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DS Fanboy Review: Homie Rollerz

I was pretty worried about reviewing Homie Rollerz. I didn't really get into game blogging to discuss serious issues, and the Homies franchise seemed to involve one. Is Homie Rollerz a good thing because it is designed for a Mexican-American audience (which, as a goal, is very cool and laudable), or is it an insult to that audience with broad stereotypes? The toys continue to be popular, so I happily suspect the former. However, my own impression of the characters and storyline is that I might find them offensive if I belonged to the supposed target audience. In any case, further investigation of this cultural issue turned out to be unnecessary, because Homie Rollerz is not very good. The biggest issues with the game turn out to be with the game and not with the subject matter.

Gallery: Homie Rollerz

Homie Rollerz is a kart racing game based on the Homies series of "2-inch figurines loosely based upon Chicano (Mexican American) characters in the life of artist David Gonzales." It features ten of the Homies in representative vehicles, racing in urban landscapes. Some of the more interesting characters include El Chilote, a revolutionary chili pepper who drives a burrito, Willie G, who races in a motorized wheelchair, and Alien Ese, a "grey" alien who has assimilated into Chicano culture.

The major difference between Homie Rollerz and other kart racing games lies not with the setting, but with the fact that, unlike most kart racers designed to be challenging, Homie Rollerz is impossible. I won exactly one race in the hours I spent playing the game, and that was only because another car pushed me across the finish line. At no other time did I finish in better than sixth place -- most of the time, in fact, I brought up the rear by as much as thirty seconds.

It's not really a matter of extremely challenging track designs: the tracks are fair and even well-designed. It's not hard to keep a decent racing line through each track, weaving around the obstacles and avoiding walls. It just doesn't matter how well you race, because every other car on the track is faster than you, all the time. The other seven computer-controlled racers speed away from you immediately and continue to accelerate, while you putt along at about half their speed, never accelerating at all -- even on a long straightaway. The computer players zoom along their perfect racing lines. With other racing games, an extreme challenge might be a reason to keep coming back, but this just feels rigged against you.

The idea is that the only way to win is to make use of every shortcut and item, but the shortcuts aren't short enough, and the items are either useless or disrupt you as much as the opponents. The best item swaps your place with the person in front of you, but that usually just leads you straight into a wall, since the next car is usually too far ahead of you to see.

The other speed-boosting option is the game's trick system; hitting L and R leans the car in the appropriate direction, and pressing both simultaneously makes the car hop. Tricks fill a boost meter that, when full, allows for a burst of speed. A trick system that depends entirely on partially flipping your car has predictable results -- by which I mean the car flips over the rest of the way. Leaning into a turn usually means your car does a cartwheel. It's kind of hilarious, but when it's your 20th attempt to get through a race, it hurts.

I feel like it was a good idea on a basic level to seek out new licenses for new audiences who don't really get represented in games. It seems like a progressive move. Maybe next time Destineer (or anyone) tries something like this, more work can go into the basic mechanics of the game.

Final Score: 3/10

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