At a Glance: Do you have fond memories of the classic cartoon Wacky Races? If so, you’d probably make more informed reviewer than me, because I sure as hell don’t. While I have a fuzzy childhood memory of playing a bad platformer featuring an obnoxious snickering cartoon dog, meaning I’ve probably played this game before and thoroughly not enjoyed it, all I can remember about the show is that a guy and his dog rode in an airplane and the dog could fly by using his tail like a helicopter. To be honest I never liked Hanna-Barbera cartoons even when I was a little kid, and I’m pretty sure it’s because those evil cartoon characters tried to pollute my beloved Nintendo with this terrible game.
Platform: NES (Download Emulator here - 192k)
Download: Download ROM here - 117k
Game Plot: With a title like “Wacky Races” you might think that the game involves racing in some way, and if you think this, let me reassure you that you’re stupid. Aside from the brief cutscenes that play in between levels, nothing in this game has anything to do with racing. They didn’t even bother to put in a timer to fool you into thinking you needed to hurry – they just decided that the best way to win a race is to throw a dog out of a plane and have him run around for several minutes laughing and biting everything in sight.
For having just been chucked out of a plane, he looks pretty happy.
Wacky Races is comprised of three different “races”, known as Hip Hop, Splish Splash and Go Go America. Of course I’m using the word “races” loosely here, since each race is really just a series of boring platforming levels that don’t make any sense whatsoever. One minute you’re hopping through a maze in the sky getting spat at by clouds, and the next minute you’re walking through a city and getting punched in the face by an angry pig. You’re allowed to do each of the three races in any order you want, even though the story cutscenes are triggered by beating each race, so if you don’t do them from left to right you see the story cutscenes all out of order and they manage to make even less sense than the rest of the game.
Unfortunately for gamers worldwide, the gameplay not only doesn’t involve races, but it also fails to be wacky in any discernable way. What we’re left with is a staggeringly dull platformer with an obnoxious hero and simplistic enemies that look like they’re made from construction paper. Throughout the entire game you control Muttley, a fat orange dog with a huge mean streak and a terminal case of the giggles, and you spend most of your time stumbling around trying to kill enemies with your useless bite attack. Muttley can crane his head forward a whole two pixels to attack, and the enemies can only respond to this fearsome attack by happily bounding around and forgetting you even exist. If you’re foolish enough to try to kill any enemies with the bite, there’s about a 50% chance it will work, a 50% chance the enemy will dodge it and a 100% chance you won’t give a shit.
Enemies: Most of the colorful and vibrant enemies in this game simply defy description, so I have gone undercover with my trusty F9 key to obtain some rare screenshots which are only rare because nobody who would voluntarily play this game would be able to paste a screenshot without accidentally breaking the mouse or trying to eat it.
A pink one-eared kangaroo wearing, uh, a big white neck cone. With a dog growing out of his stomach. And ping-pong balls glued to the side of his head. Or are those white circles supposed to be fists? I really don’t know, and Muttley doesn’t look too concerned either.
Weapons: Fortunately for Muttley and the two or three people in the world who don’t want to see him get killed, the bite is not his only weapon. Collecting the floating dog bones allows you to unlock four awesome weapons which, despite what you may have heard from me, are not very awesome.
Bombs: This attack is actually semi-useful in some parts of the game, since unlike the bite, it allows you to attack enemies who are more than two millimeters away. Unfortunately it takes a good two weeks to pull out another bomb once you throw one, so the bombs are pretty useless in the main levels. But their presence in the boss levels makes the boss fights, which otherwise would have been frustrating, into a simple exercise in lazy button-pounding.
The dreaded Broken Rollercoaster Car boss.
Bark: This allows Muttley to bark out a rap verse at the enemies, although due to space constraints, the graphics team could only include “Bow” and had to omit the “down to a nigga that’s greater than you.” The flying “Bow” is about as effective at killing enemies as the bombs, but it costs two bones to use instead of one, making the bark only half as useful as a weapon that’s already useless for the majority of the game.
Float: If you decide you don’t feel like using one or two bones to make all the boss battles ten times easier, you can instead spend three bones to make the already simple jumping puzzles require slightly less effort and take twice as long. This powerup allows Muttley to spin his tail and slowly float down instead of falling, which might help for platform jumping if his regular jump didn’t already launch him 30 feet in the air.
Recover: Another powerup that could only conceivably be used on bosses. Recovering allows you to recover all the way up to four hearts, at the cost of four bones. So basically you have two choices when it comes to the bosses: either you can spend one bone to get the bombs and kill the boss in ten seconds, or you can try to use the bite, save your bones, attempt to attack the boss repeatedly and keep getting hit, keep saving up your bones, finally get enough to recover, do so, keep on biting since you’re out of bones, lose all your hard-earned life in three quick hits, furiously rip the cartridge out of your Nintendo and stuff it in the garbage disposal. As founder and CEO of Taylor “Psychosis” Bell’s Garbage Disposal Repair, I recommend option 2.
Number of Levels: Ten total levels divided over the three “races.” But each level is really just a completely random collection of miniature platforming stages, so in a single level you can walk past a quaint little village, hop across clouds, run across an ice stage and end up dodging bouncing robot dogs on the moon.
Number of Bosses: There’s one for every level, but they’re all almost exactly the same. There are a few minor variations, but just about every boss attacks by slowly moving back and forth and occasionally stopping to do some pointless secondary attack. But if you simply keep one bone and use it to get bombs once you get to each boss, they should be dead before ever getting a chance to use their secondary attack.
Defining Moment: The defining moment would have to be the ending, when I finally got to see what all my tireless labors would get me. In one of the dumbest game endings ever (and that’s including the ones where a character from the game just shows up and says “Game design by Takagaga Noroshinawa, thanks for playing!”) Dastardly and Muttley drive along in a car shaped like Drill Man’s head while the credits roll underneath them. Once the credits finish, Dastardly demonstrates his driving expertise by crashing into a random pole in the middle of nowhere while Muttley sits there laughing at him. God that dog is an asshole.
Each category in the rating system is based out of a possible -10 score (-10 being the worst). The overall score is based out of a possible -50 score (-50 being the worst).
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The Rom Pit is dedicated to reviewing the most bizarre and screwed up classic console games from the 1980's, the ones that made you wonder what kind of illegal substances the programmers were smoking when they worked on them. Strangely enough, the same illegal substances are often necessary to enjoy or make sense of most of these titles. No horrible Nintendo game is safe from the justice of the ROM Pit.