I never thought I’d ever actually play this game; I bought it off a friend 3 years ago. There were versions of it released for PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, Windows, and even Arcades, so naturally I went with the most reduced version out there. This also happened to be one of the first versions released, alongside the Windows copy that I don’t have access to.
Some versions of the game have a plot, maybe this one does too but that would have to have been written in the manual since there’s nothing about it in the game. As far as you can tell, the game is much like Super Mario Kart where you just have a few random racers driving across random tracks to win trophies.
We start the game with the game’s logo and the appropriate jingle, and once the menu starts we hear another track… the theme to “Rugrats”. This plays until you’ve gone through the options and finally started a race. The only other long composition that plays in the entire game is heard when you’re actually racing. I don’t know what it’s from, or if it’s from anything. And that’s it, just 3 tracks.
The esteemed roster of racers here includes: Arnold from “Hey Arnold!”, Norbert and Dagget from “The Angry Beavers”, CatDog from “CatDog”, Spongebob from “Spongebob”, Tommy from “Rugrats”, and Eliza from “The Wild Thornberrys”. Plankton is not present, like in other versions. I like the way the racers are drawn here- at this small scale they look almost 3D, like how Donkey Kong Country used sprites made from 3D renders.
You would think that a racing game would have multiplayer capability where you race side-by-side, but you would be wrong. Wikipedia says this game is totally bereft of multiplayer support (my brother has the link cable and I have only one copy of the game, so I can’t test that), but that is just another lie from Wikipedia. This game gives a pseudo-multiplayer experience in that you can have up to four people play the same game, by swapping back and forth when prompted. When other people are engaged in play, the number of laps you need to complete to beat a course drops from 4 to 2, and once you complete a course you hand the Game Boy over to the other party(parties) involved.
The courses are standard racing fare, but the backgrounds are bland. The same small image repeated indefinitely, with a unique one around where the finish line/start line is. As best as I could assume, you need to play all 20 race tracks to unlock the game’s ending. And the password you have to remember is an absurd beast. 24 characters to enter and remember, just like with Metroid on the NES, but fortunately I learned during my attempt to play Zero Tolerance that my phone’s camera copies such passwords with much more speed and accuracy than my puny primate paw. Watching someone who used 41 minutes of their time to play this full game revealed that after 20 grueling tracks you’re rewarded with a congratulatory message.
The racers handle ok. You can move North, North North West, Northwest, West Northwest, West, etc. In other words, 16 directions. The animation of your rotation is remarkably smooth. Your racer naturally moves faster than the others on a straight track, but at the curves the other racers catch up to you almost immediately. There are powerups laying about the track, which at least in my experience appeared in later laps (you have 4 laps to get through, usually in 3 or 4 a powerup might appear, or lap 2 if you are doing multiplayer). I couldn’t tell what one of them does, but one speeds you up and the third one stops all the other racers.
The music is short, the courses are bland, you can only have 4 racers per race and they flicker in and out of existence like the ghosts in Pac Man on the Atari 2600. In short- not much of a racing game, just some shovelware to remove $20-$40 from your wallet when
it first came out. I understand some technical limitations on the GBC account for the sprite flicker, but after playing Donkey Kong Country (and Pokemon Yellow, and Mega Man Xtreme, and Mega Man Xtreme 2, and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, and Perfect Dark) I’m aware that the Game Boy Color has much more capability than you see in this game. So like this article, it’s a quota quickie (because I picked a Tuesday night to travel and I try to get these all done Wednesdays).
You know what would’ve saved this game? Novelty. Let’s see a version where you race as Nickelodeon mascots, racing through their promos (tell me this one isn’t right out of The Exorcist… that might not be the scene I was thinking of, or might just be part of it, it’s been 10 years but you get the point).