You know when you’re playing a game and it’s all going well when, suddenly, it introduces some arbitrary racing section just to add a little variety? Until now you’ve been jumping around, exploring, but for the next half an hour you’re stuck trying to complete this side mission just to continue. The driving controls are wonky, the AI is a mess and, really, you just want it all to be over. Midtown Crazy Race barely even manages to reach those modest heights, failing to provide an experience any more substantial than a mini-game from over a decade ago.
It comes from Jose Varela, calling itself a tribute to car games from the late 90s. There’s certainly nothing complicated about it — with three game modes and one city to drive around — but don’t think these tight limitations help hone the gameplay. This title was previously released on mobile devices last year, and shockingly little has changed since. Most noticeably, players are locked into using the GamePad’s gyroscope to control your vehicle by physically turning it left and right; at high speed, sharp turns will literally flip your vehicle over, so players are forced to make tiny adjustments just to keep on the road. There’s no other option available, which is quite telling of its beginnings on smaller handheld platforms. At least there it was free.
The main menu presents three different options for single-player, which form the extent of the game given the total absence of any kind of multiplayer. Practice mode allows players to freely drive around the city, where you can take in the sights and sounds of flat textures, empty streets and crashes that sound either like dull thuds or demonic screeching at complete random. Be The First and Countdown are simply a race and time trial respectively, taking place across a small section of the same city — there’s no campaign mode, and very little that gives a sense of progression or meaning to what you’re doing overall.
The driving itself is riddled with problems, and not just the obvious control issues. Cruising around the city is manageable on its own, if completely pointless, but once you’re asked to actually win anything it’s a completely different story. Both races and time trials last less than a minute each, barely stretching further than a few street corners before suddenly ending. There’s very little satisfaction to be had from following giant glowing checkpoints for a grand total of twenty seconds, especially when you aren’t rewarded for it in any way; yet the racing is the real problem here.
Once AI opponents are introduced, attempting to play becomes nigh on masochistic as they toss themselves all over the road with total regard for actually winning. They’re randomly assigned one of the seven available vehicles as well, while you’re initially forced into the slowest of the lot. This means that there’s a very good chance they’ll instantly take off in much, much faster cars than yours, and even at full speed there’s little you can do about it but hope they crash before the end. Winning comes down to complete chance over skill; where the planets align, no-one slams into you and the AI are all assigned more low-end cars. This is unfortunately very uncommon, so you’ll need to quickly unlock newer, faster cars to even the odds. How do you unlock these new cars, you ask? Why by winning races, of course! Oh…
In-game, a first person view can be toggled by pressing ‘Y’, but if you’ve already taken damage (and believe me, you have) then the cosmetic dents and twisted metal clip through the viewpoint, obstruct your view and often making it unusable. You can also press and hold ‘select’ to use the GamePad as a rear-view mirror, which is useful for all of ten seconds given how often you’ll need to restart races. The option to switch between night and day is also displayed prominently on the main menu, as goodness knows there won’t be any other kind of variation other than the static change you have to manually toggle yourself.
Racing titles of the 90s had a real energy and personality to them, so for Midtown to call itself a tribute is a genuine stretch of the imagination. There’s no crazy announcer, the city is bland and unimaginative, the driving is an ordeal rather than a joy – the list could go on. The best thing about this game is the main menu theme, which is in stark contrast to the processed electronic beeping that plays during races. Perhaps with a substantial amount of work a sequel could be more in line with what was promised, rather than the abysmal offering currently available.
Events in Midtown Crazy Races last less than a minute on average, but that doesn’t stop them from being almost unwinnable thanks to an unpleasant cocktail of broken AI, ridiculous physics and forced motion controls. Even if you manage to somehow extract enjoyment from the driving, there’s so little substance here that it won’t be worth your while.
It's embarrassing, but given the fact that the free version on mobile devices actually has multiplayer modes when the Wii U doesn’t, there’s absolutely no reason to waste your money on this.
This reminds me of Microsoft's 'Midtown Madness'. Did anyone else play that on PC back in the day? That was the reason I got in to video games!!
@PvtOttobot This reminds me of that game too! I loved the third installment a lot!
Quality control needed to be exercised of late on the eshop with a few titles, including this one.
@PvtOttobot - Kind of reminds me of a bad fruit phone game.
That looks pretty awefull. Even gamecube era games look better by comparison.
Also, if the crashes towards the end of that clip were deemed the best bits to push the game, I can't see it selling well.
@WYLD-WOO You wouldn't know about MM then. Also I agree, it looks horrific, seeing as MM2 was made in 2000 xD
@Smitherenez I've only ever played the second one, but I'm sure the third is awesome!
looked like a turd before review & now it is confirmed its a turd.
Mario kart 8 anyone?
We can't judge Watch_Dogs yet as it hasn't been released on Wii U yet guys!
I really wanted this to be good. I loved Midtown Madness. Is there anyway to get hold of Midtown Madness now? Something like Steam maybe?
Bring back Ninty Seal of Quality
So, why not one star?
I'm too late for the inb4wiiuneedsquality control comment. There was never a true seal of quality. There were always bad games. The only thing is that they aren't as restrictive in the AMOUNT of games being developed, meaning that the quality/quantity ratio will always be lopsided. If games were always not approved just because they are bad, then why in the world is Modern Combat on PSN?
Moving to Europe to play this.
I am a bit astonished by some latest crappy entrances in WiiU e-shop.... ok the variety, but, being all of them not free, there should be some entry barrier, imho...
Looks like an N64 game. Plays much worse than one.
A 2! Solid!
I'll stay away from this one
Since this might not get sold in the USA, I'll have to find some other game that will let me crash Ford Mustang's.
I got really excited when I saw the screens for this game because I thought Wii U finally had N64 games.
Nothing ever exciting happens in Midtown. Everyone knows Downtown is where all the action's at!!
It's like Nintendo felt we were getting too much of a quality high by having games like 1001 Spikes, Armillo, Shovel Knight, and Guacamelee. They had to put us in check by letting us know that games can't always be great.
It also helps remind us that we still need Nintendo software more than anything their partners can offer.
@brandonbwii And now the conspiracy continues
@Hy8ogen @brandonbwii We've been getting stinkers all along lol, it's just more noticeable now that AAA eshop titles have started to be released regularly as well.
Yes, but the burning question is if it is better than Yaris on Xbox 360? That is the standard I judge all bad racing games by.
I actually thought this was the 3DS e-Shop for a second when I saw the screenshots.
@PAAppleyard Try Amazon. I've had a couple issues, but for the most part both Midtown Madness 1 and 2 games still work. (Tried Windows 7 & 8) Music frequently likes to not play, but other than that, they work.
As for this game, they were clearly trying to copy Midtown Madness. A practice mode where you can freely drive around a city? I'm surprised they didn't copy the cops and robbers game from Midtown Madness as well.
that other 90's racing style game coming out later looks good
At least the game captures what late 90s, early 00s games look like. .
I wish I found this review before I purchased this yesterday.
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