Normally when a game appears based on a beloved license, it isn’t unreasonable to have low expectations, but at the same time look for something neat about the game that captures something genuine about the source material in interactive form. Examples that come to mind are the fear mechanics in Batman Begins, the campy theatrics of the 007 games, and the unbridled coolness of Cool Spot (Okay, that last one might be a bit of a stretch). Usually, there’s evidence that at least someone on the dev team has a familiarity with and passion for the comic/movie/show they’re turning into a cheaply made and rushed video game. All that said, Speed Racer: The Beginning has zero merit and feels, if anything, like an attempt to sabotage the reputation of the classic anime franchise.
The game starts with a bizarre instrumental arrangement of the classic theme song that sounds like a SNES era chiptune tossed into a woodchipper of a filter that I’m assuming was supposed to make it sound like real instruments (It doesn’t). You have the option to start the game, check out the controls (Jump, use power up), and what iOS game would be complete without microtransactions? You can purchase credits in order to stockpile power ups which I guess are supposed to make the game easier, though the levels are pretty straightforward and I’m having trouble coming up with any reason to drop extra dollars on this game.
The title of the game is Speed Racer: The Beginning. This, to me, implies that there is some sort of narrative presence in the game, however silly it may be. The Beginning of what? The question is never answered, as there is no hint of flavor text anywhere in the game, or any personality whatsoever. You start the game, play the levels until you’re sick of them (and boy howdy you will be), and there is nothing in between. It doesn’t help that the game looks and feels like a lazy flash game, with the only inkling of aesthetic detail spent on the Mach 5. Levels consist of a theme (snow, forest, lava, etc), a never changing background, pitfalls, and inconsistent, blandly designed enemy cars. None of which have anything in common with the creative, Wacky Racers-esque foes from the show. Racer X makes an appearance, but you can hardly tell it’s him when he shows up.
Sealing the fate of Speed Racer is the brainless, and oftentimes broken gameplay and thoughtless level design. It essentially plays like Robot Unicorn Attack, but with no talent behind it. Speed automatically drives the Mach 5 through bland levels, and you have to jump across pits with his amusingly nonsensical double jump (I can buy the springlike protrusions giving Speed airtime, but what is he springing off of in the air?). Occasionally a power up will appear, which will either clear obstacles, help Speed cover longer jumps, or help his car get through bad weather. The Mach 5 also has the unintentional ability to climb up the edge of a cliff every now and then, and also to fall through solid ground. That, accompanied with occasional freezing, really drive home how lazily this game was put together. Coins are also littered throughout the levels (Which last way too long, by the way) that give you points that do nothing. Yep, the only way to acquire credits is to pony up cash. The coins also happen to be placed in areas that will guarantee your death quite often, so going out of your way to collect them oftentimes ends in tragedy.
This is the part of the review process in which I generally offer a brief summary of the review, as well as offering a few more pros and cons for the game in question. In the case of Speed Racer: The Beginning, frankly, I just want to forget this ever happened. I think I might finally get around to snagging a Blu Ray of the live action movie, because that was a pretty fun movie. I mean, come on, John Goodman fights ninjas. I can get over giving the Wachowskis ten bucks for that.
[review title=”Speed Racer: The Beginning” pros=”Erm, the glitches are pretty funny, sort of.” cons=”Knowing that somewhere out there, somebody purchased credits in this really upsets me” verdict=”If you really want to play a Speed Racer game for some reason, try the movie tie in on the DS instead. Or go home and come up with something better to do.” score=10]