LGR – Wacky Wheels – DOS PC Game Review

LGR – Wacky Wheels – DOS PC Game Review

“Super Mario Kart.”
Not only is it the third-best selling
Super Nintendo game of all time,
but it’s almost entirely responsible
for the kart racing video game genre.
It was also a great showcase for
the system’s Mode 7 graphics mode,
which allowed for impressive 3D
environments for a console at the time.
Of course, if you were a PC gamer like me and
wanted a similar kart racer, then screw you, man.
That is, until 1994 with the release of “Wacky Wheels,”
developed by Beavis Soft in the UK,
and published by Texas-based Apogee
Software for PCs running MS-DOS.
Initially, this was a Shareware game
you could register by mail order,
but this is the upgraded retail
release distributed by FormGen.
It includes everything from the full version of the game,
plus new tracks and other sweetness to
make you feel superior to early adopters.
And it also comes on these two beautiful
3.5″ floppy disks from Apogee.
Mmm. These never fail to make my heart flutter.
They also packed in an Apogee registration card,
and ad for Computer Gaming World magazine,
and this delightful full-color instruction manual.
Ahh. No matter how small a
computer game was back then,
it still wasn’t out of the ordinary to get a
nice box with some quality goods inside.
I love this stuff.
“Wacky Wheels” whips up a wild world of wonderfulness
in the form of an Apogee logo
followed by a title screen
showing our racers darting out
of the zoo at breakneck speed.
From the main menu, you can
choose from four different modes:
Single Player, Two Player,
Wacky Duck Shoot and Combat.
Let’s just dive into single player for now,
which gives you eight animals that
have disturbingly learn-to-drive go-karts.
Since the apocalypse is clearly upon us here,
choose whichever creature engaging in
motorsport bothers your soul the least.
There are three classes, or difficulties, to choose from,
as well as a Time Trial for competing against a clock,
and a Kid Mode, which only
has you pressing left and right
and not bothering with braking or acceleration.
Ha ha. Dude, “Wacky Wheels” was ahead of its time.
That’s identical to modern mobile
racing games like “NFS: No Limits.”
After that sad realization,
choose your engine size,
and consequently the game’s speed,
followed by the tracks that you want to play.
Finally, it’s time to play some “Super Wacky Kart.”
Just hammer the accelerator
and try your best to cross the finish line first,
all while roaming around colorful,
pseudo-3D environments
and collecting pickups to take down competing drivers.
And yes, those random hedgehogs
can be run over to use as ammunition
because the animal kingdom is… somehow
just as bizarre as the Mushroom Kingdom.
Now, I’ve never been that much into kart racers,
and “Wacky Wheels” never did
much to change my mind there,
but, hey, back in the day, this was fun!
It was charming. And when you went into the water
you turned into a periscope, so it was all good.
Plus, I was always happy to support any game
that showed that a DOS PC
could do what the consoles could!
Even if it wasn’t quite up to par with the
hottest games from Nintendo and Sega.
And right off the bat,
“Wacky Wheels” does not hold a candle
to the game it’s trying so desperately to imitate.
The first issue is the handling,
which just doesn’t feel as tight as it
should for a kart racer, if you ask me.
And there are no buttons for drifting or power sliding,
so making sharp turns has to be
done either at a very slow speed
or by using the hand brake.
And the hand brake is just strange
because it only rotates you at a
hard 90-degree angle left or right.
Sometimes this works great,
other times this sends you into a
wall because you were one pixel off.
This is especially aggravating due to how
you don’t bounce off of walls and obstalcles
like you do in “Mario Kart,”
but instead you just kinda stick to them.
Or even straight up explode
when you hit something wrong
and you lose a life. And that’s no fun.
But the single biggest problem is the framerate
which putters around at around
half of what “Mario Kart” does.
As a result, the faster karts
and more complicated tracks
cause no shortage of eye strain
when playing for any real length of time.
But still, this is a really impressive bit of programming
for a VGA game that can run on a 386,
but I can’t say I’d ever want to play this
over something like “Mario Kart” nowadays.
At the time, I had no choice
because, hey, couldn’t justify a Super Nintendo
when we already had a computer
that could play games *and* do our taxes.
And in that sense, “Wacky Wheels”
was absolutely wonderful back then.
It may not have had iconic
characters like Mario and Luigi,
but it did have well-drawn
caricatures of recognizable animals.
And it may not have had mushrooms,
stars and Koopa Troopa shells,
but it did have fireballs, ice cubes and hedgehogs.
And it may not have had that soundtrack,
but it did have *this* soundtrack:
[16-bit keyboard-heavy rock music]
Oh, yes, this is one of the biggest
things that “Wacky Wheels” has
over “Super Mario Kart”, in my opinion:
the superb soundtrack by Mark Klem.
[16-bit synth rock goodness]
In AdLib or Sound Blaster mode, especially,
the music is just awesome
and really gets me in the mood to play this.
Oh, hey! Dope Fish!
Is that the first appearance of Dope Fish
outside of a Commander Keen game?
Anyway, as I was saying, uh,
the game is pretty much just okay.
I mean, there’s nothing to unlock or upgrade.
It’s just a bunch of races on a bunch of tracks
with a bunch of racers that all control the same.
However, that’s just the single-player.
There are a variety of multiplayer modes,
both in split screen and online flavors.
So whether you’re playing in the same room
or over a serial or modem connection,
you can race against a friend and
throw demon butts in each other’s faces.
You could also play a shootout mode,
which turned the game into a one-on-one death match,
and is probably the best part
of the game after the music.
Other than “Doom,” I didn’t really know of
any games back then that let you do this.
So, head-to-head violence was always welcome.
Especially in study hall,
on the DOS computers in high school
that I was not supposed to
install this on but I did anyway.
There was also a single-player shootout mode
that let you practice on defenseless ducks,
which is sure to appeal to
anatidaephobics the world over.
Oh, and *one* more interesting thing before we’re done.
There’s a chance you’re looking at this going,
“Huh, this sure looks like another
DOS kart racing game I know of.”
And if the game you’re thinking of is “Skunny Kart,”
then you’d be correct.
In fact, they’re closer relatives than you might realize,
since the programmer of
“Wacky Wheels,” Andy Edwardson,
used to work for Copysoft,
the folks behind the Skunny games and “Skunny Kart.”
While he was still working there, he decided
to build a game engine in his spare time,
and this ended up forming the backbone
of what would later become “Wacky Wheels.”
But before that ever happened,
he took a demo of this to Copysoft
to gauge their interest in
making a game out of his engine.
They were absolutely interested but the problem was
Apogee Software was interested as well.
After a disagreement over royalties,
Mr. Edwardson decided to go with Apogee instead
and paid Copysoft for the use of their
equipment while making the game.
But *just* before “Wacky Wheels” was finished,
Copysoft released “Skunny Kart,” shocking everyone.
It turns out that Edwardson had left a copy
of the source code with Copysoft when he left,
and they in turn just used it outright
to make a quick buck by applying
some graphics from the Skunny games.
“Copysoft,” indeed.
There was a happy ending, though,
since “Wacky Wheels” went on
to sell rather well for Apogee
and retains a cult following to this day.
And there is even an HD remake
in the works by Cascadia Games
set to release in late 2015.
It amuses me when Shareware games get revisited
and stay loved over all these years like this.
So I’m definitely looking forward to the new one.
As for the old one,
it’s still sold on services like GoG and Steam,
as well as in the “3D Realms Anthology” pack.
So, if you feel like giving it a look,
it’s quite simple to do so nowadays.
This is not something that
I’d go back to play very often,
but if anything it’s worth checking out
just to take a peek back into a
unique era in PC gaming history.
[16-bit synth rock]
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And as always, thank you very much for watching.

