reviews\ Nov 30, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Hot Wheels: Velocity X - GBA - Review

OK, who here hasn’t had Hot Wheels cars while they were growing up? I think it’s safe to say that all of us have owned a variety of them here and there throughout the years, so it’s only natural that something with that kind of popularity rating is going to get its own game … or games … as the case has been over the past decade. Velocity X has hit the handheld market and powerslides in on the GBA bringing with it a surprisingly fun title … despite a flaw or two along the way.


The plot to Velocity X revolves around a group of scientists who are working on a vehicle prototype. An evil robot named Otto decides to come in and hypnotize everyone, then steals the prototype and gives each of the parts to one of his minions. When everyone comes to, they realize that the only one who is good enough to stop Otto and his crew is Gear Head, the “good guy” robot, so they send him out on a quest to recover the prototype before it’s too late.


The gameplay in Velocity X was pretty well done, considering the limited amount of buttons and screen size that is available. You lead Gear Head through different worlds composed of multiple different races and challenges, like obstacle jumping or racing to beat the clock … and there is a large selection of 30 cars to choose from that get unlocked as you progress through the story mode. All cars can be equipped with various assortments of weapons or armor by picking up Power Ups on the different tracks, and each car has its own advantages or disadvantages in handling, armor, speed, and acceleration.  The statistical differences don’t feel 100% accurate most of the time … but they seem done a lot better than any other racer I’ve played on GBA so far.


On the gameplay subject, the missions themselves are another big plus for this title. In each world, you have to complete a number of tasks in order to race the end boss and get one of the parts that you need. The tasks aren’t just racing, as I thought they would be, but also consist of things like collecting explosive gas cans and dumping them in the water, or blowing up a bunch of decoys to force the boss to show his true vehicle … as a couple of examples. There is a decent variation in the missions themselves, and you never really know what you will need to do next.


OK … if you don’t feel much like playing story mode and challenging bosses, you also have a few other things that you can do. You can select a single race to practice up on a track or work on car handling, or you can go to the challenge mode. The challenge mode actually contains a couple of different game types to select from, one being battle … which is like a vehicular death match … and the other one is tag … which is pretty self explanatory. Both are fun, and can add some replayablilty and depth to a simple mission based gameplay title.


The only two big complaints that I have about Velocity X are the controls and the length of the story mode overall. The controls for the car weren’t badly done, but can get confusing in a high-speed panic. The control pad points the car in the direction you need it to go, and you can either hold it down or press A to go faster. The problem this presents is spinouts, and since the cars are so little it can be hard to figure out which direction they wind up pointing in after the spin. There is a helper arrow on all of the stages to help you determine where you are getting ready to go next, but sharp turns or over pressing one direction can wind up the same way and have frustrating results overall.


The other issue, as I mentioned before, is the length of the game itself. There are six different worlds to go through racing enemies, collecting items, and beating bosses … but a good couple of afternoons can wrap up the story mode just like that. Due to the other couple of gameplay options and some unlockable extras there is still enjoyment and replayability, but the overall meat of the game itself is done at that point. Winning races is the only way to advance, and winning races is the only way to unlock cards portraying characters, items or the new vehicles themselves … so there’s no need to go back and replay parts of the story mode once it’s over and done with.


Graphically, the game isn’t too bad. The cartoon presentation of the characters and opening scenes looked great, and the game itself looks pretty good as well. Each stage is littered with buildings, crazy obstacles like loops or corkscrews, and some interesting hazards like loose sand or icy streets. In addition, the car pictures of vehicles like Rigor Motor, Roll Cage, and Lakester look true to the real life car models in a hand sketched kind of way, and they don’t look bad during gameplay … even if they are a little small as I said before.


The sound in Velocity X isn’t terrible, but it’s not anything spectacular either. There are some explosion sounds and screeching tires which sounds pretty neat, but the cars all make the same sort of humming sound. The music, while a neat little techno upbeat drum mix is kind of catchy at first, it quickly fades into the background as you are racing and probably will get forgotten.


Overall, Hot Wheels Velocity X can be a fun and challenging title, despite a couple of things here and there. Racing fans looking for something to take on the road with them might look into giving this one a try, and even some action fans may latch onto it as well due to the extra challenges and some races that are more taken from an action style of game. I loved Hot Wheels growing up, and I’m happy to see that there is a fun GBA game (At least for a while) that helps me enjoy them all over again.


Gameplay: 7.5
There are a whole bunch of original cars, items, and weapons to unlock along the story mode, and a couple of decent “non racing” missions and single player things as well to help break the monotony. There are some jumps and a good variety of tricks in the game, but it really takes kind of a backseat to other things. Be prepared to run through Story Mode in a matter of a couple of days, but keep having fun with the challenges for a while.


Graphics: 7.8 
Not too shabby. A little blocky, but better than some I’ve seen. The tracks themselves are pretty squared off overall, but have enough scenery and some stunt ramps or other objects to help put a spin on things. The characters, cars, and intro look great.


Sound: 7.2
Not bad, but nothing special either. The music was OK, but gets a little repetitive at times and will also get ignored after a short while. The sounds of the cars are made up of humming sounds, screeching tires, or the blasting of weapons.


Difficulty: Easy
Getting used to the controls will cause some headaches for some, but once you get them down it won’t take too long to run through this one. The missions that are not racing are helped along with the little arrow to tell you where to go, so it makes it a little easier to figure out.  


Concept: 7.5
Taking one of America’s best loved automobile toys and turning into a game with jumps, spins, and racing was a good idea. I would have loved to see more “stunt track” style gameplay that we’ve all grown used to, and a couple of other things which this game would have benefited from like a longer story or more challenges than just tag and battle.


Overall: 7.4
Definitely not a bad title from THQ, and a pretty good racer/action game next to some I’ve seem on GBA. Racing fans will probably be more apt to have fun with this one, but younger Hot Wheels fans (and grown ups) may get frustrated for a while getting the controls all figured out and avoiding spin outs … and also be prepared to run through the story pretty quick. Even so, it still provides a good time during a trip or boring afternoon, so have fun … just hang onto the receipt.


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