Mickey's Speedway USA is, as the name suggests, a Disney-themed racer featuring the likes of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck...even Huey, Dewey and Louie. The story goes that Mickey's faithful hound Pluto has been kidnapped (dognapped?) by three 'evil' weasels and the only way the rescue him is to...erm...race around different Disney-fied locations from across the USA (Seattle, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Indianapolis etc). I realise that the last game I looked at was Cruis'n USA - a game that also featured hackneyed versions of various US locales, so apologies for this. Pure coincidence, I tell thee.
|Messed up text and textures? I smell emulation! Gah!|
The story is pretty lame to be honest, and feels like it was dreamt up in about 5 minutes flat just so there was a single player game that had more meat to it than Mario Kart 64's 'pick a championship and go race' model. Interestingly, Mickey's Speedway USA was developed by Rare - the same studio responsible for Diddy Kong Racing, a game with such an impressive single player story mode (what with all it's hub-world shenanigans), so it's a little odd that the solo mode on offer here is so lacklustre in comparison.
Out on the track, things do fare a little better. The graphics are true Rare in scope and design, even the style of the textures is straight out of Banjo Kazooie, and the music is really rather good with toe-tapping jingles matching the racing action flawlessly. On the subject of the sound, the voice acting is worthy of note as all of the characters are perfectly recognisable and they will often refer to each other by name if you hit another racer with a weapon.
Weapons, as is the norm in these kinds of racers, are collected by driving through spinning barrels that hover above the track and can either be offensive (explosive remote control cars or huge baseballs) or defensive (green slime that can be dropped behind your kart) and are well balanced. Well, much more balanced than Mario Kart's game-changing super weapons, anyway. Coins can also be collected and behave in a similar fashion to the coins collected in the original SNES Super Mario Kart - the more you collect, the faster your kart can travel.
|Blurry as hell and normal text? The real deal...huzzah!|
The thing that sets Mickey's Speedway USA apart from the other games in the stable though, has got to be the difficulty level. There are three different championships to select, each comprising four unique circuits which in turn can be raced in either beginner, intermediate or advanced difficulty. I started the first championship in intermediate and was blown away by how difficult it was to either keep up with the pack or place high enough in the field to garner some points. Considering that this is a game squarely aimed at the younger player, I found this a little confusing. After a few races I found the game got a little easier and was pleasantly surprised to find a game that offered a decent challenge, but if you bought this for the average youngster I doubt they'd stick with it long enough to reap the rewards.
This aside, Mickey's Speedway USA is a solid entry in the kart racer genre. It's got bold, colourful visuals and features character models and voice work that are as faithful to the subject matter as you could hope to get. The music is perfectly suited to the style of the game and the gameplay is well-balanced, if a little hard to get to grips with at first. A special mention must also go to the menu screens, which are set in a fully modelled 3D 'house' full of furniture and background details like a TV playing an N64 and a chalkboard that displays the results and leader board after a race or round of a championship.
Mickey's Speedway USA doesn't trump Mario Kart for brainless fun and doesn't even come close to Diddy Kong Racing in the single player stakes, but as an alternative to those games, you could do much worse. Oh, and it's far, far better than the awful (and ludicrously named) Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour.
Mickey's Speedway USA is granted a well-deserved: