Speed Racer the movie, as written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski (The Matrix, V for Vendetta), has all sorts of questions swirling around it, not the least of which are concerns by loyal fans of the 1960s Japanese anime that the Matrix masterminds are going to submarine the series. Speed Racer the videogame is pretty much what you'd expect it to be, even though the Wachowski's influence extends to the Wii game, too.
Although Speed Racer is set in the movie's universe (which comes off something like Rollerball meets Deathrace 2000), it keeps the drama confined to its futuristic raceways. This is sci-fi, supersonic, combat racing in a vein similar to F-Zero or WipEout. It's one year after the events of the film, and Speed Racer continues his pursuit of motorsports glory in his home city, Cosmopolis. Speed is even driving a new car, having apparently traded in his beloved Mach 5 for the Mach 6. No, the Mach 6 is not featured in the film. Oddly enough, of the game's 20 cars, 18 are from the movie with two (including the Mach 6) original to the game.
On paper the "6" is supposed to hit a top speed of 400 mph. Its wheels can rotate 180 degrees, so it can run backward and sideways without an appreciable loss of velocity.
These mechanics lend themselves to key gameplay moves called Car-Fu. Yes, that term apparently is from the film, having been coined by the Wachowski's themselves. Car-Fu makes your car a martial arts weapon on wheels as you spin into opposing racers or flip onto them to knock them off the track as you battle for the lead. You can also grab car-killing weapons and power-ups for even more firepower, too. You're probably going to need every edge, too, since you drive contests against from 12-28 opponents depending on which of the three skill classes you select.
What immediately strikes you about Speed Racer are the dazzling, candy-colored graphics. The gleaming color scheme is meant to reflect the visual style of the film, and in fact all but one of the 15 track models are straight from the movie. Blasting around wicked track layouts that fiendishly loop, twist, and turn like a psychedelic roller coaster is sometimes an eye-searing experience. Every now and then you string together speed boosts and you rocket into Zone mode, which looks like you're driving with night vision goggles on acid (er, well…at least that's what someone else at this demo said).
Speed Racer's audio draws on the film's star power. Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer), Matthew Fox (Racer X, the rival), and Christina Ricci (Trixie, the girlfriend) all lend their voices to their characters. The game is also going to drive point for the movie. Speed Racer is due out on May 6, just prior to the film's May 9 premiere.
That also means Speed may be running into some strong Wii competition--Mario Kart is slated for release some time around then, too. But while they both support the Wii Wheel, the Wachowski's support Speed Race