Xbox Live Arcade’s dearth of racing games struck me the moment I first fired up my 360, and while Mad Tracks does a fine job at providing me with racing thrills at a fast pace, it would have benefited greatly if some depth had been added to the mostly-hollow experience.
Mad Tracks is a well put-together, but one dimensional game most of the time. It still provides a great deal of fun, but would have benefited greatly from having more to do in it than compete in kart racing and a slew of gimmicky one-note modes (IE - having your car act as a golf ball, a foosball player, a pool cue, or even using it in a vehicular sumo competition).
The kart racing mode is definitely the most meaty one offered in the game, and yet it’s just your basic kart racing fare. You face X amount of enemies in similarly-classed vehicles and shoot weapons (or use other power-ups) to win. The basic game is well, basic. There’s nothing really amazing about it - it’s mainly just an adequately-crafted kart racer with some really inventive track design. Unlike a lot of them though, this one doesn’t rely on rubber band AI to make races competitive, which I found to be one of many pleasant surprises in the game.
Like the kart racing, the mini-games are all fun, but many lack the depth necessary to remain compelling over time. The sumo-style mode where you have to be the last to not fall of a tabletop is the one I found to be the most challenging, enjoyable, and rewarding mini-game mode to play.
Mad Tracks’ extensive mode variety shines in multi-player, somewhat making up for the lack of cars. Most of the modes are short on depth, but long on fun, especially during multi-player gaming. Given the simplistic AI, having human opponents online is a Godsend, as you can finally get a chance to have a genuinely challenging race or competition in the game.
Graphically, Mad Tracks is solid, but not spectacular. The car models are surprisingly lacking in detail and are hard to tell apart due to the fast pace of the gameplay. Backgrounds and levels, however, are very detailed, have a unique look and personality. Despite the aforementioned problem it causes, the best part of the visuals is definitely the incredible sensation of speed. Unlike many full-fledged games out there, you really do feel like you’re blazing across the track in this game. I honestly didn’t expect that out of an XBLA game, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see it here.
I’m not surprised by Mad Tracks’ forgettable audio. While its soundtrack full of easy-listening rock and generally cheery music fits the speedy, action-packed nature of the game, the songs are also fairly forgettable, and don’t do much to excite players. Custom soundtracks save the day there, but don't do any good for the sub-par sound effects, which don't give off any sense of impact for crashes, and don't get across the damage caused by weapons.
In the end, Mad Tracks is a standard kart racer with a bunch of well-done, but hollow mini-games tacked on that gets old quickly in single player, but has its life extended with multi-player, where the added competition adds a great deal of fun to the proceedings. However, given its cost of 800 MS points ($10), I’d recommend passing on a full purchase unless you fall in love with the trial game or are a HUGE kart racing fan, as Pac-Man: CE is a much better overall product for the same amount of money.