Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppet RaceMania

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racemaniaMichael Wermuth – Muppet RaceMania is a video game released on the original PlayStation in 2000. At the time, many franchises got their own Mario Kart-like racing games. In fact after I had gotten Mario Kart 64 I had wanted a similar Muppet game, and this game not only came soon enough after, but it was a lot better than what I had in mind, including having more than just six playable characters, having movie-based tracks (each movie is represented with four tracks),and including voices for the characters.

This game has 25 playable characters, though only 8 at first, with the others having to either be found in the tracks (and to this day I’ve never been able to figure out where to find them) or by entering a code (and the instruction book actually lists all of the codes for the game). It’s an impressive selection of characters, from Kermit and Miss Piggy to Rowlf and Sal to Zoot and even a Doozer (Fraggle Rock is an unlockable track as well, it’s a shame no Fraggles are included). It doesn’t have any characters who are too obscure (no Lips, Fleet Scribbler, etc.), but is still impressive nonetheless. And at the time, The Jim Henson Company was starting to recast Jim Henson and Richard Hunt’s long-retired characters, so we get to hear Scooter, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Janice, and Link Hogthrob, though most of the recasts heard in this game wouldn’t last (most notably Matt Vogel as Scooter and Janice). This is also one of the last times Frank Oz voiced his Muppet Show characters.

racemania3There are four types of stages of play. There are two different sets of tournament tracks, which can be played individually or in adventure mode (where the tracks appear back-to-back-to-back), battle stages, and unlockable stunt stages. Stunt mode is really hard, I’ve never been able to complete any of the stunt tracks. Throughout the tracks, you can collect stars (which give you special items to shoot at other players) and vegetables (which give you energy where, once full, you can either perform a special move on all the other racers, or get a speed boost). In battle mode, you can battle other racers, or be alone and collect stars, vegetables, and other items. Once you’ve gotten all of an item, you play again and collect all of something else. When you’ve collected everything in a battle stage, you can battle a boss driver (unfortunately, you can’t play as them), ranging from Sweetums to Beauregard to Dr. Phil van Neuter. Interestingly, the tougher characters like Spa’Am are the easiest to beat, while the “nice guy” types like Beauregard and Bill, Gil, and Jill are harder.

Before each movie-inspired track is a clip from one of the first six movies. They did a good job with movie-inspired tracks. For The Muppet Movie, we get a swamp track and a fun fair. For The Great Muppet Caper, there’s a Happiness Hotel track. Each track also begins with Statler and Waldorf providing voice-overs (“They say that the best driver wins the race.” “Really? Then we’d better get off the streets!”), and if you win, they’ll comment on your winning (“You’re a real winner.” “You’re being awfully nice.” “Oh, I’m sorry, I meant whiner!”). Additionally, your character will get dialogue regarding whether he or she won or lost.

racemania2At first I liked to race as many of the fairly lesser-known characters, but over time I’ve come to play as Kermit the most. It seems like Kermit is one of the best racers, with his body and car being just light enough (others seem to be a bit big). Still, at least when they’re controlled by the computer, Floyd and Zoot seem like difficult characters to get past.

Muppet RaceMania is perhaps the best Muppet video game ever. It has so many good points–it’s a go-kart game, has most of the characters you’d expect (though it’s still missing some essential characters), and is a very fun game. I wish there would be a follow-up, or even an updated version of the game, to include tracks inspired by The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted plus maybe eight more characters. How about Walter, Miss Poogy, ‘80s Robot, Uncle Deadley, Constantine, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, and The Newsman?

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The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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