Lego Racers (video game)
|Director(s)||Kerry J. Ganofsky|
|Producer(s)||Keith J. Morton|
|Designer(s)||Kerry J. Ganofsky|
Lego Racers is a racing video game developed by High Voltage Software and published by Lego Media. The game was initially released on July 31, 1999 for Microsoft Windows, and was later released on October 31, 1999 for the Nintendo 64, on December 17, 1999 for the PlayStation and on December 29, 2000 for the Game Boy Color.
Set in the fictional "Legoland" universe, the single-player mode follows various minifigure characters competing in a racing competition created by a fictional racing champion called Rocket Racer. Players control a minifigure, allowing them to drive a variety of cars built out of Lego and race them against other minifigure characters. Items can be used by the player to hinder other racers' progress, and the player can create their own cars and characters with unlocked Lego bricks and use them to race. A local multiplayer mode also allows multiple players to race against each other.
Originally conceived by High Voltage founder Kerry Ganofsky, creative expertise from The Lego Group assisted High Voltage in the game's development after Lego Media agreed to begin production. It received a mix of high and low scoring reviews from critics, who were divided on the game's graphics, construction system, driving gameplay and other design aspects. A sequel to the game developed by ATD called Lego Racers 2 was released in 2001.
Lego Racers is a racing game played from a third person perspective. Set in the fictional Legoland universe, the game depicts Rocket Racer, the "greatest racing champion" in Legoland. After becoming bored from beating everyone at racing, he decides to create a racing contest, and finds the best racers in the history of Legoland using a dimensional warp machine created by his friend, Veronica Voltage, a genius scientist and mechanic. The player takes on the hosts and co-racers in an attempt to beat Rocket Racer and become the "Greatest Lego Racer of All Time", completing the game.
Players assume the role of either one of several pre-built or custom-built minifigures and compete against other minifigure characters in races set across different tracks in the Legoland universe, using a variety of cars built out of Lego. At the beginning of each race, the player can perform a "Turbo Start", which allows the player to start the race at full speed. Throughout races, the player can also perform power slides and "Super Slides", which allow the player's car to turn around corners more sharply.
Each of the game's tracks contain power up bricks, which can be collected by the player and used to gain an advantage over other racers. The power ups are divided into four categories: Projectile, Hazard, Shield and Turbo, with each providing a different use to the player. The player can also collect up to three "power plus" bricks, which increase the capability of any power ups collected. Race tracks also contain various shortcuts that can be opened by the player interacting with the environment, sometimes needing to be triggered by power ups. These shortcuts give players alternate routes through tracks, allowing them to complete races quicker. During a race, the in-game HUD displays the player's position, lap number, "lap timers", and a "Power Up Icon" if the player is carrying any power up or power plus bricks. The player can also choose between viewing the "Speedometer", the "Course Map" or the "Close-up Map".
The game contains three single-player modes: "Circuit Race", "Single Race" and "Time Race", as well as one multiplayer mode, "Versus Race". The Circuit Race mode follows the game's main plot, and allows players to race through circuits made up of multiple tracks, gaining points based on where they place. In a circuit, the player must earn enough points to move on to the next race, and will win if they finish with the most points. Placing third or above in a circuit unlocks the next circuit for the player. The Single Race mode allows the player to race on a single track unlocked from the Circuit Race mode. The Time Race mode places the player in a race against Veronica Voltage driving a ghost car with the aim of beating her best time around a track chosen by the player. Versus Race allows two players to race against each other in a split screen view without non-player character minifigures on the track.
Throughout the game, the player can unlock various brick sets and character pieces by completing certain tasks, such as coming first in a Circuit Race. The game's "Build Menu" allows the player to build custom cars, minifigures and driving licenses of their own design using unlocked bricks and character parts. Minifigures can be customized with different hat, hair, head, body and leg parts, and given a name entered by the player on the minifigure's driving license. A picture of the player's minifigure is also placed on their driving license, and their facial expression can be changed by the player. The player can create a custom car using a combination of different chassis and car sets. The player can rotate, move and place bricks from these sets directly on to the chassis. Placement of the bricks changes the car's balance and weight, which affects its overall performance. The "Mix" and "Quick Build" option creates minifigures and cars from randomly selected parts, respectively.
The concept for Lego Racers was initially created by High Voltage Software founder Kerry Ganofsky, with the idea of players being able to build and race cars created with Lego bricks. After a year of development, Lego Media began production of the game, hiring Ganofsky's company to develop it. Lego Media and other facilities within The Lego Group collaborated with High Voltage Software during the production of the game.
