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In Speed Freaks six insane children break out of the schoolyard to tear up the roads in their own super-powered racing karts. In a greedy race for victory, these Speed Freaks use all manner of tricks, power-ups and short cuts to cheat their way to the finish.
Sound and Vision:
The quality and style of the introductory movie sequence offers an immediate impression of just how much money has been ploughed into the overall development of the game. In this instance it rates alongside the classic fully rendered mini-movies of Resident Evil 2 and Tekken. Sure it's different, but as you watch it you can see that Sony have spared no expense in making this game as slick as possible.
The in-game graphics are equally impressive. Right from the interactive menus, which are brilliantly arranged and feature all of the 3D characters from the game playing in their club house, to the levels themselves which are some of the most colourful and bright ever seen on our machine.
The quality of the programming is very evident when you notice how smoothly each track moves, considering all of the extra non-significant details that are scattered everywhere.
The in-game tunes are typically bland for a racing game and although well produced, bright and chirpy, it won't be long before you jump into the options screen to turn them off - for fear of being driven insane!
Each of the racing characters has their own personalised range of comments which they shout out when overtaking or attacking other racers, while the crowd will cheer or jeer your progress throughout each race.
The game can be played in several different ways ranging from the TIME TRIAL mode that allows you to practice on each of the tracks (which is essential) and try to beat your own personal best time.
Once you feel confident on a track you can move to the SINGLE RACE mode, where you meet all of the other competitors for the first time.
When you have mastered each track the TOURNAMENT mode will reward your skills by unlocking new tracks and characters.
If your mates pop round to see you then head for either the VERSUS (2 player) or MULTIPLAYER (4 player multi-tap) sections. This is where the true fun-factor of this game is realised. But beware, this will bring out the very worst side of your personality as you bash and crash, bomb and blast your friends off the track at every opportunity.
The learning curve of this game is about 30 minutes. This is mainly due to the number of buttons you are required to master on your joypad, combined with the initial un-natural feel of your cart. You will need to forget everything you know about driving and re-learn from scratch. Don't despair though, with a little practice, everything starts to click into place and you will finally begin to enjoy the game.
The cart can be steered with either Analog or Digital controllers (I found the Analog to be much easier). Two of the back 'L and R' buttons are used for power-skids which are essential to win on the 'twistier' tracks.
Weapons are collected at various points on each track and fired with one of the symbol buttons. There are lots of different things that can be hurled at your fellow racers, such as guided and manual-aim missiles, machine gun fire, oil slicks and more. If that still ain't enough, then there is even a 'invisibility' pickup that lets you sneak past (or through) the other Karts.
The most original feature in this game is the use of the Booster on the back of your cart. Charge it up by collecting 'lightning-bolt' pickups and then use it in short bursts (saving the energy), or discharge it completely to achieve maximum speed.
The first of the tracks is SHIPWRECK SHORE, which sees you racing through a beach area with a nice wide tarmac track and barriers keeping you out of too much trouble. You will race over Pirate Ships and boardwalks, taking care not to stray into some of the water hazards that will seriously slow your progress. From here you head through the countryside, past turning windmills over jumps and under tunnels.
The second track is NEON CITY, which is best described as a tribute to Namco's Ridge Racer series as you travel through the night past brightly-lit skyscrapers and through city streets. More similarities include the long tunnels and the traffic crossing over high above the track. Again this is a tarmac road surface so grip is not so much of a problem and the layout can be quickly memorised.
The MILLENIUM PARK comes next and is another prime example of the quality of the programming in the game. There is lots of activity going on all around you, with various fairground rides operating at the side of the track, the most stunning being a huge roller-coaster. There is also a huge arena full of admiring fans who will raise the roof with their cheers if you are winning the race as you pass them by. The difficulty is increased here with the inclusion of both dirt-track and tarmac areas and will force you to adapt your racing style according to the conditions.
Things really start to get tricky on the THUNDER TRAIL track. Everything starts off easy enough in the dense jungle rainforest but as soon as you reach the volcanic caves with their very narrow roads and molten lava flowing freely all over the place you realise that this area ain't gonna be easy ! You quickly forget about all of the power-ups in favour of just trying to make it around the track without getting barbecued.
There are three difficulty levels to keep you busy and lots of new tracks and racers to unlock. The higher difficulty levels will keep even the most accomplished racers occupied for quite some time as competitors start nicking all of the powerups and aiming them in your direction.
This is a single disk game for 1or 2 Players (up to 4 players can play if the multi-tap peripheral is used). It is compatable with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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