Hot on the heels of the recently released Jungle Party comes another in the Buzz! Junior range. Ace Racers, like the previous titles in the franchise is more about interactivity than the trivia based gameplay of the original Buzz! series. This time round though, it’s all high-octane fun.
Ace Racers gives you the chance to compete in races across land, sea and in the skies using nothing but your Buzz! controllers. Each race type offers a selection of vehicles to the players, for example a land race gives you the option to drive a dune buggy, a racing car or an old fashioned Ford. But these are purely for visual purposes as there are no advantages as to which one you are when on the track. There are around half a dozen tracks for each race type that can range from haunted graveyards, arctic wastelands, desert islands, Aztec ruins and even a course that looks like it runs through the center of the Earth. Each one is fun, visually stimulating and interactive containing obstacles or hazards such as jumps and barriers to avoid.
Like previous Buzz! Junior games the controls are very simple. For the land and sea races, all you need to worry about is the throttle which is controlled via the big red Buzz! button. Seeing as you can’t go off the track (steering is done automatically) you may think this is a bit too simple. But holding it down constantly will result in you spinning out of control on corners, so getting the right timing is essential to staying in front. The coloured option buttons are used for turbo boost and these should be saved for jumps or to burst past your opponent on the winning stretch.
The air races are quite different however. Although the Buzz! button is still primarily used, this time it controls your altitude as the gameplay takes place as a side-scroller rather than the top-down approach that the sea and land races used. Hovering through the platform-esque race course requires delicate pressing and releasing of the big red button to get through gaps or over structures. As you proceed, you can also collect balloons which can be fired at your opponents by pressing a coloured option button – each one corresponding to a racer. For example to target the blue player, you simply press the blue button. Every game in Ace Racers takes place with four players, but single players can take part in the races and mini-games and have AI controlled opponents with a range of difficulties.
To be honest, Ace Racers would be a fairly repetitive game (even for little kids) if it weren’t for the Mini Games that are included. These little party games offer a good variety of different activities ranging from crushing cars, to versus type games and even one called Low Riders – where you have to “dance” your car to the beat of the music. All of them require a combination of pressing the Buzz! button or the coloured buttons at the right time. It was quite impressive to see just how many different mini-games the developers could come up with using vehicles and nothing but the Buzz! controllers. A personal favourite was a hockey type game where you have to guard your goal from opponents whilst trying to score at the same time.
For adults, Ace Racers was surprisingly playable (for half an hour or so) mainly because it was refreshingly enjoyable to play a game that required only one hand (now you can drink and play games at the same time!). But the voice-overs that occur with every activity grow quickly tiresome and border on being manically repetitive. Even the sexy sounding Suzy Sprint (the narrator of Ace Racers) is irritating after only a short while. But for kids aged around 10 years old who enjoyed Buzz! Junior RoboJam et al, then this game should prove entertaining, especially for a small group of 3 – 4 kids.