Kartography is my regular series in which I look at licensed kart racers throughout gaming history, and figure out where they fit on my all-time karting game leaderboard.
For more information on my scoring policy for Kartography, check out this introductory article.
Digital Jesters / Neko Entertainment
PS2, PC, DS, GBA (PS2 version reviewed)
Before Tired Old Hack went on a brief hiatus, the Kartography series had ended on a high note with Team Sonic Racing, an enjoyable karting game whose tight handling and teamwork gimmick made up for its relative lack of character diversity.
Now it’s time for Kartography to return, and what better way to mark its comeback than with one of the most notorious karting games ever made?
Crazy Frog Racer is one of the titles that’s regularly rhymed off by folk when the topic of bad licensed racing games arises. But is it truly as bad as it seems, or is it one of those Metroid Prime: Federation Force situations where it didn’t get a fair shake because gamers were ready to hate it anyway?
There’s only one way to find out: let’s kick its tyres. Or not, as the case may be here.
Originally made in 2003 as a funny animation to accompany someone’s impression of a motorbike, The Annoying Thing was the creation of Swedish animator Erik Wernquist.
The Annoying Thing enjoyed cult underground success online for a while, and that seemed destined to be its fate until mobile phone ringtone company Jamster licensed the rights to the animation, renaming it Crazy Frog.
Throughout the second half of 2004, Jamster advertised the utter fuck out of Crazy Frog, showing the animation constantly on TV. In the UK it felt like you couldn’t go a single ad break on music channels or ITV without seeing it at least once: sometimes even twice during the same break.
Jamster made a bucketload of money selling Crazy Frog ringtones, and the inevitable other cash-ins followed. Most notable was a dance track based on the Axel F theme from Beverly Hills Cop, complete with a video of the Crazy Frog riding through a futuristic city on his invisible motorbike. It was number 1 in the UK Singles Chart for four weeks in the summer of 2005.
Then, in December 2005, we were finally ‘treated’ to Crazy Frog Racer, a racing game based on that Axel F music video (but without that song included, presumably because money).
If you were born after 2005, you’re exceptionally lucky. Not only did you miss the horrors of September 11, you also avoided the Crazy Frog craze.
Licence score – 2 out of 5
There were few licences more popular than the Crazy Frog in 2005, but there were exactly zero that were more irritating. Parents despised it, TV companies probably felt guilty advertising it all the time and eventually kids moved on to the next craze (probably Sweety the Chick or one of Jamster’s other shite ringtone characters).
As tempting as it is to go with a 0 or 1 for this category, there can still be no denying the thing’s popularity at the time and securing its licence would still have been something of a coup.
There’s one problem when you’re making a karting game based on a licence like Crazy Frog: it only has one character.
To remedy this, developer Neko Entertainment had no other choice: it filled the rest of the roster with entirely fictional racers.
Don’t be upset with yourself, then, if staring at this lot leaves you with a blank expression on your face. Unless you played this game, they shouldn’t be familiar to you.
Since the manual doesn’t even bother to explain who this random selection of pricks are, forgive me for speculating a little in this section.
The Annoying Thing
Despite the game’s title featuring the Crazy Frog branding, in the game itself he’s known by his original Annoying Thing name.
No doubt creator Erik Wernquist would have been happy with this: he stated in an interview that he hated the Crazy Frog name and wouldn’t have allowed Jamster to use it if he’d known how popular it would have become.
“It has nothing to do with the character,” he said. “It’s not a frog and it’s not particularly crazy either.”
Yes, because that’s what’s shit about it.
Ellie appears to be some sort of sexy fairy thing.
I say this because she has wings, which you wouldn’t know from this picture because they’re wafer thin and she never turns round on the character select screen.
As if being a fairy with a short skirt isn’t wild enough, she also sits sideways on her floating scooter thing instead of facing forwards, because she’s a free spirit, this one.
She’s such a livewire, in fact, that she uses a vehicle even though she’s a fairy, and presumably can fly.
