Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Mad Tracks

There's no reason you can't have as much fun with those generic grab-bags of cheap plastic cars as with the pricier Matchbox models. But people still crave the Matchboxes: Whether it's the solid construction, meticulous design, or just the conditioned response to a well-known brand-name, they spark imaginations more than the cheaper models. In the same way, Mad Tracks—a very simple racing game where spring-powered cars race on toy tracks—looks and acts fun, but it fails to catch the imagination.

Although it isn't a deep game, Mad Tracks comes with more than a dozen different courses where players can race on twisting tracks, knock each other off restaurant tables, or even play pool. Some of the games are diverting, while other courses are more hassle than they're worth; for example, playing foosball takes a lot of backing up and turning around. But all of them wear thin after a few rounds, and the bright backgrounds and nostalgic toys scattered in the way of your car can't save them. Maybe it's the lack of friction or destruction: A real toy would crack apart in minutes, which is half the fun. The bonus weapons bounce your opponents around without creating any real havoc, and the chaos of watching high-strung toy cars dart around the floor never really comes across. Or maybe it's just the off-brand aesthetics and simple primary colors that make it seem like a cheap substitute for a racing game.

Beyond the game: Solid players can bang through the first 15 courses in about half an hour. More are coming soon, though Xbox will charge for those.


Worth playing for: The zanier ramps and loop-de-loops deliver a roller-coaster rush, although the camera pulls back during the really white-knuckle jumps.

Frustration sets in when: Special weapons are scattered along the tracks, but the only way to pick them up is to cycle through with the B button, which is hard to do while you're keeping your eyes on the road.

Final judgment: The Xbox 360 is not a toy.

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