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Developer Manic Medias Options
Distributer Telstar 1-2 Player
Game Type Kart Racing Memory Card
Review Date December 1997 NegCon
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Setting the Scene
How 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.

Following 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.

Formula 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 tunnel.
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.

Sounds and Effects
Do 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 the background.

When 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 mode.

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 supply

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.

Value for Money
After 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 react accordingly.
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.

GRAPHICS: Good I 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 Hockenheim.
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 link-up games.
SOUND: Average
GRAPHICS: Good Having 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 be revealed.
SOUND: Average

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