Newest Review: ... it hard to recommend it to anyone. It's not *atrocious*, but it is uninspired, uninvolving and unmemorable. In short, it's rather boring,... more
It certainly frightened me...
Halloween Racer (GB)
Member Name: davidbuttery
Halloween Racer (GB)
Advantages: Graphics are reasonable, fair concept
Disadvantages: No depth or involvement, mediocre sound, Rookie level is tedious, so many better rivals around
** Background **
Most gamers will have a particular genre they have more time for than others. It might be platformers, simulations or beat 'em ups, but in my case it's racing and driving games. I like motorsport a great deal in real life, which helps, but I also enjoy the generally less linear design of racing games when it comes to playing them electronically. I tend to prefer the "purer" racing games, with the actual driving most important and things like power-ups and checkpoints absent or at least sidelined, but from time to time I like a change and a more arcadey experience.
Such a game is the Game Boy Color title Halloween Racer. This is perhaps a rather obscure game when set among the big-name driving titles such as TOCA, Colin McRae Rally or the Micro Machines series, but sometimes you can turn up a hidden gem this way. It was released in 1999 on the Micro´ds label, and can broadly be placed into the "kart" subgenre: there's little realism, and a strong arcade feel takes precedence over any depth of simulation. As Super Mario Kart proved on the SNES, this can be done superbly even on an older console, but here...?
'Fraid not. Halloween Racer has proved to be a game that I've only played about half a dozen times in all the time I've had it, and I would find it hard to recommend it to anyone. It's not *atrocious*, but it is uninspired, uninvolving and unmemorable. In short, it's rather boring, and you'll probably come away from it thinking that you could have found something rather more rewarding to do with your time. In this case, its obscurity is probably deserved.
** Gameplay **
You have the choice of Championship or Practice modes, though a rudimentary career structure is imposed, meaning that you have no choice but to start on Rookie level. This is a problem in itself, as for anyone who's played a racing game in the last 20 years Rookie is much too easy to present the slightest challenge. You can easily win races by keeping the accelerator button pressed at all times and not worrying about the occasional collision or spin. You have to win on Rookie to get access to Advanced, and then go through it all again to get Expert. Experienced drivers will only then really have much of a challenge.
This is a checkpoint-based game, at least in theory. I qualify the statement because the time limits for the checkpoints are ridiculously generous: think of Out Run on "Super Easy" and add a bit. I frequently found myself completely forgetting that the time limit was even there; there's really no point in it as you have to try quite hard not to make the end of the race. If you win, as you surely will, your "celebration" consists of a two-frame animation of a spindly wave. Gawsh.
As you race, you will come across various things on the track. For example, a lightning bolt will speed you up and diamonds will give you extra points. There are also hazards: whirlwinds to spin you around and snails to slow you down. These are not terribly imaginative, and there isn't a huge range of them. (And what have snails got to do with Halloween anyway? Are they vampire snails or what? On Rookie you have plenty of time to think about these things. Whether that's a good idea or not is quite another matter.)
Practice mode is, frankly, mind-bendingly dull. Yes, you can choose the track you wish to drive on, but you can't set how many laps you want to do, or make any adjustments to your vehicle, or indeed do anything other than pootle around the circuit and see how long it takes. Since it's possible to go nearly all the way without taking your "foot" off the gas, your first decent lap will probably not be broken much, if at all, thus making this mode a waste of time once you've learned each circuit's layout.
** Presentation **
To give Halloween Racer its due, the graphics are reasonable. I found the first level ("Vulcan") annoyingly dark, but the rich dark reds and purples were quite attractive. The "Mine" level, on the other hand, is out in the bright open air despite its name! Each race is introduced with a screen of a pirate skeleton waving a starting pistol, which is quite fun. In the races themselves, you get a pumpkin on your dashboard (your guess is as good as mine) and some small and pixellated mummies and the like.
If you like to hear engine noises in your racing games, you'll hate this one, as there aren't any. Your craft hovers along (reasonable enough when it's a broomstick!) but the only continuous sound is a rather by-the-numbers effort that gives the impression it was rejected for the Castlevania gig and has never really got over it. There is the odd bleep and ping as you pick up power-ups and diamonds, but that's as far as it goes in the sonic department. Even the Game Boy can do better than that.
** Buying and verdict **
Halloween Racer is a common game, and is easily found at a low price; the briefest of looks at eBay just now turned up two, both available for well under a fiver. They don't seem to be attracting much interest, and frankly I'm not surprised. This is pretty much the essence of a two-star game: it works and isn't a complete car crash (har har hardee har) but it's completely outclassed by so many other driving games for the same platform that there really is little point in my recommending it to anyone but absolute completists.
Summary: Nobody much remembers this one, and with good reason
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