Replay Value: 8
Originally titled as Speed Freaks in Europe, Speed Punks is an eight month old game that saw the light of day around August in Europe. Hailed as the best kart racer in Europe, I had my thoughts set to on Speed Punks (Freaks) and I was ready to import it, right when I received a little press info that the game will be heading to US shores this April. I quickly halted my actions and got the waitin'. As more and more people previewed the game, it was already being compared to the king of karts, Crash Team Racing. Some said that Speed Punks will be better, while others didn't want to speak early. Now the time has come, has all the rave on Speed Punks been true and does it live up?
In three words "yes and no". Visually the game has an excellent graphics engine, free of any pop-up and slowdown. In terms of speed, this is the best game engine to date, but when it comes to details, characters aren't as sweet as CTR's. For an eight month year old engine Speed Punks is impressive, but not impressive as Crash's game. The vehicles in SP aren't as crisp and detailed as CTR's. The detail part comes in because all you see is four wheels and steering wheel. On the other hand the environmental detail is quite bright and luberant. Speaking of environments SP may have decent looking ones but the innovation isn't all that. Each course is about 30-50 seconds long, and when compared to CTR's enormous tracks SP really lacks in that area. I also didn't find them to be inspired much either, while they are good tracks with their share of shortcuts, they still lack that oomph that CTR has. While SP may have share of its ups and downs, frankly its got more ups, things like it's eye candy special effects, bright atmosphere, blazing fast frame rates (even in four player mode) gives Speed Punks a great presentation.
Graphics, sound, who cares? Gameplay is where the reel beef of the game lies (hence the reason they call it GAMEplay). So when I sat down with Speed Punks I was a bit confused, honestly Speed Punks lacks the thing that made CTR and Mario Kart what they are today. The game does have a four player mode via multi-tap but there is no Battle Mode. The only thing you can do is race and that is it! I was quite disappointed when I witnessed that. The weapons or projectiles are either plain, cookie cutters or just weird. Rockets are the cookie cutters, while something like slime is the weird stuff and bombs are the plain material. There certainly is a larger array of weapons, but I just listed those three as the main ones. The tournament mode is no where as deep as CTR's, when you start the tour in Speed Punks you basically select your level and race in the areas categorized under easy and so on. You have your Time Trial Mode and you standard VS and Multiplayer mode, but you also have a Bonus mode. This is where you collect all of your winnings after you have completed a certain tournament. When finishing easy you are rewarded with the option of accessing the mode, then you have to beat the next level which is Normal in order to receive goodies, I believe.
Speed Punks offers 24 areas to race on, with 6 characters to race as, and 12 weapons or power ups to use. Speed Punks definitely lives up to its name, unlike other kart racers out there, Speed Punks actually has a good sense of speed and an very life like kart engine. The karts spring and bounce, and they wobble back and forth giving them a more lively feel. Each character has his or her own personality, Tabitha is a spoiled little brat, Brains, (well duh) is the smartest Speed Punk, and Tempest is a maniac kid troubled by many things. The Speed Punks group really are "punks", they escape out of their schools, houses or wherever they are and just race. Speed Punks doesn't take the crown, but it would have if it had a Battle Mode and a deeper Tournament, but never the less those looking for a new kart ride may want to check out Speed Punks.
I don't really see anything special about the sound, like any other kart game you have your average comments during races, your sound effects and your themes in the background. Nothing to special about the sound, I'll just head on over to the control.
The layout feels a lot like CTR's. You can powerslide by using L1 and R1, and you can use your turbo by holding R2, while shooting a weapon using L2. Both analog sticks are supported, so that's nice to see, and the dual shock is very strong. Control is probably the games best aspect, the configuration is very tight, and when playing with the analog you have to be precise and accurate, that's a great feature.
Speed Punks may not take the gold home, but it does get silver in my opinion. And while I think it may take very long to beat Crash Team Racing, if Fun Com brings out the sequel with larger areas, and a battle mode then it may very well happen. Speed Punks is in no way a disappointment, there may be a few aspects, but it is still a strong title that is without a doubt worthy of a purchase for racing and kart fans, while a rental for less hardcore gamers.