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Mad Dash Racing

Crystal Dynamics



1 - 4


It may not be the marquee title when people think about Xbox exclusive games, but, here we have something... different.

Mad Dash Racing is one of those titles that you either "get" or you don't. Many gamers may scoff at the idea of a racing game that utilizes cartoon looking characters and places them racing around in cartoon like environments dismiss the whole thing as "kiddy". Those would be the same people that make snap judgments about a game without playing it.

To call Mad Dash Racing a "kart style" racer sells the game a bit short. Sure it has some elements of that style of gameplay, but this is a different creature. The primary difference being the fact that there are no karts. Having characters run on legs has been done before, with mixed results. Here, developer Crystal Dynamics seem to have brought the genre a lot closer to its full potential.

There is a story attached to the game, but as with most cartoons, it really doesn't matter much. There's an evil wizard who fools the king into holding a racing competition. There are red meteor chunks throughout the island, one at the end of each race. You need to reach the finish line first in order to obtain the meteor chunk collecting the all of the red meteor chunks is what it's all about. Why are those meteor chunks needed? Why is the king so lame? Why does Chops smell so bad? Hey man, this isn't Shakespeare.

Another major differentiation with this title is the course layout. There really aren't tracks, but environments, having a beginning and end. A lot of imagination went into the creation of these courses. The environments range from volcanic wastelands to jungle to well… what would you expect? The tracks are linear in layout (no laps) for the most part with many branches, shortcuts, pitfalls, and more. Since your racer isn't really upgradeable, strategy will have to be used to get ahead, and stay there.

Some of those shortcuts won't be accessible to each racer. There are three types of racers: Gliders, Bashers, and Dashers. Gliders are able to fly for a short period of time, bashers have the ability to ram through (certain) obstacles for a few moments, and dashers… you get the idea by now. Spread throughout each course are powerups to enable each racer to utilize their special abilities by recharging their meter (which depletes with the use of said ability).

Also spread throughout each course are green meteor chunks. Collecting 10 of these will enable your racer to utilize the abilities of each of the three types of racers. After plowing through a course several times and learning the layout, a basher can bash through one obstacle, then glide up to the next shortcut, and then dash to the finish line (or something to that effect. Of course keeping those 10 green meteor chunks is a little harder than you may think, with the third type of powerup spread throughout the course. These are the cartoon styled weapons that your racer will use to keep the competition from getting (or staying) ahead.

Weapons range from fruit to a light beam (similar to Tron) that trails behind you to a chicken that, well, it's a chicken. Another weapon used is the ice cube. It will freeze everybody else in the race for a moment. This is really nifty until somebody does this to you. Then three buttons appear on the frozen screen. At first, I thought something went wrong with the game, but after reading the instruction booklet, I understood what was going on. By pressing the buttons rather quickly, it will unfreeze your character quicker than the natural game-time thaw.

Perhaps the greatest drawback to Mad Dash Racing is the interface, which can be confusing at times. The initial game screen offers Adventure (the single player story mode), Versus (up to 4 players race with any unlocked characters), Sign Up (register for the game - this option is awkward, and should have been streamlined and folded into the Adventure and Versus modes) Records and Options (both rather self explanatory). While most of this is fairly rudimentary, it is Adventure mode that could have used a better interface.

After selecting the Adventure mode, a screen appears showing a few different saves for the story as well as challenges, which really should have been an option in itself. There are three main challenges here, Cash, Time, and Stunt. Cash has your racer running around a course trying to find a set number of bills that are strewn about in a certain amount of time. Stunt challenge has you performing stunts in a set amount of time, and the Time challenge should be self explanatory, as this is a racing game. Completing these challenges awards you with "decals" which are used to unlock other racers.

There is also a training mode (again set within the adventure menu option) that will help you understand just how to glide, bash, dash, pull of stunts, swim, jump, and otherwise play the game.

Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. The environments and characters all look great, lots of bright colors splashed throughout the screen, but the amount of clipping throughout is more than should be allowed in today's market. Far too many time will a character find their head inside a rock after being hit. This usually happens only when the action stops, at the end of a race or when your racer is hit, other than that, the game moves along at a nice (visual) clip.

Aurally, the game is rather solid. The voice acting is done by some of the best in the business. The music is really varied, and the options presented is something that should be adopted in other games. Not only can you select the volume of sfx/voice/music, but you can choose whether or not a song is in rotation. There are a lot of tracks to choose from, so there's bound to be something in here that won't be to your liking. Thankfully, you can turn that single song "off". Sadly, the option to use your own soundtrack from the Xbox's hard drive isn't available (or it's so buried, nobody can find it).

The game controls well, but there are some major camera problems. Using the black and white buttons on the controller to zoom in/out and center the camera just doesn't work, especially when hitting the "B" button (character attack) and accidentally press the "black" button as well. Aside from the menu confusion and clipping, this is the only other problem with Mad Dash Racing. Overall, this game can be relegated to the "kiddie" shelf, but that wouldn't be fair. Sure, the game may not be as deep as other racers out there, but for some much needed fun, Mad Dash Racing more than qualified if you can get past the shortcomings.

Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
Resents that comment about my mother.

Mad Dash Racing: The Scores













The Final Word:  Quit judging a book by its cover. Sure the game has a few flaws, but hey, DOA3 has clipping too. Get over trying to be the "adult gamer" and recall the fun times you had playing Mario Cart until 3 A.M. It may not be GT3, but it's not supposed to be.

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