A large number of character models, documents and pictures from different Lego System characters and models were sent to the developers, who eventually chose to use the Castle, Space, Adventurers and Pirates themes in the game. High Voltage Software chose the characters they liked best from these themes and created character studies for them to "capture the mood of each persona". Certain characters were focused on as "champs" in the game, while others were featured as racers. The developers also created two original characters, Rocket Racer and Veronica Voltage.
High Voltage Software spent over a year creating Lego Racers' car building mechanics. The game's lead programmer, Dwight Luetscher, created a formula that was used by the game's artists to create individual Lego elements in the game. The pieces available to the player were selected from hundreds of Lego elements by the developers, chosen first by aesthetics, and then analysed to see if they would fit into Luetscher's formula. The developers chose to affect the attributes of the player's car, such as handling, acceleration and top speed, through how many bricks are placed on the chassis, as this is simpler to understand for the game's main age demographic.
Due to the high number of Lego sets and pieces in the game, a custom mesh code was created to "weld" the geometry in place and optimize the cars polygon count, creating one solid mesh for each car created by the player. Every element in the game, including bricks and character pieces, had different levels of detail created for use in menu screens and cut scenes, where the models had to be a higher quality due to the player seeing them up close. The developers planned a damage system where bricks would break apart from the car upon crashing, but this presented "too many problems to make it a real possibility". Lego Racers was available to play before release by journalists at E3 1999.
Lego Racers received a range of review scores, with the Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation releases getting a mix of high and low scoring reviews. On aggregate website GameRankings, it received an average score of 75% based on 11 reviews for the PC version, 63% based on 3 reviews for the PlayStation version, and 66% based on 8 reviews for the Nintendo 64 version.
The game's graphics were generally praised by critics. GameSpot's Andrew Park stated that virtually everything in the PC version "looks bright, colorful and clean" when playing in 3D-accelerated mode, but called its texturing minimal. GameSpot's Ben Stahl also called the N64 version's track design "innovative and cute", as well as saying the tracks and backgrounds have a "somewhat real look" that makes it easier to tell where the player should be driving. IGN's reviewer for the PC version praised the game's background animations, stating that they not only "add to the atmosphere of the game, but also affect the way it plays". However, some reviewers criticised the game's performance, with IGN's Sam Bishop stating that the PlayStation version's load times between levels are horrendous and Next Generation's Chris Charla calling the N64 version's framerate "nauseatingly slow". Conversely, IGN's Winnie Imperio called the N64 version's framerate "consistent, if not entirely smooth".
Lego Racers' gameplay received a mixed reaction from critics. Charla called creating and testing cars a lot of fun, especially because the way a car is built has "a major effect on how it controls", and IGN's reviewer for the PC version found that unlocking new bricks in the circuit mode for use in car customization is addictive. However, Stahl called the game's construction system unfriendly, stating that the player is "better off just sticking with one of the default vehicles". Imperio said that handling the cars is "surprisingly tight", calling the N64 control scheme intuitive. Conversely, Charla found that most of the cars feel top-heavy, and stated that the racing is awful. IGN's reviewer for the PC version praised the power up system, calling it pretty cool, as well as stating that the Power Plus bricks add "a new strategy to the game", but Stahl called the system "terribly lame". Reviewers also criticised the game's multiplayer features, with IGN's PC reviewer calling the split screen mode simple, and an Electronic Gaming Monthly reviewer stating that the "lack of multiplayer options" hurts Lego Racers' replay value.
Other aspects of Lego Racers' design also received mixed opinions from critics. One of Electronic Gaming Monthly's reviewers called the game's race tracks "short, unimaginative and devoid of good shortcuts". Imperio called the track design "simplistic and often not very difficult", but "still well designed and a lot of fun to race through". Park called the game's music cheery and upbeat, while Stahl called it "barely acceptable", stating that it "gets irritating rather quickly", as well as calling the game's sound effects "decidedly poor". Bishop said that the sound effects "lack crispness", citing their low sample rate as a reason, as well as calling the game's music "flat".
After the release of Lego Racers, a sequel, Lego Racers 2, was developed by Attention to Detail Limited and released in 2001 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2 and the Game Boy Advance. In the game, Rocket Racer has retired from racing after the disappointment of losing the final race in Lego Racers, but after traveling to the planet Xalax and winning a race against its inhabitants, he once again becomes the greatest Lego racer in the galaxy. The player must travel through five different worlds in order to race against Rocket Racer, and once again take the title from him. The game received a range of positive and negative reviews from critics. Attention to Detail then developed an indirect sequel, Drome Racers, based on the Lego Racers line of Technic kits. It was released in 2002 for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 2, and in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance, GameCube and Xbox. It received a range of positive and negative reviews. A game titled Lego Racers: The Video Game was confirmed on some Lego sets in 2009, but no further information has been released since.
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