Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Wacky Races (NES review)

Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Released: 1992

Wacky Races is a platformer that's based on the animated TV series of the same name.

Playing as Muttley, your mission is to rescue Dick Dastardly and navigate through three worlds (each with 3-4 stages) in an attempt to win the Wacky Races competition. Your main attack involves biting enemies, but bones can be collected that shift along a power-up item window in the bottom-left, similar to Gradius (1985, Arcades); at any point, you can activate one of these power-ups which consist of Bombs, a projectile Sonic Bark, Wings that allow you to float, or Hearts that refill your life metre. One nice feature is that you can select the order to tackle the three worlds right from the start. While the level design isn't particularly inventive, I do like that it doesn't stick with the same scenery in each stage; for example World C-2 starts off in a suburban neighbourhood before quickly transitioning to a rooftop scene. Some moments clearly take inspiration from a famous Italian plumber, such as the Piranha Plants that spit fireballs in A-1, and the pipe area filled with jumping flames in A-2 that's reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990, NES). There's also an obligatory ice stage with overly slippery controls, as well as a tiresome underwater stage where you have to continually hold Down on the d-pad to stop Muttley from rising to the surface. Everything is nicely presented, but unfortunately there are no surprises or memorable moments. The game is extremely easy too, mainly due to your extensive life-bar and the multiple opportunities you have to refill it during each stage. The bosses are a breeze due to their simple patterns, but it is initially jarring how fast they move compared to the slow pace of preceding areas!
Wacky Races lacks any degree of challenge, but if you're looking for a simple and mildly entertaining platformer give this one a go. It's the kind of game you don't have to think too much about (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but the pedestrian level design shows that the developers didn't exactly aim to set the world on fire.
Random trivia: The game was only released in Japan and North America.

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