Review by Speedy Boris

""A" For Concept, "C" For Execution"

Mad Dash is a sequel to Running Wild, a PS1 title that didn't get much attention amidst all the big titles of the time. I always liked the concept of a fast and furious footrace, as opposed to vehicles, and while it wasn't perfect by any means, Running Wild was a fun play. Now many years later, Mad Dash arrives on the XBox.

1) Graphics: Since Mad Dash came out relatively early in the XBox's life, the graphics are a mixed bag. Environments are fantastic, full of detail and tons of unique architecture, and the draw distance is quite long. Sadly, all of this detail takes its toll on the framerate, which is supposed to stay at 60 fps but usually suffers slowdown from all the action on-screen. Some levels fare better than others, though.

The in-game interface isn't exactly intuitive, either. Too often it was difficult to tell whether I had enough slime to use special moves or whether I had enough cola to power up or if I had a weapon to use. More clear information would have helped.

2) Music/Sound: Music is both some of the most forgettable techno I've heard in a game, and some of the most annoying. Most of the time you won't even notice it in the background, but there are certain tracks which grate. Sounds are minimal and quiet, which is odd for such a game, though occasionally it shines with nice environmental sounds and explosions and such.

Oh, and if you're a fan of Billy West as a VA, you'll love the voices in this game, because he provides a good chunk of them. I swear the mad scientist villain is almost exactly like Professor Farnsworth except more sinister. Sadly, the sound bytes are few and far between, meaning you'll hear the same ones over and over again. EVERY time you win a race, you'll hear "This one seems a little less incompetent than the rest."

3) Controls: You press up on the joystick to run, A to jump, and Y to use weapons. B lets you slide, which is helpful for gaining ground when you're behind, and X is a powerslide. That's basically useless, so don't worry about it. The game also utilizes the right joystick for movements such as climbing fences and swimming, by making repeated 360 rotations. Such a thing takes advantage of the controller and works well.

The controls are responsive, though it takes some getting used to them, as turning directions while running is more sharp than it needs to be, and it's difficult to gauge when to jump to your feet so that the slide move doesn't slow you down.

4) Gameplay: In Adventure Mode, you play through each point-to-point course one at a time until you unlock them all. There are nine total, and quite a few racers at your disposal of all shapes and sizes.

Before I start with the flaws, I must praise this game for its ingenious level design. Every course contains a ton of different sections that come together seamlessly. One minute you may be running on land, the next you'll be sliding down a tube, the next you'll be swimming, the next you'll be climbing. It's like a cartoon triathlon, and the varied architecture of the levels really helps with making each course unique. Sure, we've all seen the usual racing archetypes: Jungle, ice, lava, water, factory, etc. But the way they're presented, and the fast pace with which you run through the sections, makes them feel fresh.

The difficulty level is where the game gets tricky to grade. You see, the CPU operates on the "catch up" system, in that if you're far behind, they'll automatically slow down so that you can catch up. In other words, one tiny mistake won't cost you the entire race, which is a refreshing change of pace.

On the other hand, such a system basically means that the first 3/4 of the race is completely pointless, as it's a guarantee that you can catch up. And that means the last 1/4 is crucial to victory (yes, you must get first place to advance; anything less and you lose), so if you blow it in the last ten feet, sorry, try again. This sort of thing is really frustrating and causes the game to be less fun than it should be. Often times winning races feels like luck and not skill.

Mad Dash sure loves cheap shots, too. With so much going on during gameplay, it's very easy to be running along and all of a sudden a boulder falls from the sky and crushes you, or some schmo from the sidelines throws a weapon at you. And falling down takes you a good three or four seconds to recover, which is just maddening. You might as well take your hands off the controller while you wait for your injured character to recover.

And some weapons are basically useless, since the game doesn't auto-aim. This means you'll often throw your weapons away blindly, while the A.I. easily dodges them.

5) Overall: With a bit more fine-tuning, Mad Dash could've been something special, one of the top tier XBox titles. However, the game suffers from an erratic framerate, infuriatingly close races, and so-so controls. If none of these things scare you, pick up a copy of Mad Dash and enjoy it despite its flaws. Since it's from 2001, it'll be dirt cheap as well (I got mine for $7.99).

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 03/20/06

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