For those of you who aren't Hanna-Barbera (creators of The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo etc.) devotees, then you probably haven't heard very much about Wacky Races, a cartoon that ran in the late sixties. That property was resurrected at some point in the early 90's into a series of videogames which continues with Wacky Races: Crash & Dash, a subpar mash-up of racing and mini-games for the Nintendo DS. Developed by Farmind Ltd. and published by Eidos Interactive, the game contains all the characters found in the show, full and complete with their original alliterative names like Peter Perfect, Penelope Pitstop and Professor Pat Pending. But all this adds up to little as Wacky Races: Crash & Dash suffers from a poor conceptual design that ultimately limits the few enjoyable aspects of the game.
The overall look and design, from the characters to the racetracks, is ripped directly from the original series so it maintains that late 60's 2D cartoon look similar to The Flintstones and most of the other Hanna-Barbera cartoons of that decade. The characters are all modeled and drawn as they were in the original cartoon and while I admire that purist attitude, it doesn't translate very well to the DS as the colors come off as bland, muted and muddy. The racetracks all look and feel the same with the only variant being whether it's an ice, desert or a primarily grass environment. Each track contains unremarkable background elements such as mountains and trees that look like a pre-schooler's cardboard cutouts. With six different rally circuits at three tracks each, after playing through the game, you'll be hard pressed to identify any distinguishing features of any of the eighteen races as they all look and play the same way. This level of monotony continues to the music and sound design. There seems to be three different music tracks - one per race - for each circuit but they sound so similar to each other it's hard say whether there are three tracks or just one. And the sound design boils down to 'wacky' cartoon noises from the animated series of the 'crash' and 'booing' variety. After a few races, you've had your fill.
From the main menu, the game offers three modes. The first is the Wacky Rally mode which allows you to play through the circuits. The second is the Single Race mode which allows you to play an individual race from an unlocked circuit. The Third and final mode is the Trap Challenge mode which allows you to randomly play through the mini-games in a competition with yourself or with someone else. To progress through the Trap Challenge mode, you must successfully complete each mini-game without ever failing, accumulating a successful completion point total along the way. There are by my count, only eight different mini-games, none of which are particularly challenging so this mode gets old quick.
In the end, the game's ultimate flaw is its gameplay and conceptual design. Like in Mario Kart - a far superior game in every respect - a main aspect of the race is to gather special items that are found along the track which allow you to damage other racers to either slow them down, or if they accumulate enough damage, destroy them temporarily. Where the game goes off the rails is the constant interruption of the flow of the race for the simplistic mini-games I mentioned earlier. Each race has two checkpoints/devious traps set up by the villains of the game - Dick Dastardly and his sidekick Muttley - where you are essentially forced to play a mini-game. If you succeed, you stay in the same place, if you fail, you get bumped back a couple of spots. But even then, you're never totally out of the race. I've gone from 10th to 1st in a matter seconds which points out another flaw of the game. The ten racers are always clumped together in a melee to amp up the action so you can rarely ever get far ahead or fall behind. And all that results in is complete chaos where if you sustain enough damage, your racer breaks down and has to be rebuilt in yet another simplistic mini-game. If that weren't enough, after the last checkpoint is a Mad Dash where you have to blow into the DS microphone and rub the stylus back and forth as fast as you can in order to get a last boost. It can make all the difference so you can try really hard if the race is close but ultimately, you'll most likely end up in the same place you were in when you started this ridiculous exercise in oxygen deprivation. Be warned that if you do try hard during the Mad Dash, note that the previous comment wasn't a joke. It can actually leave you out of breath and slightly dizzy from the effort, something I don't recommend, especially for a game of this caliber. The one bright note of the gameplay is the ability to control your racer with the stylus. To drive, you need to touch the stylus on the screen in the direction you want the racer to go. To stop, you simply need to lift the stylus off the screen. It's easy to catch on and responsive to a player's movements.
When all is said and done, Crash & Dash doesn't add up to much because of its fundamentally flawed design. The opening animation and short cutscenes before the mini-games are fun but they're one-time enjoyables and since you're forced to play the mini-games throughout the races, you'll start skipping the cutscenes because you'll have seen them all after a couple of circuits. There also isn't much replay value to speak of. After finishing the game on Normal Mode, you unlock the Crazy Mode which only adds to the chaotic nature of the game so you find yourself constantly rebuilding your racer which only makes the game that much more irritating. If you're thinking of spending some of your leisure time with this game, you're better off looking elsewhere.
So go outside, read a book or just pick your nose for a couple of hours. Wacky Races: Crash & Dash isn't worth it.