Reviewed: July 2, 2008
Released: June 17, 2008
Wacky Races: Crash & Dash is based on the cartoon of the same name and revolves around...you guessed it! Wacky racing. The old Hanna-Barbera cartoon that this game is based on consists of characters with names like Dick Dastardly, Penelope Pitstop and Peter Perfect, complete with a narrator giving viewers a play-by-play synopsis of what is going on on-screen. Standard and predictable jokes that are practically as old as cartoons themselves abound, including sight gags and not-so-clever wordplay.
If you've never seen the show, the premise basically is this: a bunch of cartoony characters race each other. The show's villain, Dick Dastardly, drives ahead of everyone and, instead of using his lead to actually win the race, he instead ineptly whittles away his opportunities by using half-baked plans that inevitably backfire and end up hurting him instead. His dog, Muttley, is a sociopath who goes along with his master's plans, sneering all the while, and laughing like a wheezy cigarette hag at whoever gets hurt, including Dick himself. Hilarity ensues.
Wacky Races the video game plays much in the same way as an episode of the show does, and it's just as repetitive. Players race from an awkward side angle, instead of the more sensible from-behind point of view. All of the characters from the show are here, glutting up the race tracks that you can hardly accelerate on without a power up or shaking the controller (and by shaking , I mean violently waving the Wiimote around in ways that the Wii warns you from doing around people and breakable objects).
Shaking the controller allows you use your Mad Dash Meter, which is intended to be used mostly at the last stretch of the race. It's represented by a number of "Mad Dash Cogs" in the upper left hand corner of the screen. Even when you do accelerate however, often it does not matter because when you crash into other players, you can easily get stuck instead of plowing through the way you ought to be able to in order to win the race.
Various power-ups litter the tracks and each character has three unique abilities that these power-ups can grant, though using them does not necessarily translate into any real advantage. At one point, all in the space of one race, I got an acceleration power up, ran my opponents over with a giant boulder, used my Mad Dash Meter up at the last stretch of road and soared through the air with the aid of a flying dinosaur, only to find myself pushed into ninth place when crossing the finish line. This is not how a balanced racing game is put together. No wonder Dick Dastardly believes he has to stop when he's well ahead of everyone and try to use devious and elaborate plots in order to win. Chance, luck, and (apparently) miracles play a big role in determining the winner of a race.
The cars, including yours, move across the screen of their own volition and if you manage to fall behind and get pushed off-screen, you lose a Mad Dash Cog, and then the game puts you back on track automatically. Basically, you mostly use the nunchuk to direct your character around and occasionally press other buttons to use power ups. The controls are awkward mostly because of the side point of view, which makes steering a bit difficult to get used to. Some might argue that this is part of the Wacky Races challenge, but really, the controls are just plain frustrating, not challenging--much like the rest of the game.
Throughout the course of a race, the narrator rambles on and on (just as he does in the show) about what is happening on the screen and will often stop not only mid-sentence, but mid-word to tell us that Dick and Muttley are up to something. We then switch to a cartoon cut scene that looks exactly like the show does, of Dick and Muttley doing something really stupid while trying to throw the other racers off. This sets the players up for a mini game that ranges from being so easy you would have to not have hands with which to hold the controller in order to complete it, or so difficult because of shoddy controls, it'll be over before you even know what's going on. If you do well with the mini games, then you do a bit better in the race when the scene cuts back. If not, then it doesn't really matter, because you may get lucky and win anyway, since skill really has nothing to do with Wacky Races.
And on and on and on it goes, complete with an incredibly redundant soundtrack, until you'll never want to see a Hanna-Barbara cartoon again. Ever. Mini games and the various tracks are not varied enough to keep the game interesting, and the imbalance in gameplay makes a loss frustrating, and a win thoroughly unsatisfying. The one-trick pony jokes don't help either. Sight gags and plays on words that every generation has grown up with practically since the advent of cartoons make the whole experience tiring and made me wonder why people remember such bad, poorly made and cheaply produced cartoons with such fondness. Nostalgia sure can be a funny and dishonest thing.
If you do like the old Wacky Races cartoon (and are still reading this and are not too angry with me), the upside with this game is that the graphics are nice and colorful (despite small character models), and stay true to the original show. Voice acting is well done, and as annoying as the repetitive narrator can get, he stays very true to the same tone and spirit of the show.
The game also supports up to four players, making the game much more tolerable when you have someone to share it with. If you are a fan of Wacky Races anyway, you might enjoy this game, but probably only in short spurts. Playing it for long periods of time is not very fun because the gameplay is just too much of the same over and over again.
There are a few unlockables, such as character bios and blueprints of each character's race car, so if you really, really care, there is that to strive for. There are also a number of tracks that are unlockable in the Crazy Circuit mode, though they are not terribly unique.
All in all, Wacky Races: Crash & Dash is not very well put together and suffers from lackluster gameplay. Fans may enjoy it on its merit of being based on a cartoon alone, but they will probably also be disappointed after about twenty minutes.