Superb novelty value
Great courses + custom tracks
Call me a hypocrite if you must, but even though I reluctantly use Windows, I'm a big fan of Tux, the penguin mascot of the Linux operating system. My WinXP Wallpaper is of a giant Tux destroying Microsoft Headquarters. I laughed out loud at his cameo appearance in the Penultima modules for Neverwinter Nights, and most importantly of all, I have two excellent Tux games installed on my PC.
The first one is this one: Tux Racer. As the name suggests, it involves getting Tux from point A to point B in the fastest time possible. Point A being the top of the frozen mountain and point B being the bottom. Between points A and B are large quantities of herring which Tux will need to collect. That's it. It's a simple concept, but like all the best simple concepts it works, and it works very well.
Good control is of vital importance in a racing game, and Tux once again comes through with the simplicity- all you need are the cursor keys and the 'E' button. Left and right, predictably, make him turn. Up makes him flap, which will accelerate him up to a certain speed, although once he goes over that speed flapping will actually slow him down again. Flapping while Tux is airborne allows him to stay up longer - essential for cutting down your time on some courses. Down makes Tux dig into the snow to slow himself down and allows for sharper turns - the brake, in other words. Finally, E is used to store up energy and jump. Not that you'll be doing that very often, as the jump feels rather pathetic and doesn't give much height at all. Tux handles superbly, with the icy physics coming across surprisingly well for an amateur title. Analogue control is supported if you have a joystick, allowing more precise steering, but keyboard control is easy with a bit of practice.
Graphically, Tux is very appealing. The courses look fantastic, especially the reflective effect on the ice, and Tux himself- although somewhat jerkily animated at the start when he waddles up to the top of the course- is just as cute as he should be. One minor complaint is the sky background- there is a visible join line where it wraps around, although considering how fast and frantic the action can get on most courses, you won't have time to be staring at the sky.
Despite the title, you won't actually be racing against other penguins in this game. Rather, your opponents are the clock and the herring counter. In Cup Mode, you are given a track, a target time, and a requisite number of fish to be collected. Make it to the bottom of the mountain in under the allocated time and with sufficient stocks of herring, and you win the race. Come in over time or lacking in fish, and Tux loses a life and must attempt the race again. Although there is only one cup implemented in the current version, that doesn't really matter too much, because the real fun of Tux Racer is to be had in the Practice mode.
Here, there are no targets, no lives, nothing to beat. It's just a mountain, a penguin, and a whole load of fish. There are a good few courses to pick from, ranging from the simple, gentle curves of Bunny Hill to the obstacle-laden, multi-pathed, slalom-like mayhem of the brilliant Path of Daggers. It's setting (and beating) records here that will occupy the bulk of your time with Tux Racer. There are a few options available to spice things up a little more, including adjusting the wind speed, the lighting conditions, and opting for a mirror course where everything is reversed left-to-right. Another plus is that it's not too hard to create new courses. A course is generated from three bitmap images- a greyscale to act as a contour map, showing the heights of each part, another to show what type of terrain each section should be and a final image for placement of trees, herring etc. There's a mini-tutorial about the whole process on the download site, under FAQs.
The penguin racing genre isn't exactly a crowded one (aside from the widely disliked Pen-Pen Tri-Iceleon on Sega's Dreamcast, there aren't any others that jump to mind), which gives Tux a huge novelty value. And that is, after all, one of the best things about Freeware: you get to try the ideas that no professional developer would dare release for fear of a bad reception that will hit profits. Pen-Pen learned this lesson the hard way. Tux is here to show him how it could have been done.
Review by: BlackMageJawa
Safe for all ages
3D graphics card