Mad Dash Racing

Remember the PlayStation game Running Wild? No? There's a good reason - the "funny animals in footraces" genre tends to feel forced. In that tradition, Mad Dash Racing lacks emotional appeal; it's a character game without likeable characters.

Several furry critters - a wisecracking cat, a crude hog, and a raging weasel among them - run, jump, climb, swim, and slide their way through colourful fantasy tracks, grabbing power-ups and tackling each other along the way. The bright visuals look colourful and a little weird - sort of what Tim Burton would create if he suddenly became happy. However, animated hijinks deserve looney tunes, not bad-ass, out-of-place techno beats from Fatboy Slim and Crystal Method. The rewardingly varied controls are the game's best asset; swimming through lakes and scaling dinosaur ribcages adds some enjoyable manual dexterity to the go-forward repetition.

However, for all its shiny visuals and four-player races, Mad Dash Racing elicits nothing more than a noncommittal shrug. The stars are animals without an anima, and as a result, it's just a rental.

Publisher: Eidos.

Developer: Crystal Dynamics.

URL: www.maddashracing.com.

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