racer. There were eleven different cars competing and all of the characters are playable in this video game remake - including the most famous of them all, Dastardly and Muttley. (Weirdly, there's been games in the past that you can't.)
The race roaster includes the Mean Machine, Boulder Mobile, Creepy Coupe, Convert-a-Car, Crimson Haybaler, Compact Pussycat, Army Surplus Special, Bulletproof Bomb, Arkansas Chuggabug, Turbo Terrific and the Buzzwagon. Just judging solely on those names, you can tell that each character and their vehicle are as wacky as each other. Although the only voice actor from the original series is Penelope Pitstop, the new voice actors feel like they come straight out of the show, with their trademark catchphrases and accents. (This also includes the narrator, who can be quite funny in his own right)
Traditional kart racers, like Crash Team Racing, Skylanders Superchargers and that other series, tend to have similar handling and feel between the karts, with minor differences. Wacky Races does things differently, each character has varying differences in driving characteristics and handling. Take the Army Surplus Special. It's quite a tall vehicle, which means it has bad grip, but on the other hand it has a good top speed. Knowing which vehicle is good on certain tracks is the key to win races, especially in the latter difficulty levels, where races get really... erm... wacky.
Reason 2: Weapons, gadgets, contraptions and bubble gum?
Along with the vehicle characteristics, there's also something you should consider when picking a racer. Weapons are provided to spice up the action, as it wouldn't be very wacky without weapons would it? Unlike the usual random picked weapons, each character has six weapons and gadgets, unique to them. To use these gadgets, the player must collect purple tokens scattered without the track to power it. The number of tokens that a gadget or weapon uses vary depending on the gadget in question.
These gadgets are split into a number of types. Most characters have a choice of two weapons, a flying ability, a shield, a boost and something to drop as a hazard on the track. Only three of these gadgets can be used per race, so you need to decide what gadgets you need before starting. Do you need weapons? A boost? A shield? These things make it feel the game a little more strategic as your choice differs from track to track. For example, the Bulletproof Bomb has a great boost and weapons, but their hazard and flying abilities aren't very good. The Creepy Coupe on the other hand has great hazards but only one attack. And then the Crimson Haybaler has an excellent boost, but a weak weapon. Choices, choices, choices...
Reason 3: An adventure in a mode!
I haven't even mentioned the game's trump card yet – the adventure mode. Quite like Crash Team Racing and Skylanders Superchargers, you have different game modes to race through. This gives some depth, otherwise you are just playing the same tracks over and over again. This is one major way that Wacky Races is simply a “copy”, and does some different.
Track challenges, Wacky cups, Golden Muttley challenges (collect 10 trophies scattered without the track and come in 1st place), Battle modes and the team 00 KO challenge (race to stay from last place, otherwise you get knocked out) are the modes on offer in adventure mode, and lengthen the game considerably. You also have boss battles as well, where you unlock new gadgets for all the other racers by beating these bosses. Once you have enough stars and clocks (won by winning events), you have a chance to race these bosses and then have the ability to drive them.
Wacky Races would be incomplete without shortcuts because let's face it, the characters in the original TV show didn't exactly play by the rules. Shortcuts have almost unlimited possibilities. Proper shortcuts do exist, but because of the wackiness of the gadgets, vehicles and tracks, players can plan their own shortcuts, without fear of a penalty, invisible walls or out of bounds alerts. On one of the snow tracks for example, the player can use the helicopter gadget to fly over a lake, cutting the corner of the circuit, racing ahead of the competition. You need to learn all the shortcuts you can to beat all the challenges in adventure mode.
The wackiness of the tracks and the characters, the unique gadget system, a quite an entertaining battle mode and a fun adventure mode is what Wacky Races Starring Dastardly and Muttley offers. It has got a lot to give, and keeps giving the more you play. It's one of the most underrated kart racers I've ever come across, as the new and fresh ideas make this a unique experience, and I still enjoy playing this even now.
My One Big Highlight
Eventually after gaining every star, clock by beating every challenge in the game, you get the chance to unlock Dastardly and Muttley. Once you manage to beat them, you finally are able to play as them! They are definitely the strongest character in the game, and rightly so. With shrink rays, sticky glue and a helicopter, it's one of the best end of game bonuses I've ever come across!
Elephant In the Room
The only thing that you could say was a “bad” thing about this particular version of Wacky Races, is it isn't that faithful to the original TV show. (compared to the other games over the years) That may be true, but those other games turned out to be awful. So it's definitively a trade-off – but worth it.