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Wacky Races (NES) artwork

Wacky Races (NES) review


"“Wacky Races” for the Nintendo is a hidden gem of a platformer. The only reason it ever crossed my mind to play it was because I was browsing an old issue of Nintendo Power, one that had “Darkwing Duck” as its cover story. One of the other features was a pretty extensive overview of, you guessed it, this game. The graphics in the screenshot were very clean and colorful; I thought I’d like this game, and my hunch was correct. "



“Wacky Races” for the Nintendo is a hidden gem of a platformer. The only reason it ever crossed my mind to play it was because I was browsing an old issue of Nintendo Power, one that had “Darkwing Duck” as its cover story. One of the other features was a pretty extensive overview of, you guessed it, this game. The graphics in the screenshot were very clean and colorful; I thought I’d like this game, and my hunch was correct.

The game is based on a series of old Hanna-Barbara cartoons from the 80s or 70s. Your protagonist is actually one of the program’s villains, a snickering dog named Muttley. The plot is of no importance and neither is the property that inspired the game. Fan or not, this is a fun platformer. It has ten levels divided across three worlds. You have the option of deciding which of the three worlds you’ll start with, and every time you clear one you can choose the next. This non-linearity doesn’t serve any real purpose, but what the heck, it doesn’t hurt either.

Muttley moves and hops at a brisk speed; maybe he’s not quite Sonic the Hedgehog, but the hound can certainly hustle a little better than your garden variety plumber. Being a dog and a crook, you collect bones and diamonds as your pick-ups. The bones are part of a power-up system that sorta recalls Konami’s “Gradius”; there are four icons in your HUD: A bomb, a bark, wings, and a heart. The first two are projectile/explosive weapons that can you switch back and forth between; the wings grant our mutt the ability to “float fall” like Raccoon Mario in “Super Mario Bros. 3”; and the hearts replenish your whole health and add an extra life container, up to five. Each time you collect a bone, you cycle through one of the four icons from left to right; pushing ‘select’ activates the power-up. Diamonds, by the way, fulfill the Law of One Hundred, which dictates that every platformer will have at least one kind of item that grants a 1-UP for every 100 collected.

The levels contain textbook platforming of the best kind. They encompass hills, caves, fields, lakes, the sky, suburbs, a harbor, a recreation of the Old American West, and slippery ice caps. Settings hardly repeat, and enemies are rarely recycled as well. Each level brings new scenery and obstacles, and a couple introduce game mechanics of their own, like the token swimming level and another where you bounce on and between fluffy clouds. I never saw the ‘Game Over’ screen, but I did bust a sweat once or twice, especially against the surprisingly tricky bosses; they’re the kind that really do require patience and an observation of pattern, and each one has a second and even trickier behavior that kicks in once they’re down to half their health.

It took me an hour to beat “Wacky Races,” but it had enough content and variety to make that hour fly by. It’s a superb game for kids, who will enjoy the colorful character and graphics and will certainly find it to be more challenging than adults will; I think the fun itself would translate well across all age groups. This is the ideal “Super Mario” clone.

Rating: 10/10

joseph_valencia's avatar
Community review by joseph_valencia (September 22, 2009)

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