“Gotta car, gonna move it with my feet now”
-“Weird Al” Yankovic, “Bedrock Anthem”
“The following is a contributor post by the Purple Prose Mage.”
It is 2nd October 2007. “About You Now” by Sugababes is the UK no. 1 single. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publishes a study finding that, contrary to its reputation, the sabre-toothed tiger had a weak bite.
You know who have a pet sabre-toothed tiger? The Flintstones. It’s the cat that one day maybe will stay out for the night if Fred ever wins the fight.
Last week, we covered Wacky Races: Starring Dastardly and Muttley, based on the Hanna Barbera cartoon and I explained why it was more or less the perfect source material for a kart racer.
For contrast, The Flintstones: Bedrock Racing is a kart racer also based on a Hanna Barbera cartoon that is the opposite.
As I often say when writing about mascot kart racers, it’s a genre that’s difficult to get wrong because, if nothing else, you still have the mascots to make each one unique. You can do nothing new with the formula, you can make it as generic as all the others, but the mascots can still be the selling point. However, it’s important to distinguish having a unique selling point from having quality and the pre-existing popularity of the featured characters from being the same as interesting gameplay. Fail to understand that distinction and you end up with, well… The Flintstones: Bedrock Racer.
The Flintstones is kind of a big deal. All the current animated comedies in some way owe a debt to it for their very existence – not the least of which is The Simpsons. The combination of the Stone Age with the contemporary could be easily dismissed as a gimmick, but it’s in fact a very clever way of showing how, despite the development of language, culture and technology, the need to work all day to survive makes society the same now as it was then. One of the more memorable gags is the way the cars were made of stone and propelled by the driver paddling their feet through the open floor and along the ground, as well as the funny noise it would make. So the idea of using that gag for a kart racer was understandable.
Unfortunately, The Flintstones: Bedrock Racing has nothing else going for it. Usually, with a kart racer, you expect at least the same core features – and by “core features”, I just mean power-ups. The Flintstones: Bedrock Racing has no power-ups and in not doing so proves exactly why they’re essential for a kart racer. The reason they’re such a commonly-utilised feature in the genre is because they’re a much simpler way of ensuring an element of competition than designing particularly complex tracks or vehicles that are significantly different from each other. A Mario or a Crash or a Sonic will do all three of those, but other kart racers – due to the cookie-cutter format lending itself so well to tie-in games – generally tend to be less ambitious and so therefore rely on the combination of power-ups with their franchise’s characters. Often, this works well enough. In the case of The Flintstones: Bedrock Racing, there are no power-ups, and so, along with the absence of any challenging environments or opponents, the length of time spent playing the game before it becomes boring will be very little.
The AI of the other racers is so basic that you’d have to make a special effort to not win races. You’ll be spending all your time in first, driving through environments that have no distinguishing features and are completely flat. The characters don’t say anything, either, so there’s no personality to it. There’s a sleepy lifelessness to the game. It feels unfinished, like there was more to add.
There is a progression system, though it couldn’t be any more minimal. Races and characters are unlocked by collecting enough dinosaur eggs from other tracks, though the tracks are so wide that you won’t be able to miss them anyway. All the tracks can be unlocked in about an hour on your first play-through. Dinosaur bones can be collected to increase stats, though I didn’t notice any practical difference. Collecting steaks adds to a boost meter, though it’s made irrelevant by the non-existent learning curve.
There’s such little thought put into this that the cars won’t always reset when tipped-over, forcing a restart of the entire race. It’s small things like that which really betray how unfinished it seems to be – not that it actually is unfinished, just that it may as well be.
It’s cute that the starting countdown is the bird that functions as the Slate quarry whistle and seeing the characters’ feet paddling beneath the cars is the most interesting thing here, albeit the only interesting thing. The opportunity to drive Fred’s car is a novelty, also, but that’s the big problem: it’s a novelty. You can put iconic characters in a game but that does not itself make for a game worth playing. The key to a good kart racer is whether you can replace the imported characters and concepts with original material and the game still be enjoyable in its own right. Whereas the approach taken by The Flintstones: Bedrock Racing is that importing pre-existing characters is the same thing as making a game enjoyable. It seems to have been developed by people who saw the market potential for a Flintstones-themed kart racer, given how popular and successful other mascot kart racers are, but didn’t understand what made them so popular and successful beyond the mere inclusion of recognisable characters. Trying to capitalise on a trend that you don’t actually understand is how I define a cash grab – not trying to simply make money, but trying to do so by taking advantage of something you clearly don’t “get”. The Flintstones: Bedrock Racing is an example of that and this is shown by its total lack of, well… anything.
The Purple Prose Mage is the author of the Racing Game of the Week column and likes reviewing the latest book he’s read on his own blog at alexsigsworth.wordpress.com. He’s also one of the Well-Red Mage’s deputy editors and maintains the Archives. This is a side-project he’s working on while he finishes his novel.
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