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Game Over Online ~ Hot Wheels Velocity X

GameOver Game Reviews - Hot Wheels Velocity X (c) THQ, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Hot Wheels Velocity X (c) THQ
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 40%
Date Published Tuesday, January 21st, 2003 at 08:36 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

While new toys inevitably replace older ones, some motifs remain constant throughout the lives of children. Stroll into any department store and you'll still see toy soldiers, Lego, Barbie Dolls and of course, miniature cars. The onset of video games heralded the doom of traditional toys. Who wants to play with plastic soldiers when you can play the real thing on a computer - sound effects and visuals provided free via electronics. Thus, toy makers and publishers get together annually to try to exploit their physical toys and turn them into electronic money making machines. One result of this is Hot Wheels Velocity X; an utterly unnecessary tribute to the Hot Wheels franchise.

Velocity X is a racing game where the cars are plenty and abundant, with various attributes of speed and handling. But the tracks themselves are small. Short straightaways are punctuated with loop-d-loops, corkscrews and other gravity-defying stunts. The 37 missions included will seem very short because of this design decision.

Variety is the double-edged sword in Velocity X. You get thirty cars in total that mirror actual Hot Wheels vehicles. That's a rather strange proposition, considering a car from the Hot Wheels set is usually a miniature rendition of some larger automobile in real life. So here, you're working off the statistics of a model of the real thing. The fact that there are so many vehicles doesn't play well simply because there's little dissimilarity between one model from the next. One car may be a touch faster and the car five models down will be a touch better at handling. Such minutia is too subtle to be appreciated within the scope of Velocity X and considering the overall control scheme you'll be interfacing with, it becomes wholly irrelevant when you actually play the game.

In the real Hot Wheels world, you have absolute control over how your cars race. In Velocity X, this freedom is totally gone and even basic functional control over your vehicle disappears. I would actually classify what the problem is if I could clearly point to what the crux of the whole schema is. Unfortunately, it's not a single element. There is something very wrong when you implement a set of controls relative with the camera in a short-distance racing game. Because of so many quick turns and changes in direction, it's pretty disconcerting that left or right doesn't really mean left or right when you move from one juncture to the next.

Then there's the fact that sometimes you can push the acceleration button on your Game Boy Advance and your vehicle will actually move along ninety degree turns as if it were fixed on a Hot Wheels track. That's not so bad if only that phenomenon were consistent - which it most obviously isn't because after a few "automatic" turns, you're left running into a wall or barrier. Even if you prove to be the best specimen for Darwin's ideal species, you'll have a hard time adapting to the controls because even if you do finally get it, it never feels comfortable.

Velocity X is strung along by a light story where a robot named Gear Head finds himself responsible for retrieving stolen car parts lifted from the lab by car-toting thieves. This leads to the 37 odd races you'll have to complete but there's an option to try short objective based races. The story will obviously appeal to a younger crowd but the huge password lines you have to record in order to save your progress is another careless mistake to alienate potential customers.

Trying to make a racing title on poor controls is like building Rome's Colosseum with inadequate concrete. The foundations are simply not here to present anything convincing; older or younger crowd alike. Velocity X's variety, thus, becomes a moot point. Why bother with thirty cars if you're almost guaranteed to slam into some obstacle each race because of the controls. No amount of vehicular prowess could overcome that. The Game Boy Advance version of Velocity X also unlocks a few cars when combined with the GameCube (the unlocking going both ways); another wasted feature.

It seems toys franchises like Hot Wheels, Lego and others never really catch a break. But they keep coming in fear of an erosion in their traditional fan base and the whole phenomenon is really shaping up to be like the supermarket versus convenience store wars in the 1970s, where the number of stores opened in each business somehow represents a race to the finish line. There is no finish line here. There will always be a place for Hot Wheels in the physical world. There will always be a place for Hot Wheels in the electronic world. Velocity X needs further work and care if it's to find a place in the latter.


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