Yet another racer enters the N64 fold - will it be worth half a sixpence or a million dollars?
Boasting tons of cars and upgrades, Penny Racers promised to be Mario Kart with knobs on. The game consists of a set of races that can be attempted in any order, with the promise of extra tracks and features once first place has been achieved.
To begin with, the player gets to choose from a selection of cars with which to start the race. Once a vehicle has been chosen, the settings screen allows the alteration of car body, engine, tyres, weapons and so on. Depending on which class, from A to C, has been selected, a certain amount of points are given to each driver to customise their car. These can only be used to fit parts the player has in their collection.
On completing a race, the three highest placed cars are given the opportunity to rob bits from the losers. By tactically choosing which bits to take, a player can knacker his opponent's car, while enhancing their own.
This sounds good in practice, but can often lead to severe frustration. The computer-controlled cars start with vastly superior weaponry and can easily hammer your vehicle into the ground, and then rub it in by stealing any decent add-ons you do have. This necessitates playing the same track repeatedly to build up your car to a race-winning standard. I'd Buy That For A Dollar!
The tracks in Penny Racers are pretty ordinary. They mainly consist of a normal racing circuit with a few quirks and shortcuts thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately these token elements fail to grab the attention and instead give the impression of being installed at the last minute to counteract the blandness of the tracks. In addition to this, on some of the wilderness tracks such as the Arctic and Volcano, the lack of detail often makes it difficult to work out the correct route to take - in places the Arctic course looks like you've been caught in a total whiteout!
Gameplay is a bit of a hit or miss affair. The superior computer cars can easily outpace your initial vehicle and every trick in the book is required to keep up with them. A few turbo arrows have been placed in obscure places on each track to help you win, but even a massive lead can come to nought if you're struck by a projectile.
That time-honoured racing favourite, 'instant last place' syndrome, has been graciously included. Guaranteed, if you pull off two flawless laps, a CPU car will whack you and every car in the world will drive straight by as you hopelessly try to recover. Add to this the omission of a jump button, in favour of a comedy French horn, and obstacle avoidance can be put down to an act of God rather than player skill. If this wasn't bad enough, some of the weapons have a ridiculous blast radius, which often takes you out when you aren't even the target of an attack.
The most engrossing part of the game is the multiplayer mode. Even with four players the game maintains a high speed and good resolution. Cars can be created and saved to a Controller Pak in the single player mode, then be taken round to a mate's house to do battle with his racer. The victor then gets to steal parts from the loser, setting the scene for a few grudge matches.
There is also a map design function included with the game. Both stage races and circuits can be constructed and saved to a Controller Pak. These can be used to challenge all-comers in the multiplayer mode.
Despite this one redeeming feature, the overall game doesn't manage to raise itself above the bland gameplay and functional graphics (the cars are a testament to the art of cubism). It could have been better, it should have been better, but in the end lack of imagination has let this title down badly. If you are a fan of this sort of game you may well derive some amusement from it, but as it stands, you would be better of buying Mario Kart.
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In our review we said that the game might prove to be more playable with the car customisations screens in a language we could understand, but unfortunately the sluggish handling remains, no matter how much you enhance your vehicle. And as it still holds the world record for slowness in an N64 racing game, it doesn't set the heart pumping even when, after about half a lap, the cars finally reach top speed.
In the short time since Choro Q was released multiplayer combat. Penny Racers looks decidedly dated and underpowered compared to this tough opposition. We're just warning you in case it slithers into a game store near you before next month.
Take environments that appear remarkably similar to those in Mario Kart, throw in a bunch of cute puffy vehicles and voila, you have Penny Racers. OK, Cliff Notes summary aside, Penny Racers has a surprising amount of depth hidden within its simplistic facade. And while It's true the Mario-esque backgrounds are in stark contrast to the flat, cartoonish appearance of the cars, looks can be deceiving. Called Choro Q in Japan, Penny Racers offers drift-style combat racing with a ton of car modification options (over a hundred) to keep the racing competitive. The higher you place, the more add-ons you can buy or steal from your opponents' cars. Upgrades allow you to build using basic additions of power, acceleration, tires, etc., but also offer body style, armor, decoration and weapons as well. Of the 13 cars most resemble actual street cars such as the VW Bug, Acura NSX and Porsche 911, to name a few. Of course the caricatured appearance makes them look more like small pillows than high performance cars but it's all a part of their charm.
Although there are only nine courses available, a simplistic track editor increases that number exponentially. Courses can be built in about a minute, if need be, with the option to save the good ones. Combat portions of the game include spike and bomb dropping. Run over one, do a couple flips and you're off again. Vehicles replenish their supply by picking up power-ups or loading up before the race.
In general, racing cartoon cars drift-style through Mario-Kart inspired environments is entertaining in and of itself. Throw in the multitude of car mods, combat and track editor options and you have an interesting game overall. It does seem like it'll be better suited for your little brother though. Even with all the options it still oozes cutesy cartoon goodness. But then again, cartoon racers do pretty well on the N64 so who am I to judge.
Mario Kart fans as well as four-player fanatics should be on full alert for this interesting new racing title.
Penny Racers sputters onto the N64 racing scene with simplistic graphics, unimaginative sound, and unresponsive controls. Software like this just drives you crazy!
Modeled after the popular toy line, Penny none of the quality of those games intact While you can buy a handful of vehicles and special weapons, the games sole innovation is allowing winners to cannibalize the parts of the losers' cars. The coolest feature is the track editor which lets you design your own course.
Penny Racers is a cartoony, graphical fender-bender with chunky, featureless cars and cardboard-cutout landscapes. The continuous high-pitched whine of the cars' engines and the brain-scrambling background tunes set your teeth on edge, while the mushy controls fare litde better. N64 race fans should suck with Mario Kart and let this Penny gather dust.
- Feel free to careen Into walls and bump Into other cars for boosts as your vehicle takes no noticeable damage whatsoever.
- In the multiplayer mode, equip your car with weapons like land mines and smoke screens to bewilder tenacious opponents.
Based on the popular Penny Racers toy car line, this kart-racing game has an ambitious lineup of features, including 13 body styles, 9 courses over varied terrain, and over 100 upgrades, modifications, and weapons for your car. A customizable track editor ensures challenges for one to four racers of all calibers. Gameplay is smooth and simple, with cartoony graphics and animation. If you want a better sense of speed, try the first-person view. Give a penny for a ride.
Snapshots and Media
Nintendo 64/N64 Screenshots
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