September 25, 2003

Open Media

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The cart racer formula is a simple one. There are a series of levels, generally with three laps each, in which the goal is to beat out eight computer opponents using hidden shortcuts and special items found throughout the course. Freaky Flyers takes that tried and true formula and turns it upside down. In the process, the game adds a few tweaks of its own, pokes fun at its premise, and ends up exactly where it began, with a generic, albeit better than average, cart racer.

What sets Freaky Flyers apart from its peers is that the entire game takes place in the air, adding a third dimension to each race course. You have the choice to go over or under a bridge, through or around a building, even avoid or smash a floating mine. Sometimes a short cut is as easy as flying over a canyon rather than along the canyon floor. It takes about ten minutes to learn the controls, and from then on the game is simply a matter of finding the most short cuts and shooting down the most enemies.

Each of the fifteen or so characters is armed with a machine gun and the ability to pick up weapons ranging from homing missiles to floating mines. The A.I. (artificial intelligence for those not in the know) is quite good at using these resources to shoot you down, and it only gets better as the levels progress. It was rather frustrating to get shot down from behind just as I was about to pass another flyer. Once I learned how to properly use the weapons, though, I was able to exact my revenge. It felt great to shoot down the racer, one Sheik Abdul, on the flying carpet as he shouted, “I am realizing that a carpet does not offer much protection!”

Humor is the most dominant aspect of the game by far. The animation is overly exaggerated, the characters always have something funny to say, and the announcer is unbelievably sarcastic. It is clear that the game’s creators had every intention of satirizing not only the cart racing genre, but also video games in general. This intent makes the game look and feel like a hybrid of many games that came before it. Mario Kart, Twisted Metal, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater all feel as though they were somehow involved in the development process. Unfortunately it is Tony Hawk’s influence that actually steers this game in the wrong direction. To unlock secret characters and other hidden levels there are six goals, varying from level to level, that must be accomplished during each race. The problem is that all six have to be completed in one race, all while fulfilling the requirement of coming in first, second, or third place. This is nearly an impossible task, since some of the goals require avoiding shortcuts, and there is no way to save one goal and come back for the rest later, which is inevitably Freaky Flyers’s fatal flaw. If the goals could be done one at a time, this would have been one of the best games available for Playstation 2. Now, the only lasting appeal comes from the multiplayer modes where you and your friends can race one another or duke it out, Twisted Metal style, in a one-on-one fight to the death.

I would love to recommend this game to anyone with a PS2, Gamecube, or Xbox, but I just can’t do it. It would take more patience, free time, and love for repetitive video games than anyone reading this article should have. I hope that the developers realize what they could have had, and come back with a Freaky Flyers II that has the necessary improvements. Until then, we are stuck with Pilot X’s final words: “If sales are good, I’ll be back, and if they’re not, I’ll be back anyway, hahaha, just you wait and see, I’ll be baacc… (hit by asteroid)”

Archived article by James Dinsmore