As a kid, I often imagined myself strapped inside my LEGO creations, dodging family pets and chair legs at breakneck speeds. These days, virtual racing fans can simply load up LEGO Racers
, build a virtual car from the signature block parts, and compete with computer opponents or a friend around tracks with such exotic names as Dark Forest Dash and Tribal Island Trail.
Players choose a driver based on preferred driving style, and then snap together their dream machine in the LEGO garage. Real-world physics comes into play here: adding a "wedge" brick to the tail improves aerodynamics, and placing a few extra bricks over the wheels adjusts the traction (prior LEGO building experience may come in handy). Each themed track offers unique racing adventures, such as dangerous lava geysers in the Magma Moon Marathon, with power-ups supplying special abilities such as oil slick deployment and turbo boosts. Beat a champion racer and you'll earn the right to pick over his or her machine for the best parts--just like my older brother's unwritten rule during our childhood LEGO playtimes. --Eric Twelker
Lego blocks are the little toy building pieces that can be connected to form just about anything you can dream up. Be it space ships, boats, service stations, or undersea cities, the only limiting factor to what you can build is your own imagination. So why not make a game where Lego characters duke it out on the racetrack a la Mario Kart? It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but plain gameplay and boring tracks make this game something even the most hard-core Lego Maniac should stay away from. Unfortunately, Lego Racers is just like most of the other go-cart racing games out there - even down to the modest gameplay. First you pick a car. Then you race around the track. Then you get bored. Along the way you'll troll through classic Lego sets, such as the moon or a giant castle. You'll even get to use wacky power-ups, such as the warp-speed booster or grappling hook. Still, it's cart racing at its worst, as the game forces you to exploit its own weak points just to stay afloat. The biggest draw of this game has to be that it gives you the ability to build your own racing cars. That's right, if playing with Lego bricks in real life isn't good enough, you can pick up an N64 controller and build cars in the electronic world of Lego Racers. But because of difficult controls and an unfriendly construction system, you'll soon find that building stuff is much easier in person, and you're better off just sticking with one of the default vehicles. Everything you would expect from a cart game is here. You can race a grand-prix style race, an up-to-four-player vs. mode, a time-trial mode, and a practice mode. You'll have to beat the different levels in the grand-prix mode before unlocking them in other modes. Things are pretty blocky in the Lego universe, and that shows here. Environments, characters, vehicles, and other oddities all share the same graphical ties to the toy blocks. However, the backgrounds and track itself retain a somewhat real look to them, making it easier to tell where you should be driving. The graphical look of the track design is innovative and cute, with tracks ranging from inside an active volcano to a dark forest. Still, the graphics are by no means stunning, and they leave a lot to be desired. Shadows and other pretty effects would have helped a lot. The music in Lego Racers is only barely acceptable, and it gets irritating rather quickly. Adding insult to injury, the sound effects are decidedly poor as well. What really kills this game is the horrible gameplay. All the Lego Racers handle like bricks on wheels - they seem to meander down the track, knocking into whatever gets in their way. On top of that, the power-up system is terribly lame. Power-ups are divided into four categories, each represented by a colored Lego block that you run into as you race. Other power-ups represented by a white block magnify your current power-up. The object is to collect several white blocks, get the power-up you wish to use, and then use it. However, your power-up changes as you run into different blocks, so you're constantly swerving to avoid the wrong power-up once you've obtained the right one. Unfortunately, only one of the power-ups is of any use - the warp booster. All the other power-ups are really quite lame and don't help out your situation. Also, the computer-controlled characters seem to have no limit to their power-up supply, as once you hit first place you'll be constantly bombarded with projectiles. This makes it almost easier to stay in second place and warp your way into the lead and across the finish line at the last second. The worst element of the gameplay is the plain, boring track design. Simply put, there are no good shortcuts or obstacles, and you'll find that most tracks are just a series of turns that lead you to sideswipe walls. Since the popularity of Super Mario Kart on the SNES, it seems as though companies are rushing to slap their brands or mascots on racing carts of their own. Unfortunately, few of the cart games that have appeared on shelves since the genre exploded have reached the level of Super Mario Kart, and Lego Racers doesn't even come close. With bland gameplay, boring racing and a frustrating Lego construction system, Lego Racers just translates into an incomplete package.--Ben Stahl
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