Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#89 – Wacky Races

Before you ask, this is not a racing game.

All the other racers drive through the title screen!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 6/9/18
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Wacky Races Longplay

I am always amazed at the old series or properties that somehow make their way to the NES. The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island didn’t really make much sense to turn into an NES game, even though the show maintained popularity for years in syndication. Puss ‘N Boots is another game starring a character with a historical past. These are just ones I’ve personally covered so far, but there are plenty more. Both Tom and Jerry and Rocky and Bullwinkle got NES games. Bugs Bunny had two NES games. Hanna-Barbera got in on the action too with two Flintstones games, a Jetsons game, and this Wacky Races game, all on NES. I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting as well. I think you can make a good argument that Wacky Races might be the most obscure cartoon property to get an NES game. It sure seems to have flown under the radar from a gameplay perspective.

Wacky Races is an animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The show aired for only a few months in 1968-1969, with 17 total episodes made. The cartoon is about 11 racers competing in various road races against each other. The main villain, Dick Dastardly, and his canine henchman Muttley, drive a powerful vehicle that might win most or all of the races outright. However, being a villain, he often gets ahead of the pack to set traps that usually backfire in some way. Dick Dastardly never wins a race. There were a couple of spinoffs of the original show: The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. The show was rebooted in a new animated series beginning in 2017. There were also a few video games based off the franchise.

There were actually two separate Wacky Races games created in 1991. One was made for various home computers in 1991 and 1992 and is a completely different game from the one I played. Wacky Races appeared on the Famicom in December 1991, called Chiki Chiki Machine Mou Race. It was both developed and published by Atlus. The NES version was released in May 1992. This is the first game either developed or published by Atlus I have played so far for the site.

Definitely not a racing game.

You might think a show about racing would have a video game about racing, but instead Wacky Races is a platformer. You take control of Muttley. There are three courses of either three or four levels each, and these courses all have their own plot line. Something has happened to Dick Dastardly and Muttley needs to go and rescue him. You can play the three courses in any order you like, though the stages within the courses all must be played in order. There is a map that shows Muttley’s progress through the course shown after each level. You beat the game once you have completed all three courses.

Wacky Races is a simple platformer with equally simple controls. You use the D-pad to move, mostly walking left and right. Press the A button to jump. You can control the height of your jump a little depending on how long you hold down the button. You can hold Down to duck, and you will jump down through ledges by holding Down and pressing A. The B button attacks. The standard attack is a Muttley bite from close range. The Start button pauses the game, while the Select button is used to trigger items from the item window.

The bottom of the screen contains all the pertinent info you need. On the left are the number of diamonds and lives. You earn an extra life when you collect one hundred diamonds. The middle of the screen shows the item window. The right side shows your health points represented by hearts, and a clock for the stage timer.

Dogs love bones, so collect them to power up.

Wacky Races has a Gradius-like powerup system. The item window is comprised of four icons. There are only three types of collectables in this game: diamonds, extra lives, and bones. When you pick up a bone, a cursor points to the first item in the item window. You can press Select to take that item now or wait until you pick up another bone to move the cursor one space to the right. The cursor will loop back around if you keep finding more bones.

The first two items in the list are weapons. You can only use one at a time but you can switch by collecting bones and nabbing the other one from the window. The first weapon is a bomb. Muttley produces a bomb above his head and throws it. It travels sideways for a while before arcing toward the ground. It blows up on contact with the ground or an enemy. You can hit enemies with it or throw it in front of them a little so that they are hurt by walking into the blast. The other weapon is called the Sonic Bark. Muttley barks and fires an icon in the form of the word “BOW.” This travels through everything and goes about the length of the screen before vanishing. There is a bit of a delay between when you push B and he hurls the bark.

The other two items are support items. The wings give you feather fall ability. While Muttley is falling, you can mash the A button to descend slowly. Muttley slinks down and wags his tail in the air while doing this. The idea is the same as the raccoon tail in Super Mario Bros. 3. The last item in the window is the heart. This item both extends your health meter and restores your health. You begin the game with three health points and can go up to six. Even with a complete health bar, you can still collect the heart from the item window and refill your health any time.

Here’s the obligatory water level.

The stages in the game are also quite simple as they all move from left to right. Stages are broken up into different sections by an arrow sign. Just walk to the edge of the screen to proceed to the next section. If you die, you go back to the beginning of the section. I found that the levels went on a lot longer than I thought they would. Many levels have three or four sections to them that take a little walking to reach the end. The levels themselves are generic platforming for the most part. There is a swimming level and an ice level plus there’s a stage where you bounce on clouds. There are a few more gimmicks like that along the way.

Each level ends with a boss battle. These are all other contestants in the Wacky Races and they all fight you within their vehicles. I think they did a good job making the boss sprites look like the vehicles from the show. The boss arenas are locked down to a single screen. There is a bone provided so you will be able to get a weapon if you start from nothing. The bosses have various movement patterns and may throw projectiles of their own. After taking several hits, it will look like you have defeated the boss, only for it to come back with a second, more aggressive movement pattern. All bosses follow this format. Just keep attacking and you’ll achieve victory!

You begin the game with three lives. If you lose all your lives, you can continue. The manual doesn’t say but it appears you can continue as many times as you like. Even better is that a continue also puts you back at the start of a section. The penalty for failure is this game is minor.

In this game, car chases dog.

This was my first time playing through Wacky Races. It’s a very uncommon game, and that comes with an uncommon price tag. The current selling price is around $200 for just the loose cart. It was one of the last ten games I bought for my licensed set. I had a chance to buy a copy earlier though. There is a local flea market that opens once a month. A seller had a copy there for at least a couple of years for $82. Around then the game had raised in price from around $60 to $120, so eventually the flea market copy was a good deal. Of course, by the time I was ready to go buy it, it had sold just a month or two prior. I had to wait a couple more months before I bought my copy on NintendoAge. I bought it along with Bubble Bobble Part 2 and I ended up getting it for around the price I missed. The only bad thing is that there’s an ink stamp on the front of the cart that I could not get cleaned. Maybe that’s a little reminder of what happens when you wait on something you shouldn’t.

The sad thing is that $200 doesn’t get you much with Wacky Races in terms of gameplay. This is a good enough game, but it is also really easy. I beat the game on my first try with over twenty lives remaining and used no continues. I counted seven deaths on my playthrough. That may not sound great but it’s low enough for a lengthy game like this that I’ve never played before. My deaths mainly consisted of either falling in holes or dying at the bosses. The boss battles in my mind are the hardest part of the game since they are big sprites and they take a bunch of hits to go down. I didn’t find the game challenging, not even considering the infinite continues you can use. It’s a light, simple game with a hefty price tag.

Wacky Races is a solid NES game in most regards. The graphics, music, and controls are all spot on. There are a few cutscenes that are nicely detailed and there’s even a little humor to go along with it. The powerup system works well and you don’t have to wait long to switch weapons if you want. On a technical level, everything runs great. The levels suffer from just being too ordinary. You simply move left and right. There’s a good variety in the graphics from stage to stage, but the level design does not stand out in a meaningful way. Most enemies don’t pose much of a threat. The platforming is basic too, with only a few spots that are mildly tricky. The boss battles get repetitive, though I do appreciate that they change patterns midway through each fight. This game is only worth buying if you are a collector. In that case, you might as well play through it and beat it quickly like I did.

#89 – Wacky Races

Posted In: Finished

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