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Surreal Life

Friday, May 12, 2006, 11:45AM EST

One way to make a compelling racing game is to provide an experience you can’t get in real life. Namco has chosen to turn the player into a tiny yellow man that eats balls. Pac-Man World Rally for PS2, GameCube, and PSP plops the venerable sphere into colorful courses that channel the mayhem of the Mario Kart series. In true Pac fashion, running over power pellets turns other racers into blue ghosts to chase and chow down, but look out, because after stablemates like Dig-Dug’s Pooka power-up, you’re on the menu as well. Fifteen courses lined with launch pads and springy surf guitars help set the psychedelic tone.

For those who revel in cuteness, there’s Disney/Pixar’s Cars, an adaptation of the upcoming animated film that has been announced for just about every platform from the Wii to your toaster oven. Though the Wii version is not expected before fall, GameCube, PS2, Xbox, PC, GBA, and Nintendo DS versions will street along with the movie in June, featuring 10 playable car characters voiced by the film’s stars, including Owen Wilson, George Carlin, and Michael Keaton.

Retro-adorability is further served by Micro Machines V4, which brings the tiny racers to the PSP, allowing you to tear across kitchen counters and pool tables from the macro perspective. As with their real-world counterparts, these automotive avatars are highly collectible, with an exclamation-point worthy 750 different vehicles available! From stock cars to lowriders and muscle cars, the 25 specific vehicle types all have distinctive abilities and weapon power-ups, including vehicle-mounted hammers and projectile attacks. In addition to time trials and checkpoint cups, battle modes such as the chase cup pit you against other drivers as a spoiler, by trying to disable instead of outrace them. The environments themselves are full of Honey-I-Shrunk-the-SUV-style dangers, as billiard balls and cooking utensils become lethal hazards.

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