Dude, Hot Wheels!
Wanna play some freakin’ Hot Wheels, dude?
[car noises with mouth]
Yeah, these are awesome!
If only I could play with them for real.
Like in a computer game?
Now this is more like it.
Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Driver,
developed by Mattel and Semi Logic Entertainments
and published by Mattel Media in 1998.
“Put yourself in the driver’s seat and
race down HOT WHEELS tracks.”
“Perform awesome aerial stunts!”
“Get a special HOT WHEELS car!”
In addition to the car inside the box, you get the game
on a single CD-ROM and a manual
covering things that manuals cover and nothing more.
Because it is a manual.
It is not NOT a manual.
Stunt Track Driver, or STD,
begins with an intro video
showing what is essentially the luckiest
and/or richest kid on Earth
getting an absolute metric crapton of
Hot Wheels track sets delivered to his doorstep.
He then proceeds to make
the most insane track designs
his spoiled little mind can dream up,
an apparently all YOU get
is smacked in the face with
explosive Hot Wheels cars and logos.
Then it’s main menu time,
where you have the choice of
racing the world championship,
making your own custom tracks,
playing a single race,
or exiting the game using the most curiously small
blue door I think I’ve ever seen.
Why’s it so small?
If you choose a single race,
you have four tracks to choose from,
with two more being unlocked
through the championship.
You can then choose your car from
a selection of three, at least at first.
Eventually, you’ll unlock twelve cars
by simply playing the game and being awesome at it,
and each car is actually based
on a real-life Hot Wheels car,
so that’s just awesome…
and their continued retail sales regarding specific SKUs.
Each car has their own specs, too,
with acceleration, top speed and stunt abilities
to take into consideration.
Once you’ve no doubt chosen wisely,
it’s off to whatever track you’ve picked,
or the dining room and living room track
if you’re playing them in order.
The gameplay is very simple.
Deceptively so, even.
You control the car, either with the
arrow keys, a controller, or the mouse,
and you’ll race against the timer,
so of course the goal is to reach the
end of the track before time runs out.
Along the way, you’ll come
across all sorts of tricky turns,
jumps and obstacles on the track
that you’ll have to deal with.
However, there are also stunts
to take into consideration.
After all, this is Stunt Track Driver,
you’re a driver
on a stunt track,
which implies stunting
Uh, yeah. That, that’s everything it implies. Mm-hmm.
So in addition to the gas, brake and steering,
you also have keys to control your car in the air.
Physics? Don’t worry about that pesky stuff.
Just toss and twist your car all over the place
and try to land it.
If you do, you get fireworks,
and an ambiguous stunt score at the end of the race.
If not, well, you’ll crash and burn and lose precious time.
In fact, that time is so freakin’ precious,
that usually you’re only allowed one crash – maybe two –
or you won’t have enough time to finish the race,
even with an exceptionally fast car.
So, what I said about the game
being deceptively simple…
Yeah, well I meant it.
Did you listen to me when I said it
the first time? Well, I’m saying it again.
Ages 5 and up.
Gimme a break. I was playing
this when I was 12 years old,
and it was hard as crap then.
Now that I’m 26, it’s even friggin’ harder.
Harder than crap. This crap is hard, man.
As you’ve probably noticed by now,
the game is actually a pre-rendered full-
motion video playing in the background,
with your car being the only 3D object in the game.
It’s a neat trick that was used
all the time in the earlier ’90s,
and while it looks kinda cool and ran
on lower-end hardware of the time,
it also means that the tracks are more finicky
than a perfectionist interior designer with OCPD
picking out curtains for feng shui.
And collision detection isn’t
exactly a thing in Stunt Track Driver.
I mean, once you figure out the quirks it’s not so bad,
but you can’t go on visuals alone
to determine what will crash you and what won’t.
It’s only through trial and error that you’ll find
there is a bit of a phantom area
on the edges of your car,
and it varies by car.
So if something touches you
beyond that by even a pixel,
you’re going to crash.
Even turning too sharply crashes you,
so you really need to memorize
every last bit of these tracks
to have any chance at competing.
The real kick in the nads is if you’re
playing on Championship mode.
When you fail a track, you’re sent
back to the beginning of the track list.
Meaning you lose all your progress,
and you’re going to be playing that
simple first track over and over and over,
until you just have a string of
great races and get to the end.
However, when you start to learn the game’s quirks
and the track layouts, which cars are better for what,
and get the hang of the stunts you can perform,
the game actually comes together quite well.
It’s just immensely satisfying to pull off
a ton of sweet stunts without crashing,
and the better you get,
the more cars and tracks you’ll unlock.
So while you’ll be replaying most of the tracks
over and over again to get the hang of them,
it at least gives you a pretty
nice stream of content for a while.
Problem is, most of the cars you
unlock end up being pretty useless,
unless you just want to handicap
yourself and make the game even harder.
And then there are only six tracks,
all of which take about a minute to complete,
so you can finish the entire game in
less than ten minutes if you’re good.
Well, actually, there are seven tracks,
seeing as once you beat the entire championship,
you can play a secret space track
by right-clicking part of the
Mattel logo on the track screen.
It kinda sucks, though, and looks quite unfinished,
although maybe that was intentional.
Or maybe they were just really being lazy,
but in that case, I won’t judge.
Er, okay, actually there are more than seven tracks,
seeing as you can make your
own tracks in the track editor.
However, this leaves a lot to be desired.
Don’t expect to be able to make
any of the huge, sprawling,
up-and-down and all-around kind
of tracks from the rest of the game.
You get some basic Hot Wheel track set pieces
and can lay them around a small, dark garage.
Not exactly something to come back to again and again,
but it’s cool that it’s there.
And that’s it for Hot Wheels: STD.
It’s a simple game and it’s simple fun,
but you know, I actually quite like it.
Even if it’s sometimes needlessly difficult,
due to the track designs and
the nature of FMV backgrounds.
It’s still absolutely full of charm and
time-trial stunt racing goodness.
For some reason, this game always
reminds me of summertime as a kid,
where you didn’t have school, you didn’t have anything!
You were just playing outside or in your room
with lots of toys and even more imagination.
I may not play it but for 20 minutes at a time anymore.
But those 20 minutes are constant wafts of
pure nostalgia and memories of simpler times.
I mean, really, what better than a simple
little game to recall simple little times?
I can’t think of a dang thing, and as such,
I definitely recommend giving the game a look,
if you happen to run across a cheap copy.
It may infuriate you for a bit,
and leave you somewhat unfulfilled
as far as content goes, but rest assured,
it’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s childlike.
And I think there’s some value in that.