Super Bombad Racing Was The Inevitable Star Wars Kart Racer
In the 1990s, a LucasArts off-shoot called Lucas Learning released a series of educational games—some of which were legitimately good. In DroidWorks you could create your own robots and use them to solve fun physics puzzles. The Gungan Frontier was a strategy game about seeding a moon with life and creating a balanced ecosystem. Pit Droids was a neat Lemmings-style puzzle game. Despite being made under the dubious banner of 'edutainment', these are some of the most unique, imaginative Star Wars games ever made.
But Lucas Learning released a few stinkers too, including Super Bombad Racing, the first straight-up entertainment game released by the studio. This kart racer featured characters and locations from Star Wars prequel Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and was a fairly obvious attempt to ape the success of the Mario Kart series. There were boost pads, power-ups, and all the other staples of the genre. However, in this game the 'karts' were actually cutesy scaled-down flying vehicles, piloted by characters with comically oversized noggins.
Darth Maul, who has never looked less intimidating, flew a tiny version of the Scimitar, his personal Sith Infiltrator. Jar Jar Binks flew the ridiculously named Tribubble Bongo, which Qui-Gon and the gang piloted through Naboo's core in the movie. Anakin flew a miniscule N-1 starfighter. Obi-Wan flew a massively reduced in size Radiant VIII cruiser. You get the idea. Large-headed characters from The Phantom Menace piloting small ships from The Phantom Menace. You could also unlock Boba Fett, Darth Vader, and a Trade Federation AAT.
The tracks were based on The Phantom Menace too, including Naboo Swamp, Dune Sea, Theed City, Mos Espa, Otoh Gunga, Coruscant, and the Trade Federation's donut-shaped Droid Control Ship. While the character models had a bit of an off-brand Funko Pop vibe, the tracks did nicely capture the look and feel of their cinematic counterparts. Being a LucasArts game, Super Bombad Racing at least feels like a genuine Star Wars product. It's just a shame it wasn't more fun to play, but maybe that's asking too much of a game for babies.
Kids probably loved it. It was easy to pick up, vibrant, colourful, and full of cool Star Wars stuff. The music, composed by longtime LucasArts collaborator Peter McConnell, was pretty charming too, featuring quirky, upbeat remixes of classic Star Wars themes. Lucas Learning even managed to rope in some of the movie's cast, with Jake Lloyd reprising his role as Anakin Skywalker, Ahmed Best returning as Jar Jar Binks, and Lewis Macleod as Sebulba. The other characters were played by soundalikes. I guess Ewan McGregor was busy that week.
Super Bombad Racing was not welcomed to the PS2 with open arms. It earned a few good reviews, and it was better than most licensed kart racing games, but it struggled to stand out in a crowded market. There were so many Mario Kart wannabes stinking store shelves up in the late '90s and early 2000s that it took a really special one to break through the noise. This, alas, wasn't it. Not even the selling power of the Star Wars name could save it, and The Phantom Menace's poor critical reception probably didn't help the cause either.
PC, Dreamcast, and Mac ports of Super Bombad Racing were originally planned, but they were unceremoniously cancelled when the PS2 version failed to live up to sales expectations. Now the game has faded into obscurity, occasionally dug up by people like me just to say how underwhelming it was. Not the most glowing legacy, but Lucas Learning did make up for it by developing a few great games. If you must revisit the late '90s/Phantom Menace era of Star Wars (I'm not sure why you would), forget this one and just go play DroidWorks instead.
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