The late 90’s and early 2000’s were saturated with Kid-friendly karting games intended to ride on the tailcoats of more successful and well-known franchises such as Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing. If you could name a popular kids TV show, movie or Video game it was pretty much guaranteed to have been converted into a Kart racer at some point. Most of these followed a generic formula of choosing one of the cuddly characters on offer and racing around a themed track whilst throwing an assortment of collectable weapons at your competitors to hopefully spin them off course.
One such attempt at a Karting Cash in comes in the form of Crystal Dynamic’s “Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour” – A mouthful of a title that tasks the player with racing around tracks based on popular, real-life rides and attractions from some of Disney’s theme parks over the pond in Orlando, Florida. Starting by choosing from a motley crew of 13 characters with 3 of these being locked away until certain conditions have been met within the game, players set off around each of the games tracks with the goal of coming first and collecting pieces of a gigantic Fireworks machine.
It’s a small world after all…
The story is as simple and accessible as you would expect for the games intended audience. Chip and Dale, the famous chipmunk duo, have accidentally destroyed the firework machine used to power the theme park’s scheduled firework show whilst trying to gather acorns! Now it’s up to them and a selection of other original characters created specifically for this game to travel around the Magic Kingdom, winning races and gathering up the scattered pieces of the machine. Tracks include the Thunder Mountain railroad, Space Mountain, Blizzard Beach and a personal favourite of mine, The Haunted Mansion. There are a total of Nine standard racing tracks, three bonus arenas which require the player to collect 30 coins within a set time limit and then an additional unlockable race track to boot.
The tracks all fit their attractions perfectly and will be particularly enjoyable for those who have had the pleasure to visit their real-life counterparts. As with many other Disney games, a lot of attention to detail has been lovingly applied to each of the tracks with some of the more interesting features being the Karts that change to match the vehicle you would normally be seated in if you were on the ride for real through to the music being taken from the attractions themselves. Musical Highlights are found again, In the Haunted Mansion track (not that I’m biased at all) Which plays the famous “Grim Grinning Ghosts” theme song taken straight from the ride itself! Pirates of the Caribbean fan’s will, no doubt, be thrilled to hear “A Pirates life for me!” accompany them as they sail around the Pirates track. Although bearing in mind this is looped it can become irritating if you’re playing multiple times to secure that elusive first place position!
The tracks have plenty of interesting features, hazards and terrains to keep each track feeling fresh, unique and interesting with a variety of ramps, speed boosts and even a few rapids and drops in the water-based levels! There are a selection of power-ups also available as you would expect, from the obligatory projectiles both standard and homing coming in the form of acorns that also act as a shield whilst in your possession. Through to more unique items such as frog spell which transforms all racers ahead of you into hopping frogs for a brief period, leaving them vulnerable to being overtaken or even run over if you’re feeling particularly nasty! There are also speed boosts and a fireworks machine that makes you temporarily invulnerable.
Don’t be shy about grabbing and using these power-ups liberally, for as much as the game is for the most part a walk in the park, the AI racers are brutal and will not think twice about hitting you with three consecutive acorns, followed by a frog spell, followed by using a speed boost to run over your new froggy friend. They may look cute but believe me, they’re evil.
Thankfully, tracks also feature a selection of shortcuts to be utilised. Some, are obvious to the eye and will carve precious seconds off your lap-time whilst others require more commitment to find. Each track also features a special shortcut that can only be unlocked by driving through three consecutive purple rings and reaching the entrance to the shortcut in an allotted amount of time. These cut throughs are a god send and can be integral to bagging the first-place prize in some of the more challenging tracks!
All the fun of Disney World for a fraction of the price!
There are 4 main challenges to be beaten for most of the tracks in the game, with a first-place position to unlock a piece of the Firework machine being first order of the day on your first trip round the park. This shouldn’t cause much fuss and most gamers will be able to complete this section of the game in just a couple of short hours, if that. To stretch out the playtime, there are additional challenges in the form of “First-Place Flags”, “trophy challenges” and 8 “Lucky fairies” to collect within each of the main tracks. The First-place flags can be earned by simply coming first on the track for a second time. This doesn’t seem to change at all from the first time around and seems to simply be in place just to make sure the first time wasn’t just a fluke! Once this is completed you will unlock a trophy challenge for the track which gives you three minutes to locate and collect eight golden trophy collectables from around the course. Thankfully there are no other racers and the challenge ends when you collect the final trophy. This means you can creep around the track at your own pace checking out shortcuts and hidden areas where these tricky pick-ups can usually be found! If all that isn’t enough for you, each track features eight Lucky fairies which can usually be found along the main track through the level and pop up throughout the three laps. Each one you collect will cause the other racers to make more mistakes and will increase the chance of receiving better power-ups from the Mickey Balloons littering the road. Thankfully, you can potter around collecting these at your own pace as the only requirement is you collect all eight in one race and your finishing position has no bearing on this.
The game is generally bright and charming to look at and a lot of effort has gone into recreating the attractions as closely as possible. The Dreamcast port offers slightly better visuals as you can imagine and is less prone to the Lag that can pop up when the screen gets a bit too busy in the PS1 version. Sound effects are suited to the characters and are thankfully not used to the point of becoming grating. The track music is mostly enjoyable on the condition that you don’t overstay your welcome within each race!
There is also a time trial and a standardised multiplayer mode thrown in too if you need to squeeze an extra bit of juice out of this simple yet pleasing little karting adventure!
Star Struck Gaming Rating
Is Magical racing tour going to change your life or your view of Karting games? Probably not. On the other hand, what it does offer is a fun experience tailored specifically to fans of the Disney theme parks and their attractions. As much as the journey won’t be a long one, there’s a lot of stuff to see along the way and you’d have to be quite po-faced to not crack a smile as you hurtle around the brightly coloured tracks humming along to familiar tunes and looking out for hidden Mickey’s along the way. (Yes, they made it here too!)
Due to it’s popularity amongst those who have tracked down a copy and due to it being a licenced Disney game, Magical racing tour isn’t the cheapest game in the world to pick up, with PS1 copies going for around £15.00 complete. It’s a great starter racer for younger kids that will only take a few hours to complete in its entirety but also has a lot to offer for those of us who class ourselves as still being young at heart.