THE ONE'S FIRST CONTACT with Red Rat software came way back in the early days, when Mandarin Software released the superb Lombard RAC Rally, conceived and programmed by the team. However, the only game that we've seen since then was the technically accomplished International Soccer Challenge (published by MicroProse), which looked great, but sadly lacked in gameplay. Now, however, the boys are back, combining the themes of their two first games into one neat package - anyone fancy a spot of footie played with radio-controlled cars?
The basic principle here is to score more points than the opposing player. Sounds simple enough? Well, it is and is isn't. You don't only score goals by putting the ball into the other team's goal, you also receive rewards for destroying the opposition's cars and collecting pick-ups.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS are very dangerous things. This is especially true here, for although Wild Wheels is quite tricky to get to grips with at first it really has a good deal to offer if the player is willing to spend a little time working out just what exactly is happening in what initially seems like a confused scramble. Hang in there and you'll be rewarded with a fast, frustrating, finicky and, above all, funny game which combines a lot of action with a little bit of thinking - nice mixture. The arena is a little bare, but the cars are gorgeous and there's a real feeling generated that you're playing inside a solid environment. The sound effects aren't exactly ground-breaking, but they do perform the important task of letting the player know what's going on around him (one sound means that opposition has scored, while another means that there's a pick-up available and so on). The game itself is supposedly a a team affair, but the rest of your vehicles are so stupid that you'd almost be better off playing on your own (the amount of times that you have the ball and are heading for goal, only to be knocked out of play by one of your own players is just a tad frustrating). The ability to pass the ball from car to car would have been fun, as would driving up the sloped walls (a la Buggy Boy) and even a two-player option (which is only available via null modem for some reason) - but why harp on about what's missing when what's here is so much fun? Wild Wheels isn't going to keep anyone glued to the screen for hours on end, but it is going to bring them back again and again for short blasts. Which is more than can be said for a lot of games these days.
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