100 thoughts on “LGR – Wacky Wheels – DOS PC Game Review”

  1. This game was awesome. I never noticed any of the described issues when I was a kid. The controls were good as far as I remember.

  2. Brought me crashing back to my childhood. Never knew what this game was called! This, Big Red Racing and Duke 3D were my jams back in the day. Thanks LGR for another brilliant upload 🙂

  3. i…played this game. i must have been like 4. i haven't even thought about this game intill today. your reviews bring back forgotten memories. i love you

  4. I used to have this game when I was just a kid. I always wondered what the name was but now you have given me the answer.

  5. Oh god, my cousin had this. He told me that 2nd player couldn't turn left. Could have been another game but I'm still mad about it years later.

  6. I never played Wacky Wheels but I did play Skunny Kart. It was absolutely terrible. At least, to me at the time. I played the shareware version on a CD sampler which was a pack-in with the CD-ROM drive I'd bought. It had a ton of shareware games on there. I got a lot of hours of fun out of that CD, but Skunny Kart was not part of it. No fun was had. I tried to play it SO many times, and just hated it.

  7. Man the death match mode was the best. My friend and I used to play hours of death match. We had a cheat code for maxed out hedge hogs or fireballs and infinite jumps and turbo boost. That made death matches crazy fun. Listening to bryan adams summer of 69 aerosmith, def leopard and playing death match, wow great times great game.

  8. This is the first video of yours I've seen as I just discovered your channel thanks to the Gaming Historian. I'm left wondering where the "lazy" part of your title comes from, because this seemed quite comprehensive as a game review. Nothing "lazy" about it if you ask me.

  9. played this at a friend's place on their old PC before I was ever introduced to Super Mario Kart on SNES.

    For me Wacky Wheels was the ultimate kart racing game since it was my first. 🙂

    Thanks for the review!

