LEGO Racers (Nintendo 64) review
"I've always hated Legos. Perhaps it's my lack of natural building skills, as I've never been into models, Tinker Toys, Jenga, or whatever else there is out there to stack, mold, or design. Figuring that the N64 racing game was just, well, a racing game, I didn't worry that my strong dislike of the toys might come into play. Well, put simply, I was completely wrong. The game involved building and customizing your car and your driver using animated Lego pieces. Alright, so this bugged me. I once a..."
I've always hated Legos. Perhaps it's my lack of natural building skills, as I've never been into models, Tinker Toys, Jenga, or whatever else there is out there to stack, mold, or design. Figuring that the N64 racing game was just, well, a racing game, I didn't worry that my strong dislike of the toys might come into play. Well, put simply, I was completely wrong. The game involved building and customizing your car and your driver using animated Lego pieces. Alright, so this bugged me. I once again, as I have so many times among Lego fanatic friends before, attempted to make my car look cool... only to fail pathetically. Plan B, which of course was to make the dumbest-looking car possible, immediately kicked into place. I found, with my unique brand of building talents, Plan B was easy as hell. I also used the different pieces to assemble my driver, who resembled some kind of Darth Vader rip-off with blue jeans. I was ready to go.
Diving head-first into a Circuit, my ridiculous mess of a car and I were dropped into a track on a boardwalk of sorts. This didn't happen of course, until I met Captain Redbeard, the champion of this Circuit. After a few words of discouragement from him, the race began. Taking off slowly, behind everyone else, I worked my way around the corner. I was immediately confronted with three blocks of differing color, floating in the air just above the smooth track. I soon found out, without much shock, that these worked as the items in the game. After a few trips around I figured out that the red one was a weapon, the blue one was a shield, the green one was a speed boost, and the yellow one was a trap. Instantly I was disappointed by the lack of depth in items, at least until I ran over a white block. It took me a moment or two to figure out what it did, but when I did find out, I cheered. The white block, when combined with one of color, was like an upgrade. It turns out you can collect up to three white blocks to add to a colored one to make it more powerful.
This led to lots of experimentation. The red block upgraded from a wimpy cannonball all the way up to three big-ass rockets. The shield grew and lasted much longer (no Levitra/Viagra/Swedish Penis Pump jokes, please). The few-second boost turned into a warp that launched me forward in the level, and the trap changed from a little oil spill to a huge mummy that slowed down and confused opponents. With these boosts offering depth, the items suddenly seemed a lot less lame than I originally thought. I soon realized that the challenge of deciding whether or not to save an item for the upgrade white block or use it quickly became one of the most important parts of the whole race.
But it wasn't the only important part. Another was knowing the locations of the secret shortcuts. Nearly every track has one but not all are easy to find. They can provide you with a big leap forward and get you back in a race you may have fallen behind in. While falling behind isn't good for your score, it does give you a chance to kick back and take a deep gaze at the scenery. This would give you the time to figure out that the game's graphics are a stroke under par at best, featuring lots of blurry backgrounds. Hell, sometimes I even felt a wave of nausea from looking at them. The levels tend to have a very fake-looking feel to them, and the framerate tends to flutter at times. The courses are fairly well-designed though, even if they aren't very original in theme. I also like the fact that there is a current champion for the circuit and you have to stand up to their challenge. It's kind of stupid though that the current champion will always get the highest position possible that's not you. It's almost like the other racers are completely unnecessary since they never beat the champion.
But there's a lot to like about this game, really. I like the customization of the car and driver. The car especially, because there was so many options for blocks and flags to add to your tiny, plastic auto, and it was set up in a nifty way. The camera is fully controllable so it's easy to spin things around and see what you're doing, which is immeasurably useful when constructing mini towers around your car. Customizing the driver was as simple as scrolling across and picking the head, torso, and legs. While there was plenty of options to build your unique driver, a bit of a wider selection would have been nice, as some of the faces looked mostly the same. Still, the ability to completely customize everything, save it, and race with it was built superbly into the game and added a level to it that other racing games on the N64 simply didn't have.
The way the items worked was well-implemented as well. It was again unique in comparison to other N64 racers, as it added a different sort of strategy to the game. The music for some of the menu screens was nice and light to match the cartoony Lego fun, but some of the level tunes were just a bit obnoxious. The levels were designed well but were not as clean as those in other N64 racers. It always looked a bit faded and jagged, and that just made things confusing at times. All in all though, it's a fun and refreshing racer that's worth playing. Its flaws and short-comings kept it from becoming a classic, but it's still a solid game.
Community review by iamtheprodigy (August 04, 2007)
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