Here's a little quiz for all you Mr. and Ms. know-it-alls out there: What's the one thing that any game needs these days in order to survive in an all too competitive marketplace? No, not a big advertising budget, smartypants- the answer is Personality, with a capital P. No matter how good the gameplay is, too many people want a beauty wrap package, complete with the requisite catchy taglines. Oh, and that big ad budget does wonders when it comes to hitting folks over the head with colorful images and loud soundage. Water-based racers never seem to do all that well on the PS- perhaps the inherent seasickness factor prohibits their success. And every cute kart racer available draws unfair comparisons to Mario Kart, which is silly- there's room on the block for more than one racer, folks…
Anyway, Interplay has released Renegade Racers, a really fun but water-based kart racing game for 1 to 8 players. I'm sure that some, if not all of you out there will see the package art and just pass this one by in favor of that copy of Street Fighter Ex 2 + e=mc2, and more power to you if that's the case. I just think you're missing out on a really nice game. Compared to other recent PS games (and you really shouldn't) RR isn't exactly the best looking game on the planet, but it does what it does quite well. If it weren't for the trademark Playstation "jaggies", minor pop-up, and some texture warping, you'd think you were playing a first generation N64 title. Everything looks nice, especially, is with the colored lighting, but the CG intro, featuring some of the most uninteresting looking characters in a game really fuzzy. There's a blue-afro wearing, disco dancing white guy (sort of a Bootsy Collins/Michael Jackson hybrid), a female Russian spy, a hippie called Chase Rainbow (uh-huh, riiight), a Frankenstein's Monster swipe, and a few other colorful individuals. Some uber-sensitive types will no doubt be offended by a few of the stereotypes, like the Italian gangster-type, or the curvy Jamaican babe, but the problem is, their respective bios are a lot more interesting than the characters' visuals. Let's just say there's a distinct lack of Personality there…
The six tracks in the game are well designed, but borrow heavily from other, better racers out there. Really heavily, as in if you've played Motor Toon, Chocobo Racing, and a Twisted Metal game or two, you've played this one. The developers actually use this borrowing to their advantage, as each track has a few shortcuts and power-ups scattered about. Only six tracks? Yes, but they're pretty long tracks, plus the 8 race modes give plenty of opportunity to race them well. The controls are easy to pick up, and each vehicle has a different look and feel to it, which sort of makes up for the bland character design.
All right then, you've got your guys, they've got their boats- Pick a mode and a track, and let's race! Um…the in-game music sounds like Jimmy Buffet had a little time between live engagements and did his first game soundtrack. It's not bad, if you like pina coladas…and getting caught in the rain. Anyway, it's not really terrible- just far too laid back for all the explosions and mayhem. The voices get annoying, especially when your chosen character uses the same taunts for just about every occcasion, but you can tailor the sounds to your liking on the options screen. Power-ups range from the usual turbos, missiles, and mines, to an annoying mystery box that dishes out random surprises, and you'll want to avoid this one unless you have a shield pickup available to counteract the damage you'll get.
Rounding things out are a number of solid multi-player games, including an 8-player round-robin tournament. Up to 2 players take turns competing in a number of races, and the game kindly keeps track of what's what, until only one person is left standing (or floating, in this case). Unlike other, lesser games like Dead in the Water or Powerboat racing, once you learn the controls, you'll be zipping about blasting opponents with ease. If your friends laugh at you for buying this one, toss them a controller and whip them in a race or three.
This is the shortest review I've written in a while, but I guess that's a good thing in some cases (ooh! Self-deprecating humor)- If you're looking for a decent game, that's family friendly, Renegade Racers deserves a place on your shelf. It may not have Personality, but it's loads of fun, and that's what's really important, right?
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