Herbie: Fully Loaded Review

Developer: Disney Interactive Publisher: Buena Vista Games
Release Date: June 21, 2005 Also On: None

In a reviewer’s mind, there’s usually a problem with a game when he can give its publisher same-day service on a review and still be reasonably sure he got to everything the game had to offer. Sadly, Herbie: Fully Loaded is just such a game. While fun, the overall lack of length and replay value make the game into something that I can’t recommend even though I did enjoy what content the game did have.

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Let’s start with the highest point in the game, the graphics. I had no idea that the GBA was capable of the graphics I saw in this game. The roads look very convincingly like roads, and Herbie looks almost like his likeness in the game came straight off the movie screen (okay, not quite, but it’s very close). In all honesty, the graphics in this game look like they came off of a slightly below average DS title more than a GBA one. My only complaint is that the opponent cars don’t look quite as good as Herbie does, so I’m taking a point off for that, but otherwise the graphics in this game are near flawless.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the sound. I know the GBA is capable of some voice work, as I’ve heard it in the assorted Mario games I’ve played for the system, so I don’t see why the girl who drives the car (I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know her character’s name) has to talk in text rather than with speech. The music in this game is okay, although not addictive, and there only seem to be a couple music samples: one for the menus and one for the races themselves. As for sound effects, it’s typical racing game fare, meaning basically just the engines of the cars. Still, nothing about the sound is atrocious, and my main complaint is that more could have been done.

As far as gameplay is concerned, you have your typical racing game. You drive around a course and try to finish your last lap before your opponents do. There are three modes in which you can do this: a story mode, which features a cut-scene before and after each race; a free race mode, which allows you to race on any one of the eight tracks that you have unlocked; and a championship mode, which allows you to race all the tracks you have unlocked and try to get more points for placement than your opponents.

However, you’ll probably want to start with the story mode, because it is the only mode that allows you to unlock the tracks. When you start, only one of the tracks will be unlocked, but as you place first on each track in story mode, the next track will be unlocked, until finally you’ve unlocked all eight. Sadly, this isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. I must admit it took me roughly an hour to unlock them all, which is pitiful for any genre of game this generation.

But anyway, once you’ve unlocked all eight tracks, or even before you’ve unlocked all eight, you can race on them in the free race and championship modes. The difference here is that you can choose a skill level at which to race, thus potentially making things more difficult for you. Unfortunately, while the opponents’ cars do seem to become slightly faster at the higher levels, the main difference in most cases is with the tracks themselves, which will change to become more difficult to navigate. In the highest of the three difficulty settings you will definitely notice the difference, although in the middle setting it isn’t quite so obvious.

One other aspect of this game is the use of power-ups. There are four power-ups that Herbie can collect and use, each corresponding to a different color star icon that can be collected by running over them on the track. One causes Herbie to immediately turn around and speed up temporarily, while another gives Herbie the ability to pop a wheelie and speed up temporarily at any time he chooses. It should be noted that the game seems to put the immediate speed up icons in places where using them might not be the best course of action, such as right before a sharp curve.

The other two are one that allow Herbie to jump over an obstacle, but that more often will be just another speed power-up since the jumping is hard to aim, and the last one allows Herbie to launch a spare tire out of his front trunk in an effort to make a car ahead of him spin out, sort of like a green koopa shell in Mario Kart. Naturally, these take some time to come out and are somewhat difficult to aim so their usefulness is questionable, but they are a nice touch nonetheless.

There are also oil spills that can be run into on the track, but you can usually see them coming with enough time to avoid them. Somehow, however, the computer players don’t seem to have that luxury, as they’ll often drive through the oil. On the whole, I can’t say that the computer players are too intelligent, and that’s a shame, because they’re the only competition you have in this game.

Yep, that’s right, the makers of this game for some bizarre reason left out anything that might even remotely resemble a multiplayer mode. Seriously, at least the free race mode should have multiplayer capability, if not the championship mode as well. Including it would have upped the replay value of the game a couple notches, and quite frankly, those are a couple notches that this game could have used.

So, what are we left with in this game? Basically, Herbie: Fully Loaded is a short, single-player only racing game that is entertaining while it lasts, but ultimately has very little lasting appeal. Even if you are a big fan of Herbie or of racing games in general, I’d think twice before purchasing this game.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 2
Final: 5.9
Written by Martin Review Guide

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