Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone





Eidos’ Mad Dash Racing for the Xbox puts a new spin on the cart-racing genre – instead of mini-racers, the cute characters in the game move with their legs. This gives it a unique feel and leads to some interesting obstacles including walls to traverse, which also means Mad Dash has a quite innovative interface. As one of the few kid-oriented titles on the console, it’s surprisingly good and should entertain players of all ages. Read on to find out more.

Players who’ve been around awhile know that cute-kart style racing titles have become scarcer in recent times, which is a shame since the good ones are really enjoyable and have long-lasting appeal. This doesn’t mean developers haven’t lost interest completely and Eidos is the latest to try, though with an innovative twist. As you might have guessed, Mad Dash Racing’s objective is simple: you are one of 9 different beasts looking to cross the finish line first – though of course, it’s not as simple as that in practice. Players will have to face a variety of obstacles strewn levels.

You’ll find seven massive courses initially available with more to unlock later on as you win races. The expansive courses are much longer than standard racing titles, with each requiring only a single layout. These can be surprisingly difficult to master thanks to their varied terrain and layouts with many branches, ambushes and more. Finding the fastest path through is crucial and you may need to race through several times before you can win. The courses can be confusing with multiple branches. Players should generally stick to the standard paths early on, though using the “Skill” path cuts time off your finish, these are quite tricky and each obstacle takes some skill to overcome.

One of the best things about the design is the varied course design which gives the gamer plenty of surprises and ambushes in store with dead-ends, unexpected drops and sudden obstacles keeping you on your toes constantly. Along the way, you’ll face two main types of impediments. The first kind are stationary obstacles such as bombs, missiles and traps to impede your progress and moving ones such as the sand devils which take a more active role in trying to stop you. This makes Mad Dash Racing quite challenging, even for older players and makes the replay value quite high. Mad Dash’s courses are massive with each taking several minutes to complete. They are quite varied and will take you through impressive environments including islands, volcanoes, and dinosaur ruins, with stationary and moving obstacles in each giving them a distinct challenge.

Each level in the game has its own barriers you need to master including steep cliffs, narrow paths, bodies of water, and fire strewn pits along with bridges, ramps, jumps, and many more standard elements. As you cross rivers, lava flows, tar pits and quicksand you’ll quickly find that Mad Dash throws a lot at you in the course of the game. There are also walls to climb, which is probably Mad Dash’s most memorable feature. Climbing is performed by using circling the right analog pad quickly, giving the racing controls a truly unique feel. A similar control mechanism is also used effectively when you need to cross water, which gives the gameplay a nice switch in perspective. This approach gives the controls and interface a bit more variety without ruining the racing flow and is makes things more interesting.

Of course, you need to worry about more than the courses during the race. The characters themselves have a number of abilities like jumping and dashing as well as hand to hand combat mode to help them gain an advantage. As you can tell, there are power-ups included which add to the flavor of Mad Dash Racing. Along each course, you can grab the many different power-up icons scattered around. These can give you a speed boost, equip missiles, create traps, fire bombs and increase your jumping height. There are also special items which add to your energy bar, freeze an opponent and special items such as shoes that help you cross difficult terrain. Mad Dash also features plenty of the expected hidden areas and secrets which can give you a big advantage.

What’s great about all of this is that Mad Dash Racing offers several different play options which extend its play value significantly. You can race a single level to practice. The main game challenge however, comes when you play the adventure mode and try to master the game with a single character in multiple races. This is quite difficult as you can imagine but the upshot here is that you can unlock courses to use in other modes. Mad Dash’s adventure mode also opens up some cool challenge races where you can win upgrades and power-ups that will enhance the characters throughout their ‘careers’. This gives a lot of depth and strategy to the game as you decide which challenges to face. As an added bonus, there’s also multiplayer action that supports up to four players via split-screen with little slowdown.

Visually, Mad Dash Racing is highly polished with detailed environments showcasing both variety and quality. Its large levels make for some excellent eye-candy and most elements look smooth and detailed with plenty of vibrant colors. There’s excellent utilization of light-sourcing, lens-flare and particle effects on display throughout giving the visuals and excellent, highly polished look throughout. The animation of the main characters is also excellent and their movements are silky and smooth throughout with a pleasing cartoony feel throughout. The voice acting is better than you’d expect and brings the characters to life in a zany fashion. One element of the game that doesn’t seem to fit is the techno music, which seems a bit too strident for the action, there’s nothing inherently bad about the tracks from Moby, the Crystal Method and others. It’s just that the soundtrack doesn’t fit the overall ‘cute’ feel of Mad Dash Racing. On the other hand, it is a bit different from what’s expected so it’s not terrible.

Mad Dash plays smoothly and all the different abilities and varied terrain makes the gameplay more challenging than you’d expect. This is a bit surprising and this difficulty can be a bit off putting, given the cute environment. It takes plenty of stamina to win since the courses are long. The courses are also quite a bit more challenging than in most other cart titles but the intuitive controls compensate for this. Technically, Mad Dash Racing’s richly detailed graphics, excellent environmental effects, cool power-up effects and a smooth frame rate make the most of the Xbox console’s processing abilities. There are some cool ideas in the design that are well thought out and end up making for a unique experience. While Mad Dash Racing could have been another average kart game for kids, it ends up much better and should appeal to older gamers as well. Between the unique controls and challenging racing action, it’s loads of fun and delivers a solid gaming experience that’s highly entertaining.