Game Review: MySims Racing
While the Wii needs another kart racer game like the Xbox 360 needs another futuristic shooter, MySims Racing at least makes some sense. The series' pint-sized characters, whimsical art style, and reputation for customization fit the genre like a Mario brother's white glove. True to form, MySims Racing distinguishes itself with the amount of tweaking you can do to your vehicle, whether it's a dune buggy, minivan, or a station wagon. Yet that's where its originality ends, as the rest of the game is more than happy to follow a road well traveled instead of venturing off the beaten path.
Created by a man named Sir Charles before he mysteriously disappeared, the starting town of Speedville is where you begin to earn your racing stripes. With the encouragement of a kooky crew that includes an old-timer, a female android, and a mad scientist, you must save the town and its surrounding areas from a dastardly fellow named Marcubus and his cohorts. Interacting with characters involves little more than reading some text dialogue and completing a challenge to unlock the next sequence. As expected, the story is a basic framework to justify racing the same courses over and over again.
The community aspect of the Sims series is lightly touched upon in the story mode. You access four themed regions from an overhead map, with characters appearing at specific points. Each resident offers timed challenges to complete, most of which you either play solo or against one rival. These include obstacle courses, checkpoint races, and collectible runs. After time expires, your performance earns you a gold, silver, or bronze medal, which influences the blueprints you receive as a reward. Blueprints unlock things like new vehicle types, style parts, and performance upgrades.
To build a part from a blueprint, you need to first fulfill the design requirements, which means collecting colored plumbobs strewn about the track. Fortunately, each course is littered with the diamond-shaped doohickeys. After a few races, you'll have more than enough to build the most important parts: upgrades in the areas of top speed, acceleration, and handling. The problem with the game's story mode is that it's extremely repetitive, with 78 challenges that feel like you're doing the same mundane tasks on each new course.
The other play modes offer few surprises. You can compete against seven racers in a quick race, enter a multi-event championship, or try to beat the clock on any of the 15 available courses. Multiplayer, the lifeblood of any kart-racing game worth its motor oil, is limited to local split-screen races supporting up to four players. There's no battle mode or arena combat, so it's just straightforward scooting with friends and family members.
MySims Racing supports multiple controller types, from the GameCube and classic controllers to the Wii wheel and Wii remote and nunchuk combo. The motion controls work well, and the Wii-centric moves are limited to a quick shake to jump or recover from an attack. Drifting is easy to perform, and you can build a turbo meter over time to unleash an impressive burst of speed.
Also included is a power-up system that follows the tried-and-true format of running into a box to pick up a random weapon. While they may look different, the power-ups are basic variants of the same standard kart attacks, from a defensive shield to a homing missile (in the form of a watermelon). The most creative powers are a tornado that turns the screen upside down for everyone in front of your vehicle and a bunny luv attack that completely fills your rival's screen with hearts. The most beneficial power-up is a UFO transformation that can transport a last-place vehicle near the head of the pack.
Instead of a traditional power-up system, however, the game should have opted for attacks based on the car customization features. You can add a spider to your car as a hood ornament, but it's only for decoration. It would have been far more interesting if, say, it allowed you to fire a sticky web or launch spider eggs. None of the cars have unique attacks, which takes away from the excitement of unlocking a new type. Besides, what's the point in having an assortment of grill or headlight choices, side decals, and so forth, if you spend 95 percent of the time staring at your car's rear bumper?
The track layouts represent another missed opportunity. Some courses feature extremely wide lanes, diminishing the interaction you'll have with your competition, while others feel like they go on forever. Though there are some attempts at diversity, such as a pinball-inspired course and a music-themed track, none are especially memorable. In the best kart racers, each course feels like an event, defined by dynamic elements like earthquakes, sink holes, and traps. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with MySims Racing.
MySims Racing is defined by its bright, cheerful, and cartoon-like vibe. The music is bouncy, and the frame rate moves at a steady clip. You can customize your vehicle with a variety of decals, hood ornaments, spoilers, grills, paint schemes, and more, adding some personality to your ride. However, none of the courses look particularly exciting, and the simple textures and low polygon counts aren't exactly pushing the Wii's 3D boundaries. And while you can customize your own driver, you sadly can't import your Miis.
MySims Racing is a perfectly adequate kart racer that plays it far too safe in a genre that is associated with thrills and spills. While the car customization is a positive step forward, the courses, power-ups, and play modes don't do anything substantially new or exciting. There's a concern when earlier games like Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and Crash Team Racing run circles around a 2009 release, and MySims Racing simply doesn't earn enough mileage from its myriad of parts to outpace the system's current champ: Mario Kart Wii.
Reviewed on Nintendo Wii.