The Land Before Time: Great Valley Racing Adventure

The Land Before Time: Great Valley Racing Adventure (LBTGVA) for the original PlayStation is, at the time of this review, a 15 year-old kart racing game --  without any karts -- and yet I found myself and my couch co-op partner enjoying the game as much as most modern arcade racers. 

The appeal of local multiplayer racing is immediately obvious to most. Indeed, over the years I've seen complex controllers metaphorically melt in the hands of non-gamers as their competitive instincts are drawn out by a good racing game. LBTGVA (which I now realize sounds like an empowerment movement) is no exception, and even though it is aimed at children, it nevertheless presents an enjoyable challenge. 

Upon starting the game a disturbing corporate animation of Vision Scape Interactive's logo is shown, shortly followed by a brief rendered animation that provides the dramatic motivation behind the game. Four dinosaurs from the Land Before Time cinematic troupe - Ducky, Cera, Spike and Littlefoot - decide to run.  That's it. They decide to run. And so with the subtext established the game begins.

As mentioned, you may play split-screen local multiplayer with one other player, or play fullscreen against a single computer AI. The number of multiple AI opponents is lower than even the original Mario Kart provided on the Super NES, so this is a disappointment.  All eight tracks are open from the start, with no need to unlock stages.  There are no weapons available and your controls are limited to making your character move from side to side and jump (but not control your speed).

There is an additional Obstacle Course mode in which you can play through eight different courses, which are all more lively and less predictable than the race levels. The obstacles come in the form of large items that fall from the sky onto the course.  

In both modes there are items to be picked up which have different benefits, some build up your traction meter, enabling you to continue at the same speed when travelling through mud or water. Another item boosts your jumping ability, and another provides a very brief spurt of speed.

I could not discern any difference in how any of the dinosaurs "handled". Cera the Stegosaurus did not feel any slower or have greater traction that the small Yoshi-like Ducky.

Ducky is as spritely as he is cute.

Ducky is as spritely as he is cute.

The game is likely more enjoyable if the source material prompts any feelings of nostalgia. It was with mild interest that I learned that the movie franchise was created by Don Bluth, who has also worked in video games; most notably on the Quick-Time-Event-pioneer, Dragon's Lair.  

A small range of dialog clips played for each of the characters at various times during the race. A commentary voice over piped up whenever the lead changed.  The music was also limited, with a single song playing over the racing mode always finishing long before the race, providing an awkward silence while the song was reloaded into the buffer.

As a game designed for "younger children" LBTGVA succeeds in being an honest enterprise in licensing by not betraying the source material nor the target audience's enjoyment of gaming. LBTGVA provides an enjoyable experience with enough content to provide replay value, even 15 years later.

- Phil Fogg