(Nintendo 64)

Mickey's Speedway USA (Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Mickey's Speedway USA Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Lewis Cave

Another kart racing game? Oh, boy!

By the end of the Nineties, UK developer Rareware had established itself as one of the most talented softcos in the world, and along with Nintendo's own in-house output, had helped to placate Nintendo 64 gamers throughout most of the console's life with a steady supply of premium software.

Having delivered the exuberant Jet Force Gemini to critical acclaim, busily putting the final flourishes to a Banjo-Kazooie sequel and the small matter of their impossibly-anticipated and much-delayed Perfect Dark, Rare still had time to take on what would have been a huge licence for any other company at the time. Its N64 successes obviously hadn't escaped the attention of Disney Interactive, but although still a commercially popular platform, interest in the system was beginning to wane.

This was actually a sort-of console sequel to Game Boy Color outing Mickey’s Racing Adventure from a full year earlier, albeit ironically somewhat less ambitious in design than its handheld brother. A family-friendly racing game using an updated version of the brilliant Diddy Kong Racing engine was probably agreed as the most obvious and quickest formula to get Mickey and his chums on Nintendo's flagging home console.

As it happened, Mickey’s Speedway USA went largely unnoticed by the time it was released at the end of 2000, presumably because most N64 gamers at the time were too occupied with Perfect Dark's Combat Simulator to care.

As you'd expect, it follows the usual kart racer template cemented in years gone by: a selection of ten Disney characters to choose from, each with unique racing styles; offensive and defensive power-ups to dispense throughout each of the tracks' three laps; the customary Grand Prix with points awarded for finishing higher on the grid; and an up-to 4-player racing and battle mode. Each track takes place in an American city, so among others there's a snow-covered course in Alaska, a swing around the New York cityscapes and a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

What strikes you as soon as you approach the first bend of the first race in Indianapolis is just how beautifully everything looks and moves. There's a hint of those dreamy water-colour hues from Jet Force Gemini in the backgrounds, with varied and colourful textures decorating every section of the track. Clearly at this stage, Rare already knew how to push the aging hardware to the limit and find new ways around the system's limited texture cache. And it's fast. Fast and silky smooth, with tight controls to match. In the Professional class, it's not uncommon to finish stages in under a minute; zipping along at a pace faster than Mario Kart 64 or Diddy Kong Racing.

Although a Disney licensed game, there's surprisingly little in the way of that indefinable Disney atmosphere found in the likes of SEGA's Castle of Illusion, or even Capcom's Mickey's Magical Adventure series on the Super Nintendo. In comparison to the nauseating presentation of Diddy Kong Racing which at times threatened to ruin an otherwise excellent game, here the characters, music and story are largely unobtrusive. That will come as relief to those subjected to Diddy Kong Racing's hyperactive colour schemes and maddening twee jingles, and who probably still suffer Timber-induced nightmares to this day. Or that could just be us.

And while Diddy Kong Racing’s child-like demeanour hides a challenge that could frustrate even the most patient, here we have a game that is initially far more sedate, offering little in the way of the same difficulty as its predecessor. This is obviously aimed at younger players: course layouts are simple to negotiate and it’s often possible to breeze through the championship mode several seconds ahead of the nearest CPU opponents. It’s only really when you take on the higher racing classes that the increase of speed begins to provide an added challenge, as swinging your kart around the corners at breakneck speeds requires dexterous use of that lovely powerslide. Nice touches the player will notice after a while are things like the speed of your kart increasing as you travel downhill, leaves swirling up off the ground as the karts drive over them and the sun setting gradually in the distance during a race.

Less impressive are the throwaway weapons available, which feel like afterthoughts rather than necessary additions: a customary speed boost and a neat baseball projectile attack which bounces off the walls and remains on the track are satisfactory enough, but others like the homing bicycle and another which resembles a hairdryer (yep, you read both of those right) are just too weak and ineffective, though certainly not lacking in imagination.

So, the Grand Prix mode has its gripes, but with that solid game engine underpinning it all, the Time Trial mode can help provide some substantial thrills, with a selection of staff records to be broken. The aforementioned multiplayer racing and battle modes are an improvement over DKR’s drab equivalents, but not by much.

Conclusion

You can probably already tell there’s a lot about Mickey’s Speedway USA that remains curious, but even though there’s the feeling Rare was mostly plain sailing on this title, it says a lot about the studio's ability that it could still produce a game of this quality. It undoubtedly lacks the variety and imagination of Diddy Kong Racing, or the character and track design of Mario Kart 64, but technically it shines, demonstrating glimpses of what was still possible at this point with the N64. By that alone it probably deserves a second look.

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User Comments (24)

pntjr

#1

pntjr said:

I remember on christmas i asked my parents for Mario Kart 64.
And what did i get?
This game. If my parents didn't get me it, i would've thrown it in the trash.
That's how bad it was.

Supremeist

#2

Supremeist said:

I didn't know Mickey had any games on the N64.. never played it or seen it. Looks cool.

