As far as the Nintendo DS is concerned, the system has a good amount of racing games, with wildly different degrees of quality associated with them. You have the upper echelon of racers led by Mario Kart DS followed by Asphalt Urban GT 2, Diddy Kong Racing and Ridge Racer DS. The average racers come next, with games like MySims Racing, Need for Speed Undercover and Indianapolis 500 Racing representing some decent choices for the discerning Nintendo DS racing fan. Finally, you have the terrible racing games that fill in bargain bins at every video game store nationwide. Games like Cartoon Network Racing, Mini RC Rally and Homie Rollerz are titles that you wish would never enter the card slot of your portable console as long as you can still breathe. Sadly, another entry to this category has been claimed by Chrysler Classic Racing, a game that is much worse than the already abysmal Nintendo Wii title from which it spawned.
The premise of the game is actually one of the more interesting ones out there for a racing title. It's the late 1950s/early 1960s, and you play a young teen who wants to desperately get in good with The Kings, a local racing crew. Unfortunately, not only are you immediately labeled a nerd by anyone who catches a glimpse of you, but you also have no money for a car. Weeks later, you scrape up just enough to get one of the cheapest Chrysler cars on a used car lot, and with that you are on a mission to prove that you are more than worthy of belonging with The Kings.
The main racing mode, known as King of Cool, consists of 15 different race tracks. Each race charges you with placing in the top three in order to progress to the next track. During each race, you can collect items on the track, such as turbo boosts and repair icons, to fix any damage to your vehicle. You can also collect cool points and money along the way, which can be used to buy new outfits for your driver and new cars and car parts. Placing in the top three of each race will not only net you more cash and cool points but also open up bonus races. Winning these bonus races gives you several different rewards, including even more cash and cool points, a new girl to hang by your side, or a chance to rank higher within The Kings' racing crew. Once you complete the King of Cool mode, you can always go back to each track and race for better times. You can also check out any old Chrysler car ads you've unlocked in the Extras section of the game.
The teams at Zoo Games and EM Studios should be commended for trying to do something a bit different for budget racing games. It's not often that a game like this tries to go for a certain vibe in order to use the license given to it. However, there are several different issues that drag down the game. The AI is predictable and relentless; all of your opponents will try to follow the same line when racing and try their best to not deviate from the path. More often than not, if you try and get in that racing line, you'll get knocked off course or have your car tipped just enough to see the front or back of the vehicle dip into the ground.
Car damage isn't used as expected in this game. Instead of actually affecting your car speed and performance, any damage you incur during a race will only result in you losing some cool points. Each car and subsequent upgrade fail to give you any performance stats whatsoever, which becomes painful when you have to decide on spending your cash between a new car or a car upgrade because you have no idea what will benefit you the most. Finally, there is no real sense of speed present in the game. No matter which car you drive or which upgrades you buy, you never get the sense that you are driving a very fast vehicle. Even the speed boosts don't seem to work since there is no change in speed once you acquire them on the track. The last thing a racing game needs to do is make the player feel like he's driving a slow clunker of a car, but that's exactly what you get with this title.
The good news about the controls is that the developers didn't try to use the touch-screen, and everything is handled with traditional control methods. The bad news is that the traditional control methods are abysmal in this title. The layout is fine, with the d-pad handling steering while the A button accelerates and the B button brakes. The problem is that the car never feels like you have complete control over it. Going straight is fine, but anytime you turn, the car will take a second or two before registering, resulting in many instances when the car will collide with the surroundings, damaging your vehicle and making you lose those cool points. Yes, cars were heavier back in the day, but for a game that isn't trying to be a faithful simulation of old Chrysler cars, this will likely frustrate players more than anything else.
The graphics are representative of what a first-generation Nintendo DS game would look like on a shoestring budget. Everything, from the car models to the tracks, looks terrible thanks to the highly pixelated presentation. The cars look like the actual models they represent, but the detail is tremendously lacking. Even the custom paint jobs you can acquire fail to make the vehicles any more distinguishable or attractive. The same goes for the buildings, which all have a generic color and look to them. The look wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that the game suffers from a really bad case of pop-up. More often than not, turns are missed and crashes occur thanks to barriers that don't appear until it's too late to react to their presence. Special effects don't seem to fare any better. Shadows seem to be missing, and the smoke that appears when you damage your car is too basic to really stand out. The same can be said for the sparks that try to fly out whenever you trade paint with opposing cars, but it looks too simple to be convincing. The simple look and shape of each mouthless driver was already bad enough on the Wii, but things are much worse here with an even more apparent low polygon count and colors that blend in badly, sort of like a picture seen on a computer monitor that only sports 16 colors. Like everything else in this category, the graphics for the characters are an exercise in mediocrity.
The sound presented in the game is borderline awful. The sound effects for the roar of the engines fail to give you the feeling that you're driving a powerful muscle car. Tires seem to screech a bit too late in relation to the car sliding, and crashing against another car doesn't have as much of an impact as one would like. The sound seems too hollow to give you the feeling that you just damaged your precious vehicle. For a game set in the 1950s and early 1960s, the music in all of the menus and at the end of races seems more like modern generic video game music. Only during the races do you get a '50s/early '60s vibe and, even then, the music is bland and out of place. For example, a track that has you driving through covered ridges for one half and the city the other half gets a faux representation of rock music for the era. Meanwhile, a race in the docks gets an upbeat country mix for the soundtrack. At least getting the right music for the environments would have helped make it respectable despite the low quality of the presentation.
Chrysler Classic Racing is a prime example of how to not do a racing game on the Nintendo DS. Poor graphics and sound make this painful on the senses while terrible, floaty controls do nothing but frustrate the user. The lack of anything compelling to unlock makes the whole exercise pointless. About the only good element this game has going for it is the lack of multiplayer, which is fine since you really don't want to share the pain of this game with others. There should be no reason for you to pick up this game, no matter how much you might want to torture yourself.
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