KONAMI KRAZY RACERS / Konami / GBA
Konami Krazy Racers, or WaiWaiWaiWaiWaiWai Racing, obviously apes Mario Kart in a number of barely disguised ways - cute franchise characters racing go-karts, similar weapons (you turn everyone into a pig instead of miniatures, you fire missiles instead of shells), themed tracks such as a beach and a castle and ice, and so on. It doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but it's pleasant and fairly well-executed and generally not a total waste of time and money.
Konami doesn't exactly have the robust lineup of cutesy characters that Nintendo has to work with, but they come up with a decent field here. Initially you've got Goemon (Legend of the Mystical Ninja), a miniaturized version of the cyborg ninja from Metal Gear Solid, an adorable Dracula, an octopus from Parodius, the famous Moai Head introduced in Gradius, and a couple of obscure characters from Japanese games. There's also a number of unlockables such as Goemon's longtime partner Ebisumaru, the Vic Viper and a few other guys I don't recognize. The characters have the same sort of basic stat variation that they do in Mario Kart - Drac is the heavy Bowser of this game, Goemon is the balanced Mario, Ninja is the light fast-accelerating Yoshi, etc. Overall they aren't bad, and I found them a little more interesting than Mario's played-out cast.
There's a number of Grand Prixs to participate in, which is the bulk of the solo game. You also can do time attacks and free runs of any stage you've cleared in GP, and various Driver's License tests pop up here and there that have you perform a particular task in certain stages. Up to four players can race competitively at a time, through link cables or the Gamecube adapter. The racing is a bit more basic than Mario Kart - you can do a sort of hand brake turn, but the opportunities to actually use it in the tracks are rare. One unique aspect of the game is that coins picked up on the track can actually be taken to a shop between races and redeemed for weaponry. You can still pick up weapons off the track, but those are one-offs, whereas weapons purchased from the shop can be used multiple times in a race.
The game also has two "battle" modes - Chicken and Bomb Chase. Chicken is simply the classic 1950s teenage fad - try to stop as close to the edge of a cliff as you can without plowing over it. Bomb Chase is similar to Mario Kart's tag mode, but it doesn't work out quite as well due to the fact that you can't reverse in this game.
The graphics are definitely on the simplistic side, but are colorful and pleasant, and there's a good sense of speed on the tracks without any lag or slowdown. The music is unfortunately weak, sounding like amateurish MIDI renditions of popular Konami tunes - the fuzzy sound quality pumped through the GBA sound chip doesn't help things much as well.
Other GBA racing games might be a touch better than this one, but it's pretty enjoyable and a pretty good choice for a portable racer if you're a little tired of the Mario crew.