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Tyco R/C: Assault With a Battery
Score: 93%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Mattel Interactive
Developer: Lucky Chicken Games
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing (Kart)

Graphics & Sound:
For a whimsical game, Tyco R/C: Assault With a Battery looks really good. Too often it feels like a company says, “This is a silly game -- so you won’t care about graphics, right?” Tyco R/C definitely has a silly side, but the graphics are real quality, with smooth 3D that makes you wonder why more people can’t get it right. In every track, there are so many things going on that slowdown would be excusable, but the tracks clip along nicely in both Single- and Two-Player. Weapons and car-models are detailed and cool looking, as are the wildly interactive environments.

The music for every track is like a Saturday morning commercial break, which is perfect. I especially loved the cheesy guitar riffing, but the best thing about the music is how it complements what’s happening on-screen without being distracting.

Tyco R/C: Assault With a Battery is almost a traditional racer, but the R/C element changes things somewhat. Everything is running on battery power here, so most of the weapons and special moves are based on electricity. This game has a full load of modes and more “secrets” than Victoria. Single Race Mode is a chance to practice one of the eight tracks before entering the Challenge Modes. Winning a Challenge Mode can unlock secret cars, tracks, and other modes. Mirrored tracks are there to be unlocked in both Single Race and Challenge Mode, and Collect Tyco is a devilish mode that you also have to earn. In Collect Tyco Mode, you race the tracks for first place, but also have to collect the four letters in “TYCO.” It’s maddening to either take first place and forget a letter or get all the letters but give up first place. Maddening, but fun.

Power-Ups, obstacles, and secret routes litter each track. The Power-Ups are fairly standard and include mines, missiles, shields, and turbo-boost. Some weapons take advantage of the fact that R/C cars need to maintain an electrical charge. You can zap your opponent and steal its energy, but my favorite is the “IT” and “Anti-IT.” These whacky devices have a special mode in Two-Player, but in Single-Player, putting the “IT” on your car improves speed and charge-time while the “Anti-IT” does the opposite. What’s cool is that by slamming into opponents, you pass off these “ITs,” which can be a good or bad thing depending on which “IT” you have. Two-Player lets you do a simple race, or choose from three other modes. Battle Mode is all about draining the other guy’s battery, Capture “IT” works along the same lines as the “IT” in One-Player, and Soccer Mode is -- just like it sounds -- two cars bouncing a big ball around, trying to score goals.

The cars are some weird contraptions. I remember seeing most of them advertised on TV, but there are a few I don’t remember. Each is ranked by speed and acceleration, with unique special moves. Taking different cars through the Challenge Mode is essential to earning new moves and extra cars. After going through Single Race with a different car, you learn quickly how to exploit its powers, but some are harder to win with than others.

Depending on what you come expecting, Tyco R/C can either seem quite hard or just right. I’ve played a few sluggish racers lately, and was surprised at how touchy these little cars are. There are two difficulty levels, and it’s possible to change options for Single Race while you learn the tracks, like turning off Power-Ups and changing the number of opponents. Once I learned how sensitive the controls were, it wasn’t hard to relax and enjoy the ride; but it took some time. There are all sorts of obstacles in the tracks; you can flip switches to activate certain traps, but it’s easy to get caught yourself!

Game Mechanics:
Real R/C fans skipped right to this section, and they’ll be happy to know that Tyco R/C gives you the option to choose between standard R/C controls and a simplified PlayStation layout. The R/C standard uses both analog sticks (which I like). The second option puts all the steering and acceleration in the left analog stick. Launching weapons is done with the X button, and special moves are activated by different combinations of the shoulder buttons. Each car has two different specials, and Mattel put in a neat feature for determining how many special attacks you start each level with. In the time while each track loads, you get the chance to play a mini-game. At first you think, “Oh, this is cute,” but you quickly realize that scoring high in the two mini-games gives you an advantage when the race starts. Each mini-game involves a chicken, homage to Lucky Chicken Games (Mattel’s development partner for Tyco R/C). In one game, you dodge cars as a chicken; in the other, you try to shoot chickens out of the sky before the track loads. I love creative details like this, and it’s a quality touch that puts the icing on a game with plenty of good design and programming.

If you like Racing games, you’ll have fun with Tyco R/C: Assault With a Battery. It’s somewhere between go-karts and real cars, but I guess R/C just has a feel all its own. If, like me, you never shelled out the money to buy one of these cars in a fit of sugar-cereal-induced madness, Tyco R/C will let you race Mattel’s wacky creations until the batteries on your PlayStation need charging.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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