many times have we been posed that same question - N64 or PSX?
Well if it's racing games you're into then there is only one
system worth considering as almost every conceivable motor sport
event has been covered on the Playstation, some several times over.
In fact you could almost compile an A - Z of racers as we have have
already been treated to such delights as Indy, Grand Prix, 4x4, dirt
track, stock car, dune buggies, micros, touring cars, superbike,
futuristic spacecraft, off road and rally events.
Just when you think that the last few drops have been drained
from the tank, up pops Telstar's pit crew to refuel the genre with a
special edition of Manic Medias Formula Karts.
on from the hugely successful Super Karts and Manic Karts games,
Formula Karts Special Edition sits you in a motorized sled which is
capable of propelling you around 9 miniature race circuits at speeds
over 70 mph. Now this may not sound particularly hair-raising but
considering that your butt is only six inches from the track surface
then only the brave and insane should apply.
Karts is a true 3D racing game that features polygon karts, tearing
around polygon tracks, handled by motion sampled animated drivers.
The Karts look quite realistic with four miniatures wheels
reacting with every turn and logo stickers plastered over the entire
body work. As your vehicle takes a tight bend the drivers head and
shoulders rock from side to side in reaction to the G-force. This is
noticeable when viewing the race from behind the kart, but if you
prefer an in-kart view then you will have to settle with watching
the drivers hands working frantically on the steering wheel.
The twisting polygon circuits each have their own individual
look. Early rounds of a championship take you onto a German street
circuit where the roar of eight miniature racing engines disturbs
the peace and tranquility of a small picturesque hamlet.
The French circuit looks as if it has been custom designed just
for kart racing with the muddy and moss covered racing surface
flanked by carefully placed blocks of granite.
In Australia, the karts begin at a point on the track within an
industrialized concrete jungle before moving into a disused
mineshaft for a spot of 'slalem' racing.
The customary windmills give away the next venue as kart racing
goes Dutch. More than half of the race takes place in a long snaking
The British circuit runs through a fine piece of tradition
English countryside, in Brazil you hit the dirt track, while the
Japanese offering takes place on what looks like a psychedelic dance
floor in a galaxy far, far away. I think it is meant to be a street
circuit at night but I guess someone spilt the paint-pot. The final
venue is in Egypt - pyramids and sandstone, of course.
I really need to sit here and think up a word that describes the
sound of a kart engine? It is suffice to say that the engine sounds
are realistic and alter pitch when a gear is changed. A loud hooter
gets the race underway and when sliding around the corners you are
treated to a high pitched screech as your wheels burn rubber into
the track surface.
The music is fine as long as it remains where it belongs - in
Formula Karts arrived in the office I eagerly dropped what I was
doing, popped the disc in and played it for about five minutes. I
then put it away and returned to the business in hand without
batting an eyelid. This intrigued me, so I tested out the game on a
few other people to judge their reactions and surprisingly it was to
the same effect. I couldn't understand why as the graphics look cool
enough and the handling of the vehicles is fine. Perhaps it is one
of those games that doesn't grab you by the short and curlies
immediately and scream 'PLAY ME'. I think a lengthy play session was
needed to get to the bottom of this so I pushed everything to one
side and prepared myself for a long haul.
Setting the game up was first on the agenda. There are three
difficulty setting which are the usual easy, medium and hard. The
race length varies between a paltry six laps to an enduring forty.
Damage may be switched on for the brave or switched off for the
reckless. There are also three tilt settings that determine the
amount that the screen will rotate when playing the game in cockpit
Practice mode allows you to test drive all nine tracks, in all
eight vehicles with no rivals to contend with. Each kart has it's
own handling which is divided into three categories: grip,
acceleration and speed. There is a wealth of on-screen information
available during racing. Lap number, lap time and best lap time are
regularly updated, while the rev counter and current speed are
displayed on a small speedometer. Your current race position and
distance between rivals is also monitored. You must also keep an eye
on your fuel gauge and a slow moving pit stop will top up your
A single race offers a further challenge in that seven
competitors will now be battling it out for the correct racing line
and that all important checkered flag.
The main crux of the game comes with the selection of either
Arcade mode or a full Championship series.
Championship is all about completing the race in the highest
possible position. The further up field you finish, the more points
awarded. This mode is more of a simulation where clipping too many
corners and colliding with opponents vehicles will drastically
affect the handling of your kart. The pits are always open should
your vehicle take on too much damage but you must slow down to a
snails pace when passing through as a penalty. Fuel stops must also
be taken into consideration therefore with a little care both
refueling and repairs can be carried out in one operation.
Arcade has a few nice additional touches. You begin the season
with three 'lives'. Complete each race inside the top three and you
will progress onto the next race. Fail and a life is lost. In Arcade
mode you initially begin each race with 3 Turbos and 3 Supergrips
which can be activated at any point in the race. A turbo will give
your vehicle a sudden boost of speed and the supergrip will offer
you supreme traction for a few seconds - ideal for the tricky
corners. When entering the pits for fuel you can also pick up the
occasional power-up. Cash is awarded dependant on your race position
and between each event you may enter a shop and purchase upgrades
ranging from a reasonably priced tune up to a rather expensive extra
life. Other upgrades include a larger fuel tank and better traction
for your tyres.
several hours playing Formula Karts my first impressions were long
forgotten. Championship mode is a real challenge and will have you
pressing the accelerator so hard that blisters must be taken into
consideration. The AI of the CPU cars is amazing as they will
attempt to push you off the track and slow your progress. It's no
good getting annoyed with them - simply push them back and they will
Arcade mode again offers a firm, but fair, challenge with the
decision as to when and where to use the power-ups having an all
important effect on the outcome of the race.
There is also a two-player split screen option where you can
race head to head against a mate in all three game modes.
can only imagine that my initial reactions to Formula Karts was down
to the length of each circuit. Four or five corners and you were
into the next lap. Of course this is exactly as kart racing should
be because it would take all day to complete a circuit the size of
Bear this in mind when setting up the race options as 40 laps
seems a hell of a long race, but with each lap taking around 20
seconds a full race will be over in less than 14 minutes.
I couldn't get away with the split-screen mode because
everything seemed a little cramped, but then again I am more for
done quite a bit of Karting myself, I have to say that I was quite
surprised at how close to the real thing this game actually was.
Even the annoying "ting" that the Karts make when they hit
each other - although very tacky - is pretty realistic.
Some arcade race fans may find that the very short tracks
annoying, but you need to remember that Karting is all about
cornering and overtaking and if you persevere past the first
frustrating few hours of gameplay, there is a great game waiting to