In a strange Micro Machines meets Mario Party racing game, Mad Tracks is a racing game that is by no means the best thing on the LIVE Marketplace, but can still provide decent entertainment in short bursts.
The free downloadable demo of this game does not do it justice. From the demo, it can be assumed that this game is a crappy Mario Kart clone. This is not entirely the case. The full version of the game features 15 different stages, each with a different goal in mind. For example, one stage is your typical “first to the finish wins.” However, it is the other stage types that give this game a slightly higher entertainment value.
One stage puts players on a pool table where the goal is to knock all your colored balls into the pockets. Similarly, the foosball table contains an offense/defense motif. While these stages are rather entertaining, they start to grow stale after about the third or fourth play through.
The game suffers from slight hiccups that are not devastating, but are still quite noticeable. One of the game’s unlockable Achievements is to finish a multi-lap level within a certain time limit. But if a sloppy run occurs, the player cannot simply restart to try again from the beginning. Instead, the player must completely exit the stage, go back to the menu, and reload the whole level again. The lack of a retry option is quite an inconvenience. Also, the slightly longer load times are enough to push most gamers away. In some cases, the load screen will almost take as long as an entire match.
Multiplayer is one option to extend the life of this game. While each stage is available for up to four players to play simultaneously (either online or offline), the lack of a party system is another turn-off. Sending a game invite to a friend over and over again can become quite tedious especially since each match can only last a minute or two.
Weapons are also a little on the ghetto side. While most are cheap knock offs of classic Mario Kart weapons, most don’t really work correctly. The rockets never seem to hone-in correctly and boosts of speed almost seem random. However, the game makes up for this by offering a decent control scheme. Turning with the analog stick feels just a tad floaty, but that is the whole point of driving a miniature wind-up car. The major gimmick of controlling your toy car is the wind-up factor. If you hold the accelerator for too long, your car will stall until it is wound up again. It does add a touch of strategy as this gimmick can become frustrating if your car dies on an uphill climb resulting in a quick loss of rank. Also, an increase in difficulty level doesn’t really make the gamer a better player, but rather creates more frustration as the other racers produce cheap hits and shoddy A.I. tactics.
The graphics are nothing noteworthy, with a “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” theme. However, the game must be given some credit due to the fact that this is a full online 3D multiplayer racing game built under 50MB. All audio quality falls under this same category. The musical tracks are rather short and annoying with all sound effects seeming a bit too overpowering, but credit is due for that fact that this is an original Xbox Live Arcade title.
Mad Tracks starts off fun, and each level will entertain through the first play through, but the replay grows flat sooner rather than later. The developers promise to release expansion packs for this game in the future, but the initial 800MS point cost is a little steep. If this title was sold for 400MS points, with follow up expansions priced similarly, then this title would be a lot more enjoyable. If you have a free hour or two and 800MS points to burn, then Mad Tracks will satisfy a gamer’s craving for Arcade video game entertainment…just don’t expect it to last very long.