Title: Mad Dash Racing
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Date Released: Nov 2001
Players: 1 to 4 <split screen>
Here we have yet another Mario Kart clone title, except this time there on foot so no karts. Innovative? It would be if 989 had not released Running Wild for PS1 in 1999, another on foot kart racer. The loose plot for this one is, an evil scientist needs you to race to win parts of a meteorite, in tern he offers an ultimate prize.
The weapons used to stall your characters are rather uninspired, for instance goop gun, a Tron like barrier wall. The only interesting weapon shatters the gameplay by stopping the character and forcing the player to hit a button combo in order. You also have a standard short range attack as well, not innovative but useful in a neck and neck race for the advantage. The cans of cola charge your meter allowing for glider to glide, sprinter to have nitro boost and basher to do a shove through attack, while entertaining gives a huge advantage to the sprinters making them an unbalanced set of charters.
The standard boosting arrows sets and floating boosting rings for temporary speed increases, nothing innovative there. The tracks designer did a good job in the layout of the boosts allowing for excellent chaining and directional choices.
Graphically this title it clean but unimpressive as well. It has a cartoony look, quite similar to the boxy of crash bandicoot. The graphics go well with the humor, but it feels like itís all been done before. The backdrops are as overdone at the rest of the plot, while the levels interact well with them itís all stuff that has been done in other racing games. In all itís there are no real flaws, but it has nothing new to bring to the table.
What makes this stand out? Underling the surface are well made multi branch tracks allows for shortcutting including sliding, swimming and climbing. In climbing/swimming the movement becomes a drawback often it feels like a stall when you switch from a standard forward of the joystick to rotating the right joystick in high speed. While itís great idea, when implemented unless you know the track, you stall for a moment allowing others to overtake you. The tracks do have inactive parts as well as but in a racing game they just slow the action.
Aside from the control stalls when shifting gameplay to climbing/swimming or hit with the annoying button weapon, the charter control is good. The game can be picked up and played without opening the manual and when climbing/swimming sections pop up a onscreen gameplay hint appears. The game control would have been great if they had not made the climbing/swimming like a demented impromptu mini game.
A large failing point is the single player, the AI can be cheap and unforgiving especially in later tracks. While using the multiple paths can help shave the time down, it seems almost always at you approach the finish line in first place a computer player will hammer you with a weapon stalling you long enough to loose, since there is no reward for second place. The learning curve for track layout is high since unlike most racers you donít loop the track, so the classic comeback in the third lap is nonexistent. Fear not due to the AI youíll have plenty of times to practice.
Something I just canít figure out is the reasoning behind the techno background music. It has an excellent music soundtrack tracks including crystal method and fatboy slim, but it feels out of place. It sets a more hard edge feel, that this game is lacking much like a promise that never gets delivered. The music feels more like it belongs with the latest Wipeout clone.
In the multiplayer is where the gameís value comes in, the gameplay is smooth enough that people that have never played can just pick it up and play. Itís uses split screen, not my personal choice for multiplayer, but is done quite well. Sadly you normally would need to unlock the levels in single player mode to get a choice of tracks, you can retrieve a fully unlocked game save from http://www.xbox-saves.com to avoid the single player.
When it first was released, these flaws combined with track glitches left it on the shelf to rot as Eidosís lackluster entry for the XBox. With the severe price cuts you can pick it up on the cheap making it a good cheap four player party game.
In summery, Eidos has the fundamentals intact for a good kart racer clone. Sadly itís not that spectacular nor is it innovative, but entertaining with friends.