What Do You Expect From A Plastic Egg?
I don’t know how much you’re expecting from a kart racer, but if your answer is “not much,” you couldn’t be more accurate in the case of Homie Rollerz. Mario nailed it with the definitive version, which is literally a party on wheels and one that has inspired numerous imitations, none of which have come close to capturing the fun of Mario Kart.
It’s kind of unfortunate that kart racing has been defined as a sub-genre unto itself. As such, there is no negative stigma associated with developers ripping off the format. It’s a convenient concept, one that accommodates a group of characters, making it perfect to exploit popular entities from a variety of sources such as cartoons, movies, comic books, figurines, and in the case of Homie Rollerz, collectible characters from an oversized bubble gum dispenser.
Before I give you a little background on the Homie Rollerz franchise, allow me to give you what you came here for: the lowdown on this lowrider. It’s just downright lousy. It looks bad, it plays bad, and I think it even smells bad, but that just might be the chili pepper talking. And trust me; there is a talking chili pepper in this game. You see, Homie Rollerz started out as collectible figures that you could purchase in those plastic egg dispensing machines at the entrance of supermarkets. They have their own popular characters and culture, and that’s another story in itself.
The Rollerz are not without controversy, as they have been accused of glorifying thug life and exploiting Hispanic stereotypes. The characters include a pimp, hooker, gang member, biker, drug pusher, and El Chilote the talking pepper. Creator David Gonzales has received a lot of flack from law enforcement and leaders of the Hispanic community for this portrayal of life in the “barrio.”
In an effort to counteract such negative press, Gonzales has released a line of religious figurines, but more importantly for the video game, he has decided to change the Homie Rollerz characters’ in favor of a more positive message. That is likely to enrage fans of the Rollerz that enjoy them for their perceived irreverence. For instance, the ex-con gang member Big Loco is now a youth gang counselor. Now who’s going to help you rob the liquor store?
The rules of the road are standard-issue kart racer for this game. Make a few character and vehicles choices and enter a race using whatever means available to beat your opponents. That would include taking shortcuts, employing the use of power-ups and weapons such as oil slicks and missiles, and taking advantage of vehicle upgrades to enhance your performance. Upgrades in this game include engine, exhaust, suspension, hydraulics, and of course paint. It seems that the only noticeable upgrades are cosmetic, because you can see them. So-called performance enhancing upgrades seem to have little effect at all. Regardless of what vehicle or character you play as, the other A.I. competitors will always be faster and more precise.
To progress from one track to the next and unlock more characters and karts, you have to place first in the race. There are no prizes for losers, and in this case second place might as well be last. The other racers will pass you by without problem, gaining speed while you remain with your pedal to the metal literally going nowhere fast. Taking advantage of shortcuts and boost pads will allow you to gain a little ground, but whatever gains you make are eventually compromised by the overly sensitive steering controls or the A.I. , which will just make up for lost time and pass you by again.
Steering is very touchy and even the slightest unintentional move can send you spinning out of control and into a wall. Hitting walls and other obstacles is just a way of life in this game. Despite the map on the bottom screen, there are a lot of blind corners that will catch you by surprise. Get used to it if you plan on playing this game for any length of time, which I’ve already advised against. There is a power-up which allows you to switch places with one of the other vehicles, and while this can get you ahead of the pack, you are often unable to see exactly where that vehicle is in relation to the course. Switching places will oftentimes send you careening into said walls and obstacles simply because you don’t have enough time, or the precise control, to react quickly enough.
Money earned from winning races can go to purchase upgrades. Using the stylus, you can custom paint your vehicle. You can also earn money and power-ups by performing various tricks and stunts. By pressing both the L and R button, you can make your vehicle hop. This will in turn fill up your boost meter, which will give you an extra surge of much-needed speed. You’ll find yourself attempting to use this feature as a compromise for acceleration, but you’ll be hopping your car so much you won’t be paying as much attention to the obstacles on the course. Another thing you have to worry about is that overdoing the hopping can cause your vehicle to flip right over.
The tracks are a mixed bag of obstacles, turns, and straightways, but not always on the same track. Most of the courses take place on urban streets, mostly in the Hispanic version of the ‘hood, known as the barrio. Aside from some storefronts, apartments, sidewalks, and the odd tree, the backdrops are rather blasé. The graphics are low res, and the re-used, bland textures add no detail or charm to the game. The only semblance of what you might call “art” comes in the form of static cutscenes, which depict the characters having conversations with text. That’s right, no voiceovers. Imagine forcing kids to read in this day and age?
The vehicles range from lowriders to wheelchairs, and in the case of that annoying talking chili (although as I mentioned he doesn’t really talk, only spews text) a mobile taco. These vehicles fit the kart motif as they are on scale with bumper cars that you would find at a carnival. In fact, they change scale throughout the game going from undersized karts to almost normal sized vehicles. The camera angles change too much, not allowing the player to properly maintain focus and perspective of the course. The tunes are equally inane. Cheesy little ditties that you would expect to come out of a programmable car horn.
Another seven people can join in on the festivities, but why would they want to? It would only be to fulfill the saying: Misery loves company. And speaking of sayings, they say that good things come in small packages – but Homie Rollerz proves that good things don’t come from a plastic egg.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.4 Graphics
Boxy graphics and muddy textures. Static cutscenes. 2.4 Control
Vehicles are difficult to control due to overly sensitive steering. 2.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
No voiceovers. Music sounds like it came from a programmable car horn. 2.4
Difficulty is unintentionally intense. Multiplayer may give it some extra life.
2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.