Game Description: Get behind the controls of a Podracer as Anakin Skywalker or any one of over 20 Podracers, as you feel the power of racing a twin-engine craft at 600 miles per hour. Visit eight distinctly detailed worlds as you make your way through Tusken Raider attacks, methane lakes, anti-gravity tunnels, and more. Each intense competition pits you against more than 20 opponents, as you do what you must to be the first to the finish line.
You are familiar with the hype and whether it was generated by the media, George Lucas, or the fans themselves, it's helped to sell everything and anything Star Wars. Whether a product was any good was irrelevant, if it was graced with Star Wars, it was a must-have for any "true" fan. So as soon as Nintendo announced that they had a limited exclusivity deal with LucasArts, many in the media saw it as a coup for Nintendo. Others, however, doubted the game's significance because although it carried with it a big-license name, Pod Racer (as it was then called) was still merely a racing game.
Playing Racer is a bit like participating in George Lucas' movie. You're in a little pod strapped onto two giant engines that will pull you through the air at mind-blowing speeds. And this feeling is pulled off quite convincingly. One of Racer's greatest strengths is its understanding and acceptance of its own role. It is a racing game and nothing else. And although there is no real story and no character development, the familiar faces from the movie are all here and that is essentially what we can and should expect. The game does have a few things to offer: long winding tracks that can be enjoyed (thanks to the responsive control of your vehicle) and a racer that feels (I guess) like the real thing. With every bank turn and boost you encounter gliding over the landscape, the action draws you in closer and closer.
Racer provides the familiar sounds of the movie complete with the requisite Star Wars soundtrack (handled beautifully by Factor 5). It is leaps and bounds above any done on the system by a third-party developer. The graphics were also a feat. The developers outdid themselves by accurately recreating worlds from the movie and adding some new ones as well. And most impressively, they fit it all in a cart. Also, while not photo-realistic, the graphics are extremely detailed and uses vividly complex textures; it's a wonder to me that the game didn't slow down while I played.
Racer, expectedly, is not without flaws. Due to the game's frantic pace, there are prices paid in the game play department. When racing along certain tracks, objects speed towards you at such a rate that they may appear to "pop out of nowhere" giving the player little time to maneuver around them. Other tracks are rigidly narrow to the point that when combined with their sudden twists and turns, they are damn-near irrational. They offered little opportunity for me to slow down and maneuver through, while maintaining my place at the same time. All this is due mostly to bad level designing and it is a major inconvenience. Another problem I have is that at such great speeds, the tracks to either side of me can easily blur together losing all sense of detail. It's hard to find alternate paths when the entrances are so tiny and buzz past you before you even know you missed them. Much time is lost from losing sight of the road due to missing or unrecognizable track boundaries and subdsequently having to struggle my way back into the race. This is most evident in the snow levels where the track itself differs so little from the backgrounds.
It was not uncommon for me to find myself lost or stuck or, even worse, careening into or off a mountainside. Nevertheless, the game is as stated before: possibly one of the fastest racer I've seen on the Nintendo 64. Racer is a dream for the player wanting that adrenaline rush while zipping along tracks at break-neck speeds. It never claims to be more than what it is and that is to its credit. It controls great and looks excellent. All that and the great music from the movie. From the start, I felt an intended effort to make this game an extension of the movie and I dare to attest that they have succeeded. It delivers on all its promises and that's all I asked for.
Dale and I are pretty much on the same page with Racer. Licensed games are usually terrible and futuristic racing games tend to overdo it. But surprisingly, this isn't the case with Racer. The controls feel restrained in a good way. The pod racers consequently handle very well for a genre notorious for having loose controls and questionable physics. The scenery is also exemplary, giving the game great feeling of depth and dimension that is usually only found in huge arcade racing games.
Perhaps the best aspect of Racer is that it positively draws from the movie, including a temporary boost and repair feature that Anakin Skywalker clearly utilizes in the movie. These two features add an extra dimension because a level of on-the-fly resource management, not often seen in racing games, is introduced. My interest in the race becomes two-fold, one in beating the race's other competitors and two, efficiently maximizing the effectiveness of my pod racer.
The two worst features for me were the lack of a two-player tournament mode (there hasn't been a good one since the original Mario Kart) and the flimsy arcade-like endurance of the pods. The first problem mainly affects the play-life of the game since there are only so many times you'd want to race your buddy in a single race format before it gets tiring. The latter seriously hampers the above-mentioned resource management feature. What's the point of maintaining the integrity of the pod if it's just going to get trashed and replaced with a brand-spanking new one every other five seconds? But nevertheless, this is a great racing game with plenty of good features ultimately overshadowing the bad ones. I was pleasantly surprised by it.
Any fan of the movie will love this game. It doesn't have a deep story but that's not its draw anyway. It successfully takes one segment from the movie and lets you be a part of it.
Racing fans will love it because it handles better than most other racers on the market and offers blazing fast action and a multitude of varied tracks. There is no blood and gore nor any really sinister motive compelling you to race. Just go out there and race, all the while with your favorite characters from a great and popular movie. It's a truly fun game that can be enjoyed by all.