SteveW

#3

SteveW said:

hmm... reading the review I'd expect something higher than a 6, I'd give it an 8 personally...

Mr_Reece

#4

Mr_Reece said:

Speedway USA was always something I meant to play but I never did get around to it. I did love Mickey's Racing Adventure though. It was the first Game Boy Color game I ever owned and remains one of my favourites to this day.

Motorbass

#5

Motorbass said:

Back in the day, this game had some review scores higher than Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing. But I never tried it out.

warioswoods

#6

warioswoods said:

@pntjr

Ha, that's just sad :( It reminds me of those horrible look-a-like videos that would be on the shelves whenever the next Disney VHS showed up, with a similar theme, similar title, and characters arranged in roughly the same places on the cover. Bait for unaware parents or grandparents at Christmas who don't notice something like The Kingly Lion isn't actually The Lion King.

turtlelink

#7

turtlelink said:

I loved playing the multiplayer in this game with my friend. Liked it more than Maio Kart 64 tbh.

jkgatling

#8

jkgatling said:

I remember liking it, had fun multiplayer, wasnt too bad, not anything spectacular though.

Nintendaholic

#10

Nintendaholic said:

To this day diddy kong racing is the game with most replay value i have ever played. I usually beat it once a year.

BigBluePanda

#12

BigBluePanda said:

I really enjoyed this back in the day. As you progressed, the difficulty increased hugely on the late cups/modes. The handling was also absolutely sublime.

Don't think it's aged too well, unfortunately, but this is definitely one of the better Mario Kart clones.

komicturtle

#13

komicturtle said:

My niece rented this game from Hollywood Video but never returned it :P
We played it a decent amount of times. One thing I never liked was how the voices get repetetive. In Mario Kart, you here a character say something when they pass you. Here, someone could be in last place and you in 2nd and you can hear them if they get hit by projectiles or pass another racer. It was so frequent.

Minnie's "ah huh!" annoyed me the most and is what I really reamember clearly..

Chozo85

#14

Chozo85 said:

I still own this game and I think its better than the reviewer makes out. The sensation of speed is fantastic, much better than in Mario Kart 64. The track design is decent and on the later tracks it gets surprisingly difficult. The main downside was the weapons which were a bit rubbish. I'm not a particular fan of the disney franchise but I didn't find it to obtrusive here. One of the more underrated games on the N64, 8/10 for me.

MeloMan

#17

MeloMan said:

Meh... never cared for too many Disney games in general. Plus I had my kart fill with MK64 and DKR by this time, so I don't think I missed much.

Seven_Force

#18

Seven_Force said:

I remember preferring this to DKR when I was younger. DKR's difficulty was such a roller coaster (Don't even get me started on WizPig...), compared to the gradual curve of difficulty Speedway USA had. Amazing OST, too.

Jnes4

#19

Jnes4 said:

Yes ! I love this game ! I thought that this game had some great tracks, and a really fun multiplayer ! and for a movie licensed game, that's saying a lot !

retro_player_22

#20

retro_player_22 said:

This game is the start of Rare's downfall, Star Fox Adventure for GameCube is the final straw for them before Nintendo sold them to Microsoft.

DashChargedShot

#21

DashChargedShot said:

i liked it somewhat, but it was one of the first video games i had ever played.still pretty good 4 a movie game. but i had no taste in games back then.

astrotriforce

#22

astrotriforce said:

I remember the praise for this game pretty clearly, and like someone else said it's one of those titles that I always wanted to play but never got around to it. Although I have a vague remembering of renting the game and being disappointed. I think like someone else said, I may have found it too "bland". I think if I went back and played it today I might enjoy it though.

I recently went on a little Mario Kart bent by playing all the way through Mario Kart: Super Circuit (and then failing to be able to pass the FINAL track before the unlockable one the final cup on 150cc. Still is pissing me off to think about it) and then Mario Kart 7 (which I hated. I promptly traded it after beating and reviewing it for VideoGamesBlogger). I kinda had the itch to go back and play all the Mario Kart's and ones I didn't care for before like Mario Kart DS. Thinking about it, I also never got around to playing Diddy Kong Racing even though I own a loose cart of it.

Reading this review makes me wanna go and get both of them and play through Diddy and Mickey. Still to this day I always want to buy Mickey's Speedway USA whenever I see it at an entertainment exchange shop... I've thought about it many times. So I'll probably actually pick it up next time.

Thanks for the review! :D

Gridatttack

#23

Gridatttack said:

I enjoyed this game way more than that scam of a game named mario kart 64.
The CPU felt it didn't cheat as much as in like MK64.

Also I don't remember the unfair glitches and shortcuts mario kart 64 suffered on this game.
Perhaps its because being a disney game people hate it :/

ToxieDogg

#24

ToxieDogg said:

6? This was a much better game than Mario Kart 64. In fact, it's the game Mario Kart 64 SHOULD have been.

Having spent hours playing both MK64 and Mickey's Speedway, I'd have to say that I agree 100% with Gridattac.

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