If you bought Crazy Frog Racer secretly hoping you could instead play as a young boy wearing a helmet, you’re in luck.
Jack is a bizarre paradox of a character, in that his outfit is packed with quirky features but he still manages to come across as completely generic.
He also has one thing in common with Ellie, in that he’s come equipped with one mode of transport too many.
If you’re going to ride a floating hoverbike here, just leave the rollerblades at home, son.
Flash is so painfully ‘street’ that I’m frankly stunned he was never one of the 30-odd members of early 200s UK garage squad So Solid Crew.
With his red hoodie covering his face, his baggy jeans and his stripey hi-tops, he almost definitely used to hang out in shopping centres and speak in a fake Jamaican accent.
I’m not sure what the deal is with the giant clock thing he’s wearing on a chain. Maybe it’s to remind him what time it is so he doesn’t miss his shift volunteering at the local food bank.
That’s right: plot twist. I’ve decided he actually has a heart of gold. And you thought he was a thug: shame on you.
To be fair, this one actually was a thing.
In the Axel F music video, the Drone is the big prick chasing after the Crazy Frog in order to arrest him for being “the most annoying thing in the world”.
Fair play to the developers, then, for recreating it pretty well, right down to the complete lack of character or personality.
It does, however, make it even more bewildering that the Axel F track itself is nowhere to be found in this game.
Wow, this game actually has Death in it.
I mean, it isn’t proper Death. He just looks like a kid. And he’s a little more ‘urban’ than you would expect Death to be.
In fact, it’s pretty much the same character model as the one for Flash, only slightly modified to remove the face.
It’s actually a bit shit, now I think about it.
Michel appears to be some sort of maniac chef.
He’s got a pleasantly crazed expression on his face, plus he’s wearing a chef’s hat and everything.
This may not seem like a big deal but this is the closest this game has to a fully-fleshed character rather than just a generic prick with a blank expression.
He’s also a decent all-rounder, and probably the best standard character.
Play as him until you unlock Matilda.
I’ve no idea what’s going on with this one.
Bobo appears to be a large, overweight ninja armed with nunchuks.
That would be fine but it looks like Bobo may not be human: it’s bare arms and face are exposed and they seem to be a dark green colour.
Actually, hang on: literally as I write this I’ve realised the nunchuks are bananas, which means Bobo is probably a gorilla.
Why the hell did I have to figure this out myself? Who the fuck is Bobo?
To unlock – Win the Baby Cup, Funny Cup and Crazy Cup
When Crazy Frog Racer launched, the EU was in its final year of a 10-year ban on all British beef exports.
The reason was BSE, otherwise known as ‘mad cow disease’, which led to a health crisis in which over 170 people eventually died by eating infected beef.
It wasn’t until over a million British cows were incinerated and the 10-year ban ended that everyone was satisfied that mad cow disease was no longer a concern.
Anyway, here’s Matilda, who’s a mad cow. She’s the game’s sole unlockable character and she’s the best in the game, so those 170-odd people clearly didn’t die in vain.
Racers score – 1 out of 5
Yes, they’ve got the Crazy Frog in there but given that the game’s called Crazy Frog Racer that’s pretty much a requirement.
Every single other racer – with the exception of the charisma-free Drone – is a completely fictional character.
It would be fine if they were fun characters you could get to know and love: after all, don’t forget that when it first launched, Street Fighter II’s roster was mostly made up of unknowns.
This isn’t Street Fighter II though. It isn’t even walking down a side street in a dodgy city and getting your skull caved in by a gang. Even though you wouldn’t be able to recognise any of them either.
Each character in Crazy Frog Racer has their own floating vehicle.
They’re all fairly unimaginative but at least they’re different for the most part (there’s one or two duplicates).
Here’s a gallery showing them all.
Vehicles score – 2 out of 5
A score of 1 is given when everyone has exactly the same vehicle.
That isn’t the case here, so while all the vehicles here are dull, this is the lowest possible score it can get.
There are technically 12 tracks in Crazy Frog Racer, split into three different cups.
