After the success of Super Mario Kart on 1992, the PC of course needed its own clone on MS-DOS, but this happened on a unusual way.
A lone developed (Andy Edwardson) managed to make something similar to SNES mode7 (to emulate same 3D) and he made a demo called Wacky Kart which was refined into Wacky Wheels and released by Apogee. But he gave a demo disk to Copysoft (with source) before making an agreement, so Copysoft instead copied it and released Skunny Karts before Wacky Wheels.
- Graphics, soundtrack and sound effects were nice. The game is technically ok. Better than Skunny Karts.
- Many levels to play with the bonus pack (which is included too on modern releases).
- Fast paced gameplay.
- Two player game in split screen was actually ok (but skunny karts was better).
- There is an optional minimap and various settings (lap quantity, speed, difficulty).
- Various game modes: championship, time trial, duck shooting, two player championship and battles.
- Championship can be saved and resumed later.
- Karting gameplay is very unbalanced:
- Hand-brake is too easy to control, instant 90º.
- Water on bend edges is helpful to slow down (instead of penalizing).
- The player may crash the kart (loses a live and restarts), which isn’t fair (CPU can’t).
- Neligible penalization by doing collision against other karts.
- CPU is boring: it moves on a lane, doesn’t get penalized by collisions and it doesn’t shoot.
- Item design is lackluster and unbalanced:
- Too much dumbfire missiles (hedgehogs and triple-fireball), no defensive items, no special items, two mine-like items, a moving double-mine… and that’s it.
- Many hedgehogs are placed outside of track (like in water), it’s absurd, the player isn’t going to waste many seconds just for a few crappy shots when there are so many other easy hedgehogs to pickup.
- There aren’t risky shortcuts, like jumping over a barrier or speedup on slow terrain, like in Mario Kart and Skunny Karts.
- There are many levels too similar.
- The UI placement is bad: player position is easy to see but current lap number is separate, active item is separate from hedgehog quantity…
The game is technically very good, but it seems they just tried to avoid the “Mario kart clone” label and simplified stuff.
Skunny karts was more imaginative with items and level design.
Why to play?
Well, to be honest, I’d only suggest it for nostalgia or to play a little bit with old friends. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad game, it was well developed. But my opinion was and is that, if you still want a classic Mario Kart clone on PC, there are funnier games.
How to acquire
You can acquire this game on gog. The retail price of 6$ to me seems a bit too much, but at discount price (50/75%) would be ok. The game also might be bought on Steam at 5$ without discount, which it’s still too much IMMO.
Version / Platform
The last version of Wacky Wheels was the Registered 1.1 and that’s the release on gog and Steam. Exactly the same old MS-DOS game. Don’t confuse it with Wacky Wheels HD, the official remake.
There is also a fan-made opensource remake, Wacky Wheels Remake. Sadly, they never finished it. A modable Wacky Wheels could have been interesting.
There is a remake of the classic game, called Wacky Wheels HD. First, be warned that it isn’t a remaster, they made a new engine from scratch. And it’s very flawed:
- The game doesn’t feel the same and it’s slow paced.
- It’s technically far worse (buggy, crashes). Bad controls.
- The graphics didn’t really improve at all. New models are aesthetic, horrible. Backgrounds are like in 90s. There are more things falling on screen (like snow and fire balls) and a little bit more detail, that’s all!
And after that utter failure, forget about something better. If you want to play Wacky Wheels, do yourself a favor and play get the old game.
Games like Wacky Wheels
- Skunny Karts (MSDOS). Copysoft did a job copying (and improving) the prototype Wacky Kart. The game uses track time to assign final positions, so the clock items are game-changing. There are “small size” potions, targetting missiles (which may miss if you lose target), jumping instead of hand brake and better levels (inspired on Mario Kart).
- Super Mario Kart (Nintendo consoles). The original from 1992 is amazing, but N64 Mario Kart title was also great.
- Super Karts (MSDOS, Manic Media, 1995). This was probably the best MSDOS kart game. No items here, but still fun on single player. There is a sequel with better graphics, Manic Karts.
- Sonic All Stars Racing (Nintendo consoles). Well, this really is a modern Mario Kart clone, but actually good.
- Super Indie Karts (Steam). Somewhat inspired in Mario kart.
- Crash Team Karting (Play station). Yet another Mario Kart clone saga.
- Chocobo racing. Well, I had to include this. Chocobos are cool.
There are probably dozens of kart games, but I think those cover a wide spectrum of both retro and newer titles, on various platforms.
Probably I should’ve reviewed Skunny Karts instead and I might do later. But Wacky Wheels was probably the most popular of the kart games on the 90s on PC .