MySims Racing is a game designed for the MySims audience, one that is primarily made up of younger children, from eight to 12 years old. The first word that comes to mind for this type of game would not be quality, but in the case of this kart racer, it is appropriate. MySims Racing on Wii is a surprisingly deep and addicting kart racer, and while it’s not at the same level as Mario Kart, it is in a healthy second place.
One reason for its success is because it took a nod from the established and successful Mario Kart in terms of the tight controls, the frantic gameplay, the grandiose level design, the back-and-forth item battles… it’s like Mario Kart Jr., in many ways, but that isn’t a bad thing. MySims has its own personality and charm, and also does some things that the more established kart racer does not (but should).
June 12, 2009
Starting from the top: the controls are best when you use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination. While the Wii Wheel works, it does not seem to replicate an analog stick as well, in this title as in some others on the system. You have the option of accelerating, braking, drifting, using items, looking in your rear view mirror… standard kart stuff. Drifting is a little different in MySims Racing, but it is enjoyable. Drifting helps you get around corners tighter, but you initiate it by tapping the brake. If you overdo it, you will slow down, but if you do it just right you’ll whip around that corner and back onto a straightaway with satisfying ease and fluidity. Drifting helps you build up a boost meter, which can be used at any time. Knowing when to boost is important, and can change the dynamics of a race if you plan it right. For instance, using a boost while on a jump throws your kart into superboost momentarily, which is much faster than your standard one.
Items are for the most part borrowed from other kart racers, but given new forms here. You have your soccer balls (green shells), your heat-seeking watermelon (red shell), your UFO that brings you through levels quickly to catch up (Bullet Bill), as well as a few others, but the game also has its own imagination and comes up with some classic ideas for torturing your friends. My favorite is the twisty tornado that turns your foe’s screen upside down and reverses their controls; this is a great way to send them flying into a wall so you can catch up and pass them, and the AI even reacts to it in your favor sometimes. Another goody is the acorn that you throw in front of or behind you that sprouts a tree soon after landing, making an impromptu impediment on the road.
The tracks start out simple enough, but soon evolve into tracks with three to four minute laps overflowing with obstacles and treacherous turns. My main complaint with the tracks is that there are not enough of them in the game; I understand MySims can’t just pull back the curtain on history and roll out classic tracks remade for the current generation, but including the DS-specific tracks on the Wii version of the game would have given the title some much needed variety.
MySims Racing has your standard championship modes, with three to choose from. One of them has two tracks “" both simple “" another has three, with slightly tougher courses, and another has five. After playing through the game, there’s no need to play anything except for the latter two (mostly the large one though) which is one reason the game could have used additional courses. Besides this mode, there is also the Beat the Clock (race through as many gates/checkpoints as possible to score a medal), or run a single race against your friends or the AI.
The game has local four-player, but does not have online play. While I at first thought that this was due to the audience “" maybe eight to 12-year-olds don’t need to go online and play “" it turns out that the DS version of MySims Racing does utilize the Nintendo WiFi connection for multiplayer. What gives? Why in one but not the other? It’s a shame too, because this is the superior version of MySims Racing, and it’s the one that lacks that added bit of replay value.
Before you dive into racing against your friends, you are going to want to play the story mode of MySims Racing. This is where the game sets itself apart from Mario Kart, and in a good way. You create a MySim’s character, and also customize a car from a set of basic parts. You then start to play through the story mode, which involves you making friends with townsfolk by running races and completing challenges (collecting items on the race track in under a set amount of time, or impressing people by passing through a certain number of gates before the clock runs out) and eventually bringing championship racing back to the area. You also collect crystals on the track, called essence coins, that are used to build the parts that you find blueprints for (there is one hidden set of blueprints on every track) or from the ones the people in town give you for helping them or racing them. This means that by the end of the story, you have made a pretty awesome car (or three, as you can customize a light, medium and heavy vehicle for yourself all at once) that you can use in races against your friends and the computer. Not just that, but you can export your favorite car to your Wii Remote and take it to a friend’s Wii for use there.
The controls are tight, the gameplay is fun, and car customization is a neat aspect that hasn’t had enough play in the world of kart racers yet. It’s a shame the game lacks more tracks and online play, but what is here is worth playing. This is easily one of the top kids titles of the year on Wii, and the kind of game that parents (and 20-something game reviewers) don’t need to be ashamed of enjoying.
MySims Racing is available on the Nintendo Wii for $39.99