When making a game based on the Speed Racer franchise there's one only thing you've got to get right: speed. And - thank the Gods - the Nintendo DS adaptation of the movie (which is based on the TV show which was based on a manga) has loads of it.
It's hard to say whether or not this is a faithful continuation of the Speed Racer movie (it's set after the events of the film) as it is yet to hit New Zealand screens, but the general look and feel seems to be pitch-perfect based on the many trailers which have surfaced on the internet.
You can go behind the wheel of Speed Racer's Mach 5, or choose another from the 15 unlockable vehicles across 19 unique tracks. You'll race through cup challenges, stunt competitions, and even battle events which will have you get intimate with your tracks and opponents.
As you'd expect, you'll have to earn all of these spoils, and to do so, you need to make some fans. Performing stunts and winning events will gain you some and with the fans comes the more tangible reward of tracks and racers.
Racing is fast, real fast, and it's almost just as frenetic. If you're not driving at 400 miles an hour you'll be performing stunts mid-race or busting an opponent with some Car-Fu. Sometimes, you'll be engaging in all three things at once; it is extremely gratifying winning a race by show-boating and beating on other people. I never understood why people say bullying is so much fun until now.
The game's presentation however is a mixed bag. The menus are barren and the tutorials look like a poor PowerPoint presentation. This is somewhat countered by the nice visuals in-game and the steady frame-rate. It also gets extra points for the nice intro video which uses a mixture of film and game footage.
The core game is fairly short - you should be able to finish it in about four hours - and the multiplayer requires everyone to have their own cart. An online mode is also missing, but given the latency issues New Zealanders generally encounter on the DS a game with the word 'speed' in its title automatically suggests that it would be a less than pleasing experience.
Speed Racer is a game that gets a lot of things right but it never goes that extra mile. The license probably does make the game better than it should be but that doesn't mean you should give it a miss.