  10. Yes, that was the first Dopefish cameo outside of a Keen game. Andy & I made it hard to find. Also, the burps are me. 🙂

  11. I had forgotten this game, used to play it on a friend's computer, love the hedgehogs and little devil.

  12. I had a shareware version of this game when I was a kid.
    You couldn't play the later races in the shareware version unless you did badly in which the game allowed you to make up for your score in a later track.

  13. 1994. We had a Mario Kart clone that could barely work in our PCs and then shortly after that we had a game like Doom that could barely work on a SNES. How fast things turned around.

  14. I loved this game as a kid! I loved the sounds the other animals made as they passed you! Made it fun to be overrun! 😀

  15. OMFG I never thought I would see this again… I played this when I was very young, and had no clue what the name of the game was.. now when I see it… am all… heh :')

  16. I have so many fond memories of this game, even if the only version I got to play was the Shareware one, which only let you choose the Pelican as a playable character.
    Having found that there's an HD remaster on the works almost made me flip. Thanks for making my day.

  17. holy shit i played the shit out of this shareware back in 90's… but i had forgotten the name! Thank youuuuu

  18. I had the free version of this game. I didn't even know at the time it was a Mario Kart rip off, I hadn't played Mario Kart until much later. Nostalgia

  19. We'd obviously need to see his contract, but pretty sure that paying for the use of equipment wouldn't be enough, so uncool as it sounds, chances are pretty good that they were within their rights to release a game that we built on their time/equipment.

  20. If you held in the fire button in Wacky Wheels you would eventually conjure up a icecube useable as a weapon, it blew my mind when I discovered it while playing against a friend back then.

  21. The 90's: when kids had to type (therefore knowing basic language skills) in order to play their games.

  22. I remember playing this and Skunny Kart back in the day – like you, I was in the situation where my parents wouldn't buy an NES, SNES or other such consoles when we already had a PC that would play games… and go your taxes. Haha. That said, wow even watching gameplay for a few minutes here started giving me eye strain. How'd I play this for hours as a kid?

  23. This game brings back so many memories cos my BFF when I was a kid, her nickname was Wacky Wheels, I called her Wacky for short xD

  24. Remember playing both this and Skunny Kart against my friends on my 386DX-40 and latter 486DX4-100 … Skunny Kart had a horrible framerate, but in some cases was easier to navigate (yes, weird, I know…) …. I absolutely loved the soundtracks in both games as well.

    Ahhh, memories … nostalgia …. I really need to figure out how to create a retro-gaming laptop out of my old IBM Thinkpad T43 … If anyone knows how to create a bootable Windows 98SE USB Installation thingy, please contact me. The CD drive in the laptop is busted, everything else is perfect for Win98SE and MS-DOS 7.1 (included and works great with most dos games).

  25. Any game that had 2 player split screen for the PC was instant Good game 😀
    Good memories with my siblings and Wacky wheels

  26. I clicked on this video just for the heck of it, and went from, "This game looks vaguely familiar," to, "I totally recognize this and vaguely remember playing it as a kid!" very quickly. I really don't remember anything about it, but I think I may've purposely driven my kart into the water many times.

  27. My childhood game. Right there on the DOS, fucking loved it. Thanks LGR, for reviewing this. Didn't even know you had this in your archives, despite being subscribed for quite some time!

  28. LOL I can relate to the "playing game in the computer lab" part. Back in grade school, my friends and I used to play Counter Strike 1.6 through LAN in our computer lab when our teacher wasn't looking.

  29. Super Mario Kart is still my favorite game in the whole series. If you can say you find the music more enjoyable in Wacky Wheels then I probably would not enjoy the game. For me, a kart racer should be so intense I do not even notice the music.

    No Mario Kart game had a more intense battle mode than Super Mario Kart as well.

  30. I love Wacky Wheels! It became even cooler when I learned about the cheat code that enabled shooting ice instead of fire. Oh and Tigi and Ringo were my favorite characters. There aren't any differences between characters, but the panda was always the slowest for some reason. Wacky Wheels HD looks kinda pointless, I'd rather play the original, also the HD version has mostly negative reviews on Steam.

  31. i think i know exactly what inspired the ability to run over hedgehogs (remember, this game is from the UK) https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=w9lmCpIzhFo

  32. Awesome never heard of this ms dos game use to play Mario kart when I was nine in 1993 on the snes system at a neighbor's house a lot of fun to play😊👻

  33. I dont remember Wachy Wheels at all but after seen this i can remember Tigi and Razor so dont say they arnt memorable ;D

  34. Honestly Super Mario Kart aged worse then Wacky Wheels. Wacky Wheels is still an awesome kart racer. Super Mario Kart also aged really well but… why not play the newer ones.

  35. As someone who's never played a Mario Kart, I used to love this game. It's hard to make it worth it today, though, sadly.

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