Following in the footsteps of games like Super Mario Kart and its successors, Midway's Freaky Flyers is a cartoonish game of wacky (or freaky, as the marketing literature states) air combat maneuvers, seemingly endless ammunition, and doing anything to win the race for pride, joy, the mother country or whatever other reason each of the fourteen zany characters have for entering the Freaky Flyers circuit.
To get things rolling, I'll go on the record as saying this game is kind of fun, however there are a few "buts" that should be noted that gamers who are thinking about aerial dog-fighting might want to consider before grabbing this game off the shelves.
The gameplay is good, but not great. The controls work fairly well, although the default button placement didn't seem to be well thought out. Trying to look backwards and use a special attack is an effort in futility, as the button placement makes it nearly impossible to avoid triggering the machine gun button at the same time. Every character's controls are exactly the same, but the unfortunate part is that doesn't seem to add much variety to the game. Aside from appearance, each character seems exactly the same (i.e. everyone has a machine gun and gets the same power-ups available to every other character in the game).
Not that a game like this really needs it, but the developers managed to inject a story into the mix. Each character has his or her own storyline to follow, but the story has no bearing on the game itself. Instead, what gamers get are several CG cutscenes involving various examples of cartoon silliness that add up in total to make a plot. Of course, many gamers are likely to just skip ahead to the start of the next level rather than watch the hilarity ensue (and for once in a video game, the comedy is actually funny).
From the main menu screen, players have four options for gameplay: Adventure, Race, Dog Fight and Mini Games. Adventure mode is the story mode that lets gamers play through each level. Through play, players unlock levels and other characters for use. Each level is either classified as a race or a mini game. Races are pretty straightforward, but mini games are different in that you have non-race goals to complete (and some of them can be quite tough). In total, there are twelve races and four mini games to unlock. Once unlocked, you can go back and play the races and mini games through Race and Mini Games modes (go figure). As the levels unlock in Adventure mode, players get to witness more and more of each character's freaky story, so to see everything, gamers will have to play through the game 14 times. Only completists are likely to stick around that long.
As someone who likes head-to-head games, I was really looking forward to Dog Fight mode. Two pilots can go head-to-head in deathmatch mode and tailor the game to end after a time limit or after a certain number of kills have been attained by one player. Unfortunately, the developers didn't bother to program any AI into this aspect of the game, so it's either two players or nothing. This is a serious flaw for dog fighters like me, and one that's not easily forgiven. What should have been the best aspect of this game turned out to be the worst play mode.
Overall, Freaky Flyers is a fun game, but fans of this type of game might be best to either break out their dusty Super NESes or N64s and play one of the Mario Kart titles … or wait until Mario Kart: Double Dash!! comes out for GameCube. However, if taking to the air holds some interest, do as the marketing material says and "get your freak on."