Rumble Racing is the sequel to a year 2000 PS1 game called NASCAR Rumble which is quite highly regarded by those who played it whilst growing up. Whilst NASCAR Rumble still had some vague resemblance to the populular US motorsport that inspired it with cars that are covered in liveries that are similar to their real world counterparts, Rumble Racing distances itself even further from everything NASCAR. It's really just the basic car designs that have anything in common with the sport by this point. So there's not much there for die hard NASCAR fans, but for those of us who happen to enjoy a fun arcade racer now and again, Rumble Racing actually has quite a bit to offer, with a few reservations.
Firstly, this being a fairly early release in the life of the PS2, the graphics are not super detailed. The game doesn't look ugly by any means, and it moves at a nice fast pace which is the important thing - but you can tell that the developers hadn't tapped in to the full potential of the console by this point. There are 14 tracks in the game and all of them are nicely designed, with their own unique styles. There's quite a bit of variety from tracks set in the countryside, on the docks or in special arenas that have ramps all over the place for you to flip off of. When you do manage to grab some big air, you can hold down the R2 button and press the left stick in a direction to flip your car, and if you successfully land it safely on all four wheels you get a temporary speed boost. This mechanic reminds me of SSX, and Rumble Racing could quite easily have been part of the EA Sports Big brand, though it wasn't part of that series for whatever reason.
The range of power ups is actually quite good, with the stand out highlight being a twister that lays waste to anything before it. You have to be doing really badly to get this though - think of it as this games equivalant to something like the Bullet Bill in recent Mario Kart games - the item that quickly lets you get back into the fray after you've been bumming around in last place for a while. Some of the other power ups that I like include one that makes the front of your car glow and allows you to plow into the other racers, sending their cars careening through the air, and some more standard things like a bomb, oil slicks and acid that you can shoot in front of you. It's a shame that you can't shoot behind you as well like in most decent kart racers. Instead your only defensive options are a pulse that fires out in a circle from your car (and can actually help your opposition if you shoot it into them from behind, thus giving them a boost), and a temporary shield. One of the power ups seems a bit useless to me though - it just fires out a bunch of rubble that seldom hits anybody and doesn't seem to slow the other cars down if they drive into it. Perhaps I'm just using it incorrectly.
Sound wise, Rumble Racing features an announcer that can both be amusing at times and downright annoying at others. He reminds me of Gregg Proops, and at first I thought it was indeed him, but apparently the guy who actually does the voice is Jess Harnell who is perhaps most well known for the US TV show America's Funniest Home Videos (similar to the UK's You've Been Framed). He has also done some other well known voices such as Wakko in the fantastic Animaniacs cartoon from the 90's, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon in some of their games, and the Transformer Ironhide in the Michael Bay films. There is actually quite a decent variety of lines for him to say in Rumble Racing, so you don't hear them repeat too much. Some of them are actually track specific too. That being said, some of his one liners are a tad obnoxious, and when you're doing badly at the game they only serve to piss you off.
Finally, we come to the actual gameplay. For the most part, Rumble Racing is a slick and enjoyable arcade racer. It's at its best when played in multiplayer - the single player mode however has some issues with its structure. Firstly, the game only doles out one new track per cup, with the other two tracks being ones that you've already seen before. This makes progession a little bit repetitive - it would have been better to have had less cups overall if you ask me and have had each of them contain unique tracks, just like Mario Kart (yes, that game again!). To make matters worse, the game insists that you come in first place before allowing you to move on to the next cup. As winning is down to a combination of skill and luck, this can prove quite annoying and the last thing you will want to do sometimes after coming second by a point or two is to play the same cup over again. Luckily though all of the passwords needed to unlock the other cups and cars can be easily found on sites like GameFAQ's - so I would advise you to just do what I did and unlock everything up front so that you can just enjoy the different tracks and not have to beat your head against the wall trying to get anywhere with it.
So then, overall I can recommend that you pick up Rumble Racing, especially if you have someone else who will play it with you. The game can be found for around £5 on sites like Amazon and eBay, and who knows you might find a copy for even less than that if you're lucky enough to have a retro games shop or car boot sale near where you live! That's all for today - tune in again next week for another episode of PS2 Tuesdays!