Sunday 16 August 2020

Mickey's Speedway USA (N64 review)

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2000

Mickey's Speedway USA is a kart racer that was also released on the Game Boy Color (2001).

It contains 10 characters, 5 Grand Prix worlds (each with 4 courses), as well as multiplayer battle arenas. Weapons can be obtained that include a Paint Splotcher (causes a fellow racer to skid), a Baseball Chucker (explodes when it hits a car) and a Spritzer (temporary speed boost). In terms of presentation and gameplay, it can often feel like a well-made hack of Mario Kart 64 (1997, N64) with only the characters and weapon icon substitutes to differentiate both titles from one another; even the starting grid flyover, musical jingles and post-GP celebrations are so obviously (and heavily) inspired by Nintendo's racer and it's a shame that Rare didn't do more to set this game apart. A significant issue is how short each course is, as most can be beaten in 40-90 seconds total for a three-lap race; by the time you're starting to get into each course, it's suddenly over leaving you with a rather anticlimactic feeling. This also means that you have very little time to catch up in the event of falling behind the pack in higher difficulties. The racing is still highly enjoyable though and the courses do offer enough scenic variety to encourage you to keep unlocking the next GP. The controls are perhaps the best of any N64 kart racer as the vehicles react smoothly and precisely; in particular, powersliding and then simultaneously manoeuvring into the vicinity of an item box is a breeze, even for newcomers. Another neat feature is how the race position indicator is hidden whenever you take a shortcut; this adds some tension and encourages you to constantly assess whether a detour is actually worth it.

Mickey's Speedway USA does many things right and its pleasant course design is complimented by some remarkable, rock-solid controls. However, there's no denying that it's highly unoriginal as it does nothing to advance the genre and sticks way too closely to the blueprints set out by other N64 kart racers.

Random trivia: The game code features many unused areas and test maps.

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