I say ‘technically’ because in reality they all appear to be one massive track with various routes cut off and opened up.
This means something like three different tracks have the same massive shortcut you can pull off on a specific large hill, while the sewer section appears in another three or four of them.
It also, however, means that you have a grand total of ONE environment to race through. If you’re expecting a typical karting game with an ice stage, a desert stage, a fake Rainbow Road and such shenanigans, get that idea out of your head now.
You get the one city, and nothing else. And it’s shite.
This is usually where I’d show you a video of each track, but the twelve offerings here are so similar that nobody in their right mind would watch these videos, let alone me wasting my time putting them together.
Here, then, are the images for each track. Bear in mind that no matter how different these pictures look – which is not different at all – they’re all the same city circuit chopped into smaller routes.
Tracks score – 0 out of 5
This is easily the worst offering I’ve seen from a karting game. A single track split into 12 different variations is nowhere near good enough, especially when that single track is a bucket of dicks in the first place.
Despite having zero imagination in most other areas, Crazy Frog Racer actually handles its weaponry in an interesting way.
Instead of the usual routine of picking up randomised item boxes on the track, instead you collect coins, which add to your cash total.
This cash can then be spent on any item you want, as and when you need it, by cycling through them with the L1 and L2 buttons and triggering them with R1.
The obvious catch is that the more effective power-ups are the most expensive, so you may want to keep building your funds and wait until you can afford the best ones. Well, in theory.
Here’s what you get, in order of cost.
A little ball with spikes sticking out. If another racer drives near it they’ll take damage. Simple.
Mario Kart equivalent: Banana
The same sort of thing, only this time it has two blades that pop out and swirl around, meaning its range is a bit wider.
Mario Kart equivalent: Banana
This ball splits into two halves and creates a magnetic gate between them. If you drive through the gate you’ll take a hit.
Mario Kart equivalent: Banana
A mine with a random timer added to it. Every time a car passes by the number goes down by one. When it hits zero, it’s boomtown rats.
Mario Kart equivalent: A delayed banana
Similar to the Digital Mine, except this is just a standard timer that goes down itself.
Mario Kart equivalent: Bob-omb
A mine with a blinking red light. As you come near it the blinking gets faster until it explodes.
Mario Kart equivalent: Banana. Again.
Straightforward stuff, literally: it’ll fire three missiles, one at a time, in a straight line. They each fire automatically, which makes aiming the second and third ones bloody hard.
Mario Kart equivalent: Triple green shell
Protects you from attacks for a certain amount of time. You get hit so rarely, though, that it’s a bit of a waste of time.
Mario Kart equivalent: None (it’s basically a Starman with most of its benefits missing)
This one gives you a ridiculous speed boost for five seconds. Depending on which part of the track you’re on, this is either the best or worst power-up in the game.
Mario Kart equivalent: Mushroom
Probably the best weapon, this activates a red beam that shines from the front of your vehicle for a few seconds. Means you can just get behind someone and swoop left and right to hit them.
Mario Kart equivalent: None
Shoots up in an arc and lands in a big explosion, hitting enemies if they’re between 10 and 30 yards away (according to the manual). Didn’t have much luck with this one.
Mario Kart equivalent: Throwing a Bob-omb forwards
Power-ups score – 2 out of 5
The weapons themselves are among the least effective and satisfying I’ve ever experienced in a karting game.
The mechanic used to trigger them, however, is admittedly very clever, so it at least gets some kudos for that.
How it plays
This section is a mini review of the game. It’s available in both video and written form, so you can choose how to enjoy it. My recommendation is the video, because you’ll get to see the game in action too. But if you’d rather read it, or can’t stand my bassy Scottish accent, the entire script from the video is underneath.
In the mid 2000s, what originally started as a stupid noise eventually became a stupid character and then a stupid pop song.
The Crazy Frog was all the rage throughout Europe for a while, culminating in a hit single: a cover of the Beverly Hills Cop theme Axel F, accompanied by a music video in which the Frog rode his invisible bike through a futuristic city.
