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(Playstation 2)
Review by Joshua Griffin

Super Bombad Racing is the only title from Lucas Learning I've ever played, and I'm really starting to like it. Aside from the ultra-kiddy exterior, Lucas has proven that you can also add a fair amount of depth into a kart racing game. Good execution of a novel deformed-manga Star Wars concept with sharp graphics and near perfect sound, this is a surprisingly good title once you get used the overall approach. I'm getting used to it, and finding a really good game underneath.

There's not too much story to be had in Bombad Racing. The Official Site for the game pretty much sums up the concept, since there isn't really a story: You've never seen kart racing or Star Wars like this - it's madcap, break-neck racing action at its best. We dare you to go where racing and Star Wars have never gone before, so join us as we take a radical ride through the most super-deformed Star Wars galaxy you've ever seen!

From the minute you pop it in, you'll understand just how different this approach is from the more recent Star Wars titles.

Super Bombad Racing is very much a fun racing romp through the Star Wars universe. From the first time you see the box with the Super Deformed manga heads to the anime style throughout, you're going to see they're up to something different. Lucas Learning caters to a younger audience than the more powerful older brother LucasArts, but just because this title is geared for kids doesn't mean there's nothing in for the big boys to play with.

The game is centralized around a humorous and stylized approach to the characters of Star Wars. Obi-Wan says excellent, Jar Jar sticks out his tongue, and Maul seems fitfully out of place in this wacky world. Immediately you're going to think Mario Kart, the granddaddy of all kart racers. And certainly that is where much of the inspiration has come from, but underneath this kiddy exterior is a kart racer with untold depth.

And that may be why I really didn't like it the first few races. But soon after I began to realize that while it looked like child's play, it was really far more than that. Super Bombad Racing is deep, very deep. It features both single or multiplayer modes, including the swampy landscape of Naboo, the desert podracing courses of Tatooine, and the foot of the Jedicouncil Towers on Coruscant. For those wanting more than just racing, there's the Arena battles, mirrored courses and challenges for time trials. Not to mention multiple secret paths, platforms and more hidden throughout each level of the races.

One thing the team really got right is the combination of classic elements and prequel locations. Finally the orphan Phantom Menace is beginning to feel like part of the Star Wars universe, once you get the two elements and eras together. While much of the title is based on Episode I locations, we'll also visit familiar spots from Return of the Jedi and more. And classic characters show up as well, though very limited in number giving the title a feeling of cohesiveness for both trilogies.

Star Wars games have always had great sound, and this title is no exception. While not nearly as dynamic as Starfighters Dolby Surround or the great music in Rogue Squadron, the title still stands alone in quality of music and effects. Some music is more appropriate than others (I'm still not sure if I like it or not!), and most all of the sound effects are creative and true.

The title controls quite well, though the fully configurable controller is absolutely necessary so you can set it up how you see fit. With the addition of the new jump button and the other standard items like boost you'll want these in familiar locations for use in a moments notice. Each vehicle handles differently, as you would assume, and there's the obvious trade off for top speed and acceleration. Figure out which one is best for you (probably Jar Jar with your luck) and run him until he doesn't win. On a more difficult track it may be easier for a different character to win against less agile opponents.

The graphics overall are sharp and the stylized artwork of the characters (the Jawas are SO awesome) will make you wish they included some mini-games blasting R2 droids on Tatooine. And there's plenty to uncover as well, you're going to have to win just about everything to unlock all of the tracks and characters buried in this one.

With any title, no matter how much I like it I always find a few things I wonder why they weren't changed before the title hits the market. In a few days, you can see for yourself when you get the game, but for now here's a few of the quirks that annoyed me in what was overall a very good game.

The opening menu screen is not appealing in the least, and there is incredibly poor menu animation. The Playstation 2 takes a while to load games, so expect a bit of downtime between races. When you simply restart the track is there any way to not have to reload the whole thing?

At times I would get frustrated by certain walls and blunt objects that bring my character to a dead stop. I think in a kart game you should always be moving forward, at least in some part. Slow me down, blow me up, just don't bring me to a dead stop. See San Francisco Rush for more information.

And the shields, which were quite cool, were simply too wimpy and would spin my character into last place when they ran out as I learned the title. The F-Zero model may have lent itself some more consideration here, with a boost per lap and a recharge station available for passersby. Yes, I know, find the recharge icon ... I'd rather pass it up for weapons myself.

And then there's the extensive power-up and gadget deal. I don't like to read instruction manuals, I don't want to have to learn how to do something. I figure a perfectly designed game should be able to teach me as I go. I should just know what to do and how to do it. Of course, as the Lucas team has broken new ground, the old horse has to learn the new tricks. Fine, I'm getting over it, and finding some really innovative ideas underneath, it just frustrated me failing to get to this point now.

Overall, it's a cute title from a franchise that is all about being serious. Seeing some of the design work and stylization is worth the price in the first place. I enjoyed it after I began to see the learning curve lessen, and I can now honestly say it is pretty fun. I'm sure after more hours of learning the intricacies of the title I'll like it even more, and not having had the chance to use the multiplayer fully is like buying Goldeneye (N64) only for the single-player missions.

There's plenty of depth in this title, and I've just begun to scratch the surface. Even having only played the game for a couple of days I think there is plenty here for Star Wars fans to enjoy, no matter what age they may be.

88 out of 100

Related Media/Stories:

TFN's Interview with Lead Artist Todd Reamon
Super Bombad Official Site
Lucas Learning Official Site
Daily Radar Review

For comments or questions email the TFN Games Staff and thanks to Joshua Griffin for the review!

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