A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game is a direct offshoot of the Speed Racer movie. Seeing the film will make many children want to play the game and vice versa. Experiencing both will probably result in an overwhelming desire to buy lots of Speed Racer toys. Still, it's a good quality racing game with little in the way of worrisome content. Trixie's skirt will seem a little short for some parents' taste, and a fair bit of cartoonish violence takes place in the form of vehicles attacking one another with spins and jumps, but there is little else in the way of potentially offensive material.
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What's it about?
Not surprisingly, SPEED RACER: THE VIDEO GAME, which is based on the similarly named movie, is a racing game. It allows players to jump into the boots of the film's lead characters and zoom around the same sort of spectacular, gravity defying, sci-fi race tracks seen in the movie. Racers can also attack their competitors using Car-Fu, which is a sort of vehicular martial art that involves jumping onto and bumping into nearby cars to slow them down. As the single-player portion of the game progresses, additional races, tracks, and cars become unlocked. The game also offers a two-player split screen mode.
Is it any good?
Games based on movies have a reputation for being hastily thrown together, and typically occupy the middle or lower rungs of whichever genre into which they happen to fall. That's not the case with Speed Racer: The Video Game. While it could have done more in the way of narrative (which is to say there really isn't any sort of story at all), it's actually a solid little racing game that delivers a thrilling sense of speed -- the in-game speedometer measures velocities as high as 500 miles per hour -- and plenty of exciting, gravity defying tracks.
What's more, it provides excellent motion sensitive steering controls designed with the Wii remote's snap-on steering peripheral in mind (though it plays just as well without it). The Car-Fu attack moves employ the remote's motion sensitive functionality as well, requiring players to jerk the remote left or right to bump into other cars and make a pancake flipping motion to perform jumps. The attacks are generally pretty easy to pull off -- and it's a good thing, since players will need to master them in order to win harder races later in the game. The only real downside to the races is that computer-controlled opponents adjust performance based on the player, which means they slow down when you take a spill and speed up when you are racing well. It's nice to be given a chance when you fall behind, but it's aggravating when you're in the lead and unable to put more than a second or two between you and your nearest opponent, even when racing flawlessly.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about games based on movies. Do they provide insight into a film's imaginary world? Do you come away feeling as though you know more about the movie's characters? Or are movie-based games simply a means of pretending that you are in a movie, reliving its most memorable scenes? Are these games generally as entertaining as the films upon which they are based? Do you ever enjoy games based on movies more than the movies themselves?
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