LEGO Racers 2 Review
By Chris Commodore |
You got to respect a game where your ultimate goal is to take your chubby, stubby, little Lego dude and collect some gold bricks for currency so that you can travel to the planet Xalax and whoop some guy from your hometown in a race with him and his new alien lovers (friends, same diff). See, after a crushing defeat in the original Lego championship race thing, Rocket Racer (Mr. I'm better than you because I live on an alien world where I abuse them and flaunt my racing superiority over them on a daily basis), headed off to this planet Xalax because their entire species was apparently focused on the race. He's been building up his skillz and now feels it's high time for some competition.
Lego Racers 2 is a lighthearted combat racing game graduated straight from the Mario Kart vocational school of racing goodness, that grants players the opportunity to take to their favorite and even user created Lego cars and tear around a myriad of locales, but a little less Mario Kart and a little more Diddy Kong Racing (hovercraft , planes, etc.) would have been nice. Its immediate gratification comes in the form of an arcade mode, and its lasting quest appeal in the form of an adventure mode, whereby you are given the opportunity to unlock the game's features for later, instant access in the arcade mode. The onset of the game only allows for play on the Sandy Bay set of tracks (your hometown). The rest of the games environments and mini-games are unlocked as you reach them in the adventure mode. Even though your play choices are somewhat limited to begin with, new tracks are easily accessible and can be unlocked within a half hour of play (or twelve days depending on whether you're El Retardo Dan Adams, or me, The Greatest Thing Ever, Ivan (You're fired Ivan)).
Adventure mode is broken up into a classic kind of Diddy Kong hub and level system. Each environment (Mars, Arctic, Dino Island, Xalax) is actually made up of one very large map, which is segmented into the different tracks, tied together via a central hub (a room with a whole bunch of portals). The point of all this to beat all the tracks and obtain yourself some gold bricks to purchase your way onto the next environment via interplanetary blimps and portals. So if Golden bricks allow for interplanetary travel here then you'd figure a few normal bricks would at least get you a bus ride to LA, right? Well try explaining that to the stupid heads at Grey Hound. I came in with a stack of bricks wanting to go to LA and they were like, "You need to pay real money, sir." I was all, what the heck do you think this stack of bricks is? I totally earned them at the local go-kart track.
The later adventure mode levels offer up some degree of challenge, but, for the most part, the thing can be completed with a little skill and only a couple of plays through each level so that you can get the hang of things, for the most part anyway. Again, this is all of course provided you've mastered the fine art of making toast (which also requires the use of hands and stuff).
Gameplay itself is straight combat racing a la the father of the genre before it, Mario Kart. You've got your drive through powerups, shooting, and driving stuff. Unlike previous games of this ilk, the weapons in Lego Racers allow for the complete destruction of vehicles. You'll lose many a block off your ride as you careen out of control crashing into stuff and generally feeling a little missile in your back. Remember how you and your siblings/friends would build a couple of Lego cars and have head on bouts where your beloved creations would be repeatedly rolled at one another at high speeds until the last one capable of rolling would be the winner; then you'd jump up and down in your Spider-Man underwear gloating if you one? C'mon it was only the other day, you have to remember... Anyway, this is the same deal. If you lose your pieces you're going to have to run the rest of the way, which while kind of fun should not ever be traded in for the motorized transportation if you like the whole concept of winning. Don't worry too much though, as pit alleys (stretches of the course lined with energy wall type things), will, to some degree, repair your vehicle.
It's unfortunate that this gameplay element is slightly hampered by the fact that, if you crash or lose your car, you're pretty much Steve Butts'd (my new phrase to describe something horrendously crappy (you're double fired Ivan)). Even a few minor mistakes will cost you the race (even with the catch up option enabled, so losing your entire car, which is a catastrophic disaster, pretty much guarantees your Steve Butts status. Restarting the race is, thankfully, an instantaneous endeavor through the in-game menu (no loading or nothing). That's a feature you'll quickly come to appreciate as you repeatedly get caught on the stupid little pegs that dot the ends of checkpoints and other miscellaneous road side debris that populate the courses.
To preserve a structured race, a checkpoint system has been employed (kind of a necessity as all of the races in an environment are just segmented courses of a larger map), but the frequency and placement of the checkpoints makes them more of a chore than a guideline. Your freedom of movement can often times be severely hampered.
Real treats to the game are its complete character and car builders, both of which are accomplished via a simple, but still creativity allowing snap-in interface. Essentially, you choose your car frame and snap blocks onto it to make stuff (virtual Legos). Character customization isn't as broad in its allowance of diversity as the car builder, but you can make some pretty scary pants-less Eskimos if you feel so inclined.
Sound? Behold the typical cutesy cartoon gibberish talk, back when we were playing games off carts and floppies it was always assumed that the little incoherent squeaky voices accompanied by corresponding text were just something in place due to limitations on storage. It seems this is not the case. Developers seem to have a sort of sick fetish with making their characters speak in this cutesy babble. "Bla blu bla blow blee blu blah weekooo weekoo." Sure it's kind of nice to see someone with worse etiquette and composure than me, but the fact that you can't skip the text dialog between the conversations of these rambling little freaks is just torture. Some of the dialog is admittedly pretty comical, provided you have a somewhat disturbed mind and are able to associated sinful thought to Lego characters (a quality I of course have in spades).
Vibrant colors, solid textures, and a generally crisp design comprise the aesthetics of the title; distinctly reminiscent of something akin to classic Psygnosis graphical goodness a la Rollcage; however, the rolling terrain, dotted with jagged Lego structures, (some appearing to be exact replicas of familiar classics) are characteristics entirely its own. The gratuitous use of lens flares can get a tad on the annoying side, as they have the innate tendency to blind you but in no way effect the computer AI, but the multitude of minor graphical polishes, such as the weather effects, radiant lighting, and somewhat glossy surfaces easily outweigh the negative impact of the few seconds in which it becomes necessary to stare the sun down head on (which you should actually do more often because I heard it makes you smarter, enlarges your musculature, and makes you more attractive to the opposite sex, of course there's the whole blinding thing to contend with).
As pleasant as the graphics are, it can become little eerie watching Lego characters walk around breathing and making facial expressions... I guess it just conjures up far too many nightmarish memories of a time when I thought legions of plastic toys would come to life at night and exact revenge upon me for the torture inflicted upon them just hours earlier (me lighting them on fire and tossing 'em at the neighbor dog to be insatiably chewed).
Hooray! The game has a multiplayer component! Hooray! It's split-screen only! I believe the phrase you're looking for is "What the *insert 'colorful' language here.*" What kind of a person would make a PC multiplayer component split-screen only? Oh, I know, it must be the kind of person who finds playing a game on half the size of a 15 or 17" viewable screen crowded next to someone at a desk enjoyable. In other words, weirdoes. I don't know about you guys, but the closer I have to get to the trolls whom work around me, the unhappier I am (you are so fired Ivan).
For only twenty bucks you can't really go wrong with Lego Racers 2, a game that never jars you out of the crazy Lego world it establishes upon load up. Even with it's faults, it's an enjoyable, solid game worthy of a look from anyone into cartoon racers, Legos, or just that thing people do when their mouths perk back and their teeth show, I think it's called smiling. A few more tweaks here and there, and a little more in the way of multiplayer and this could have been elevated from pretty darn good, to bleeding damn excellent. I honestly do hope they continue the series.
-- Ivan Sulic