Racoon Racing Game

Raccoon Racing: Marsupial motoring for the masses

If a title has ever filled me with warm feelings of resounding sureness that I’m about to enjoy some good-natured racing fun, it is ‘Raccoon Racing’. The action of reading these words was a guarantee as binding and inescapable as a signed legal document obliging the undersigned to derive quantifiable amounts of fun and delight previously agreed upon by all present parties. I didn’t mind the obvious titular alliteration either; there’s something about the use of basic linguistic techniques (whether accidental or deliberate) that makes me feel that someone here is trying their best to entertain me. Regardless of my fervent readiness to pick up on perceived (nonexistent) subtext, I was keen to see what the ‘Raccoon Racing’ benefits package had to offer; and while a pension and dental coverage may be a little much to ask, it seemed at least some good-natured racing fun was on the cards.

It always helps with a flash game to be able to get stuck in and play without the nagging worry of having to learn an intimidating list of controls. After clicking on the ‘how to play’ option on the main menu, I was filled with an emotion touching on unbridled glee at the revelation that I was already in possession of the knowledge of how to control the game! In fact, anyone who has previously played a racing game or even turned on a computer should know how to play; steering is made possible with the left and right arrows, acceleration and reverse with up and down arrows respectively, and the ‘use weapon’ function (music to my ears) is the result of pressing the much-loved space bar.

You begin with two -available characters and have the ability to unlock the rest. It is very astute of a game creator to recognise that a person is unlikely to persist with a game if there is nothing to reward the player with some sort of progression, achievement or reward for their efforts. By starting with two basic characters and issuing the challenge to unlock the rest as you progress, the game has instantly created an incentive to continue playing, and this is exactly what I did. Having played many games in the past that allow immediate access to the entirety of the cast of racers, I can conclude that ‘Raccoon Racing’ has exponentially more replay value by keeping some of its card close to its chest. 

Our starting characters are Rocko and Vixen (Cadbury caramel bunny, is that you?). Rocko appears to be the Raccoon whose function is to validate the game’s title in addition to his racing duties. The redeemable characters go by the names of Mambo the bear, Pingo the almost-penguin with no relation to the ‘Pingu’ fame, Hudson the light-sensitive dog and Banzai. These are unlocked by completing the different cups on varying difficulties. Many of the cups themselves also have to be unlocked. After doing a little bit of ‘fun’ maths (I’ll conveniently hide my workings), I have worked out that this further multiplies both the fun and the incentive to play. I always desire what I can’t have, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a game tell me that I can’t play as Banzai in Cup 8!

Admittedly, the bird’s eye perspective of the camera is not my favourite visual viewpoint when playing a racing game. I became sceptical as to whether this simple yet significant trait would lessen my enjoyment of the game while simultaneously testing my patience. On the other hand, I seem to recall Grand Theft Auto having a similar visual perspective which did not in any way affect my enjoyment of the game, and ‘Raccoon Racing’ is no exception; it simply took a little getting used to, after which my enjoyment of the game was unhindered and free to grow.

While the gameplay itself is quite far removed from many other racing titles, we are presented with an extremely familiar Mario Cart-esque power-up system whereby you encounter frequent icons on the track which start a roulette-like spin through various items and weapons to enhance your performance throughout the race. Don’t fear; these performance enhancers are the legal kind and won’t have you in trouble with the racing commissioner, who I imagine is a Raccoon or some sort of marsupial that has worked his way to the top of his profession.

The power-ups I have been banging on about range from reckless projectiles such as rockets and landmines (usually frowned upon in real Formula One) to enhancements such as nitrous oxide and an invincibility star bearing a similarity to the Mario equivalent that would make any copyright lawyer break a sweat. These are also frowned upon in real professional racing, though the latter enhancement is essentially invincibility and therefore doesn’t exist in the realm of actual reality. The rarer weapons are a uni-directional cluster bomb (delicate in appearance and colour but devastating in effect), homing-missiles and comical equivalent of an electromagnetic pulse charge that puts other cars to sleep. A shield is also available, though this is less exciting and self-explanatory. 

The various cups at your disposal have you racing in Raccoon City (this name gave me Resident Evil flashbacks: horrific) and Pirate Island, but the action is not limited to land as I initially thought; some of the cup tournaments require that you hop into a handy hovercraft for some more water-based antics than are traditionally expected of a carting game. This was a pleasant surprise, and having the water course situated directly around/through the land course is a simple yet impressive touch from the creators. In light of this I was almost able to forgive the urgent and lively music at the main menu that seems epitomise such family-friendly games for all ages.

After getting suitably stuck-in to playing the game, I realised I was less interested in the race itself and more fascinated by acquiring and becoming well-versed with the power-ups that are available. My curiosity about these power-ups was so extensive that I began to neglect the racing side of the game in order to acquire and use them all. In order to use them, however, I was forced to improve in the races themselves; such is the beauty of the game that it creates a symbiotic relationship between both the competitive racing and fighting aspects, resulting in what is potentially self-perpetuating fun had by all those involved.

Gun to my head, I would admit to having my reservations about ‘Raccoon Racing’, and indeed any game in general where I take the wheel  by assuming the identity of a variety of animals with the burning and inexplicable desire to competitively  race each other in vehicles they have somehow learnt to drive. Now take the gun that’s pointed at my head, aim it at my above reservations and fire repeatedly since contrary to my initial belief, A Games racer manages to effortlessly entertain with a casual confidence I found it hard to put my finger on. Also, for my own peace of mind I would like to confirm that the gun is no longer pointed at my head; this would be greatly appreciated.