This city is the setting for Crazy Frog Racer, though the song itself didn’t make the cut. It should probably consider itself lucky not to be included, because the game somehow manages to be even worse.
On paper it claims to have 12 different tracks, but the reality is that all 12 of them are different sections of one large city circuit.
The result is a series of races that are about as visually diverse as the population of the Isle of Man, to the extent that after 10-15 hours of playing I still couldn’t tell you which track is which.
It also doesn’t help that the one big circuit they’re taken from is a bit of a mess in the first place. It’s full of swooping highway tracks with plenty of turns, hills and dips, but everything’s so badly designed that staying on the course is usually an exercise in patience.
The game’s speed often makes it impossible to tell when corners are coming, meaning you have to take your eyes away from the action and rely on the minimap most of the time.
Even when you do know where you’re supposed to be going, it isn’t a done deal. The handling is so piss-poor that you’ll often find yourself flying off the track anyway.
It’s basically a racing game that punishes you for trying to be fast. Approach some of the big jumps at any decent speed and you’ll soar into the air, but a lot of the time the game’s camera will stubbornly refuse to look down until the last minute, making it nearly impossible to land on the strip of road you’re supposed to hit.
Because the tracks are made out of one large circuit, there are a load of unused roads dotted around each one. Sometimes after a big jump you’ll land on what you think is a perfectly valid piece of road but go right through it, because any parts that aren’t in the current track somehow become ghost roads that you just fall through. Even though your vehicle can fly.
The usual Mario Kart style cup structure is followed here, but with one major, irritating difference. Once you’ve finished the three cups – which are oddly named Baby Cup, Funny Cup and Crazy Cup – you then unlock the Special Cup.
Don’t start getting excited for Rainbow Road style shenanigans, though: the Special Cup is just a massive cup with all 12 tracks in one go. Given that some of the later tracks are stupidly long, you’re talking around an hour and 20 minutes of shite racing if you want to beat this cup and unlock the game’s only hidden character, a mad cow. Which is what you’ll feel like by the time you’re done.
It’s not all bad news, though. Okay, it’s mostly bad news. But still. The music’s alright for its time: even though the actual Crazy Frog Axel F theme isn’t in there, there’s a batch of similar Euro dance beats that come with the added bonus of not having the Crazy Frog voice slapped over them.
The weapon system is also quite interesting, in that instead of just picking up items you collect coins and spend them on whatever weapon you like, whenever you like. Though given that most of them are about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike this isn’t quite as exciting as it sounds.
Ultimately, Crazy Frog Racer is pretty much a shambles from start to finish, and while it has a couple of redeemable qualities, for the most part this is one frog that you’d be crazy to go anywhere near.
Review score – 2 out of 15
9 out of 40
It may have been expected, but you don’t know these things for sure until you check them out.
Having now fully done so, I can indeed confirm that Crazy Frog Racer is a pile of old arse.
The worrying thing for me now is that there’s a sequel – the cleverly titled Crazy Frog Racer 2 – and you just know that at some point morbid curiosity is going to get the better of me and I’m going to have to see if it’s an improvement.
After all, it can’t be much worse.
Crazy Frog Racer came out back in 2005, but if you’re a glutton for punishment you can get the PS2 version, PC version, DS version or GBA version for mere pennies through Amazon UK’s New & Used section.
If you enjoyed this and want to help me write similarly extensive articles on a regular basis while continuing to make it ad-free, please consider donating to my Patreon account.
Don’t want to commit to a regular payment? I’ve now got a PayPal ‘tips’ jar: if you liked this article in particular feel free to chuck yer man Scullion a couple of quid and help stock up my Irn Bru fund so I can continue working away like a bastard.
Alternatively, if you can’t afford to support me on Patreon, please do your normal Amazon UK shopping via this link or Amazon US shopping via this link. Tired Old Hack is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.co.uk and affiliated sites.
Thanks so much for reading this. If you found it useful, please do share it with your friends. The more people who read it, the more the site can grow and the more I can write.