As the back of the new Wii racing game Heathcliff: The Fast and the Furriest’s box explains, it is a game in which Heathcliff, the wacky comic strip cat, has to enter a go-kart racing tournament in order to rescue his girlfriend from ancient cat-like space aliens. This seemed to me to be a deeply confusing story choice, I spent more time than I probably should have trying to figure out if anything in the Heathcliff comics involved evil go-kart loving aliens. From what I can tell, it didn’t. Still, a mascot based kart-racer should not be judged on its story, so when I turned on my Wii to actually play Heathcliff: The Fast and the Furriest, I did my very best to keep an open mind. The level of quality in the actual game actually was very different than the bizarre story had led me to believe. The fact that the game is actually much worse than that, however, is something of a problem.
When I try to think of how to explain the lack of quality in Heathcliff: The Fast and the Furriest, I cannot go without saying that the game actually made me physically ill. I am not exaggerating when I say this, nor am I trying to be slanderous. I sat down to play it, started to feel a little woozy after a couple of races, and by the end of it, had such a bad case of motion sickness that I was dizzy and close to vomiting. Since I play kart racers on a fairly regular basis, with titles such as Mario Kart, Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing, and even the less well-regarded Diddy Kong Racing DS included in my collection, I know that I do not have a problem with the genre as a whole. There are a lot of things about Heathcliff: The Fast and the Furriest that make it both illness-inducing and terribly unpleasant to play, though, and it’s not difficult to determine what they are.
In trying to determine exactly why this game was capable of, at least in my case, actually inducing physical pain, it’s easiest to blame the graphics. It’s evident that the designers were going for a look true to the original comic, but instead of trying to think of a cool way to keep it looking like an old fashioned comic strip, they just declined to include any textures or shading on anything in the game, save for the still relatively un-detailed vehicles. This would be merely an annoyance rather than an actual problem were it not for the fact that the game runs at an incredibly fast speed, leaving the buildings to zip past you at a speed that leaves them looking like colorful blobs, which is an extremely dizzying effect. Even if you can manage to set that issue aside, however, the lack of detail in this game makes it almost impossible to tell where you are on any of the 16 tracks, making you feel like you’re trapped driving in an endless loop.
Of course, the gameplay isn’t completely innocent when it comes Heathcliff: The Fast and the Furriest’s amazing ability to act as a nausea factory. It isn’t really that different from any other mascot based kart racer in that it has you drive around a track while using cartoonish weapons against your AI opponents. I was a little confused by the fact that one of the weapons was a high powered machine gun, but the others, including throwable fruit, shields, and an overpowered stereo system, are pretty standard. The biggest problem with it, however, is that the controls are terrible. Using the Wiimote and Nunchuck configuration is a bit better than the Wii Wheel, but both of them will have you bouncing off of the barriers of the course like you’re playing a high speed bumper cars sim. Trying to cut the amount of time that you spend flying from wall to wall by using the Nunchuck, however, renders the game’s boss battles, which are to be fought while racing, nearly impossible to beat due to an extremely poor button configuration.
It’s nearly impossible for me to think of how the sound in Heathcliff: The Fast and the Furriest could have contributed to the illness that it caused, but I still can’t pay it any compliments. The strangely voice acted quotes repeat themselves more often than the voice clips in a game of Pokemon Puzzle League, which is annoying, but would be forgivable if it were the only problem. Many of the sound effects in the game, however, sound like they were taken directly from Mario Kart. From the sound that plays when you pick up an item to Heathcliff’s strange “Wa-hoo!” when he drives over a speed panel, the effects are, if not identical, then certainly suspicious. Not even the music redeems the sound in this game, as it’s made up of strange and tuneless songs played on tinny electric instruments. It has a weird and irritating effect that certainly doesn’t help the game compensate for its myriad of other issues.
It is true that a great deal of my dislike towards Heathcliff: The Fast and the Furriest is due to the fact that it actually managed to make me ill, but even if that hadn’t happened, I would still think that it was a terrible game. It’s one thing to rip off well made and popular games in order to make money, as this does with Mario Kart, but if a game manages to steal so much from something fun and still be miserable to play, there is a major problem with it. Not even its low price or its variety of modes, including multiplayer, make this game remotely worth buying.