It needed two goes on the Kickstarter wheel of fortune and even then it only barely got over the crowdfunding line, but Super Indie Karts is an Australian Early Access project that is the closest PC gamers will get in 2015 to a Wacky Wheels remake.
I have to admit: I never had a great deal of affection for the original Wacky Wheels. I played it a fair bit, although that was more out of a love for kart racers and racers more generally. Manic Karts, BC Racers, Moto Racer, Powerslide, Wipeout 2097, Hi-Octane and Slipstream 5000 were all favourites of mine, so anything arcade-esque involving laps tended to catch my eye.
Wacky Wheels had too many things that annoyed me. The AI tended to finish races in the same position, removing the fascinating mania that could happen in Mario Kart when you might finish seventh but still be in with a chance because Peach, who was winning the championship, got blue shelled back to 12th. The perspective was a little too narrow for my liking and the content ran dry a lot faster than I would have liked.
But you couldn't knock the art style, the cute animals or the charm of it all. So it's perhaps a good thing that Super Indie Karts leans more on the charm — particularly visually — than the content or design tenets. The Steam description is the best example of this, showcasing a sense of humour that would be well served on any indie project.
"With one foot firmly in the past, witness authentic '90s hardware limitations such as: shockingly bad draw distance; incredibly small, almost claustrophobic, tracks; trees and obstacles that pop up 5 yards in front of you; [and] 1992 style screen curvature and motion blur," the blurb proclaims.
That curved CRT presentation is bloody brilliant, mind you.
Most of what's on offer is stock standard. Chilli takes the place of mushrooms and about every second of the game is spent sideways. It took me an hour before I realised I should bother learning the brake button, which for this kind of racer is almost a hallmark of excellent (since you're power drifting everywhere as an alternative).
Paul Hamilton, the main developer behind the project, has done a fair amount of outreach with other developers. He doesn't have the rights to rip levels from Wacky Wheels or Mario Kart themselves, so most of the levels are inspired and themed on other indie games, including Duck Game, Powerdrive 2000, Toto Temple Deluxe and more.
There's 36 playable karts, although none of the karts have attributes of any kind so you're really just picking between a range of skins. Most of those skins have alternatives though, which is nice if you're me and you prefer to play a black duck instead of a white duck because you grew up with both and you know first-hand which one is more ruthless in the field. (It's a long story.)
The meter that charges when you're drifting is pretty sweet and it degrades the longer you stay off the track. And this is all happening to an absolute smorgasbord of colour throughout. It's a visual godsend, particularly if you don't own a Wii U and weren't graced with the childlike-glory of Splatoon's buckets of paint.
Most importantly of all, however, Super Indie Karts has made Wacky Wheels utterly redundant. I'm starting to find that the mark of any "spiritual successors" or games "heavily inspired" by games past is quickly discovered by a comparison against the original.
Wacky Wheels never held up that well anyway — it was a poor man's Mario Kart for PC gamers uninterested in migrating to Wipeout or the more bizarre alternatives. It's still available for sale today through Good Old Games, but I can't think of any reason why Super Indie Karts isn't a better use of your time.
By the time it launches in 2016, it'll have the same modes with more tracks, more cars, along with split screen support, online and local multiplayer and a visual styling that echoes the charm of the Apogee era without scaling atrociously on modern monitors and TVs like so many games from the 1990's.
Furthermore, Super Indie Karts is proof that not everything needs to be a one-hit crowdfunding wonder. It's not the first racer to fail and then try again on Steam. Wreckfest found a stronger second wind through Early Access and Blackwake recovered from its initial failure to become one of the most successful Australian projects in Kickstarter's history.
It's available for a measly US$10 on Steam, which isn't much more expensive than Wacky Wheels. Best of all: the game lets you switch between Xbox and PlayStation controller prompts, a feature that should be bloody well standard already.