Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing Review
Just like the gaming industry had a difficult time improving upon 1080, until SSX hit the shelves, they've had a similarly difficult time improving upon the SNES classic Super Mario Kart. Every character from Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and even Crash Bandicoot has had their own racing game, and with the exception of Crash Team Racing nobody has gotten close to the game that started it all. Bombad Racing falls into the same category of also-rans, as it fails to introduce anything new to the genre, and does several basic things poorly.
The "If you've played one, you've played them all" way of thinking fits pretty well when assessing the gameplay of SW:SBR. Since all of the characters are in flying vehicles, the game's loose controls are more akin to what is found in the flying portions of Diddy Kong Racing, than any ground-based racer. The controls are simple, you can jump, powerslide, and even turbo when necessary, and a host of weapons are available to help your racer's cause. The bad thing about having a host of weapons, is that there are just way too many to pick from. Each weapon has its own symbol telling you what it is, but when there are 25 weapons in the game, it's tough to figure out what you've got. It's not laid out like Mario Kart, where a banana symbol is a banana, nope that would be too easy. Instead, a star shaped symbol with streaks is one of the symbols, and only God knows what it does. Making matters worse, the weapons are almost completely worthless. Most of them are brightly colored beams of light that head off towards the horizon missing everything entirely. The weapons that are most common, like lasers, are difficult to aim and will end up slowing you down if you take the time to try and aim them properly. If the game is geared to kids, it doesn't need that many weapons, five or six will do just fine.
As I mentioned earlier, the levels are huge, and there are many different paths available to choose from during a race. The sprawling levels and large amount of shortcuts make each race hard to win the first time around because you've got to learn your way through each course and determine the fastest way around it. Finding the quickest way around is made more difficult due to the lack of signs telling you where to go. More often than I felt was necessary, I had no idea where to go because I was in a circular area where it was just as easy to go left as it was to go right, but only one was the correct way.
There are several times that if you aren't taking the best route around a track, you're in big trouble because Lucas Learning didn't implement any assistance features for those racers bringing up the rear. This makes for some pretty boring races if you've slipped to the back of the pack. Depending on how you feel about this omission is likely a result of how much you need it, especially during a two-player game. I personally don't like too much CPU assistance, like what is found in NFL Blitz, but in contrast, consistently beating your opponent by 30 seconds gets old after a while.
In addition to the standard race mode, there are team and arena modes to keep you occupied. The team mode pits you and another player against another team in a race to the finish. The first team to have a player cross the finish line wins the bragging rights, it's simple, but fun. The arena mode is the obligatory battle mode that all kart racers must have. The arena levels are huge, and it's too easy to hide while the other players duke it out and get killed. This might be a cheap way to go about playing, but it works every time, and you can't argue with success like that. Don't get me wrong, it's better than not having a battle mode at all, it's just not very fun or challenging.
SW:SBR is primarily aimed at the younger portion of PS2 owners, and it's visual style reflects this. For those of you that didn't believe me when I said it earlier, your favorite Episode:1 characters (If you have any) are here in all of their bigheaded glory. Yoda, Darth Maul, Jar Jar, Obi-Wan, and several others try to overcome the generally poor aerodynamic properties of planet-sized craniums, and race around the game's giant tracks.
Levels are primarily bright, and vibrantly colored, and the draw distance is usually very good. There are some bland textures found throughout the game, not anything horrible, but nothing here's going to end the ongoing texture capabilities of the PS2 debate. When playing a one-player game the framerate remains consistent, but a multi-player game turns the game into an assault on the eyes. Maybe Lucas Learning figured little kids wouldn't mind a choppy framerate, but big kids like myself will find it very distracting when playing with friends. There won't be any awards on the Lucas mantle for this game's graphics, but it gets the job done.
All of your favorite songs from the Star Wars universe are found in the game, but you might have a difficult time recognizing them. Each one sounds like it has been through some sort of Dr. Seuss remixing machine, and in some cases, becomes barely recognizable. Some of them sound good, and really fit in with the light-hearted feel of the game, but others do nothing but grate the nerves.
The nutty music may have been easier to take, if it was the only thing to listen to, but alas, it wasn't. Each character has his or her own "wacky" taunts, which they can and will use liberally while racing. Only two of the characters, Jar Jar and Anakin, have their authentic voices, and the rest are pathetic imitations. With all of the sound effects and music playing it's hard to actually hear what the racers are yelling at each other, but that doesn't stop them from taunting every time they pass you. Fortunately you are able to choose not to taunt simply by not pressing the button, but your computer opponents won't exercise such restraint.
As with any multi-player game, Bombad Racing has a large amount of replay value. Of course, if you hate the game, you're not going to get too much extra replay, but for those of you with friends to race, you'll have a pleasant diversion. To combat the fact that there are only nine tracks available, each track has a mirror available if you progress through the game. I'm not a big fan of mirrored tracks, and I certainly don't consider them a whole new set of tracks, but they are better than nothing. To sum it up, SW:SBR is an average kart racer that doesn't try anything new, but it's the only one of its kind on the PS2. If you enjoy this sort of game, or you have children that do, it'll keep you or them busy for a week or two, but it's not a must-have game by any stretch of the imagination.
6/26/2004 Aaron Thomas