• While there is no evidence that the folks at D3Publisher of America and Load Inc.were at all influenced by Steve Martin’s comedy routines of the 70’s, their recent Xbox LIVE Arcade title Mad Tracks undoubtedly takes the idea of ‘getting small’ quite seriously.

    This 3D arcade-style racer does away with the fuel-hungry, pavement-munching exotic race vehicles we’ve all come to adore and instead puts gamers at the wheel of miniature, spring-powered toy racecars zipping across oversized ‘real-world’ environments. The result is a well designed and fun experience which fits the mold of what an XBLA game should deliver.

    Mad Tracks

    With 6 races, 9 mini-games, 12 different vehicles and 12 unique power-ups including rocket launchers, oil slicks and protective shields, Mad Tracks has no shortage of content. The game also features multiple modes of gameplay including Arcade and Championship modes, split screen head-to-head and Xbox LIVE multiplayer support for up to four players.

    Mad Tracks’ environment design is also well done. Whether you’re racing around the very nicely designed racetracks within the Toy Store, kickin’ it across the Foosball Table or knocking your opponent (along with a number of dinnerware settings) off the dining table at the Restaurant, the game gives a good sense of your diminutive state.

    The racing events in Mad Tracks are pretty straightforward with the main challenge lying in your ability to maintain power for your car. As you accelerate through long stretches of track, the spring that powers your vehicle begins to uncoil which could result in your becoming stranded. To combat this, players need to back off the accelerator at times during the race and rely on the vehicles momentum to carry them in order to let the spring “recharge” itself. This adds the need for some strategic planning during races in order to win.

    Mad Tracks’ mini-games are also quite fun and include playing Eight Ball across the surface of a billiard table, being the first to sink a golf ball in Mini Golf and collecting the most points by knocking a variety of toys off of a large table. The game’s simple control design, coupled with the ease of completing most of these tasks, makes Mad Tracks suitable for both young gamers as well as adults, although these mini-games seem to be geared mostly toward the younger ones.

    In single player Championship mode, gamers face off against the game’s A.I. opponents in available unlocked challenges. Successfully completing these early showdowns will open up new races and mini-games. While the games A.I. can certainly pose a formidable challenge when set at high difficulty settings, most gamers should have all of the challenges unlocked in only an hour or so of playing time. Single player is also where 11 of the game’s 12 Achievements can be attained, although not quite as easily as unlocking challenges.

    However, where Mad Tracks really shines is in its multiplayer modes. Facing off against a friend or family member in split screen is bound to generate a few smiles. The action is fast and both races and mini-games are relatively short allowing players to move between games quickly without getting bored. Hooking up on Xbox LIVE through the game’s simply designed lobby is quick and easy with no lag at all during gameplay.

    Overall, Mad Tracks is a great choice as a family-friendly title which offers a fun party-game experience. Hardcore gamers may find that the challenges aren’t enough to keep their attention for long stretches of time, but both casual players and young gamers alike should enjoy the simple fun that is Mad Tracks.

    Score: 7/10

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