Only ’90s kids will get this! But actually — growing up in the 1990s was a good time, especially for video game fans. Through my school-aged years, we went from 2D sprites on the SNES and Genesis to 3D-realistic car simulators on the PS1, to near photo-realistic (well, it felt that way at the time) graphics on the Xbox 360. I don’t exactly come from royalty, so I couldn’t always participate in console gaming. But the library of free Shockwave games you could play on a browser were my dominion. Mazda and Ford in particular made some great ones.
I guess riding the success of minigame-site Newgrounds, every corporate entity felt they had to have some sort of branded online game arcade, chock full of Flash and Shockwave games. Remember Nabiscoworld, anyone? Yeah, automakers got in on the traffic draw that online games brought, too. The ones that stuck with me the most were from Mazda and Ford: Skyracer Impulse, DJ Fu Wax Attack, and its sequel: DJ Fu Wax Attack 2.
Unfortunately, we could not find playable versions of these on the present-day internet. There are a few listings, but as far as we can tell, none of them actually work. Shockwave, for those of you who are really young, was a plug-in that let you play online games. It came out in 1995 was actually viable until pretty recently, but alas, you won’t be able to run it without some kind of backdated software now. Howtogeek.com has a little more of a rundown if you’re curious. For those of you who remember the concept well enough already, you can skip straight to our little retrospectives about Mazda’s great games that lived on the platform.
Mazda: Skyracer Impulse
I loved the ‘Wipeout’ futuristic racing games. At the time, were only for PlayStation. My older brothers did in fact have gaming consoles, but too hipster for their own good, they preferred to play on their Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast instead of doing the sane thing and buying a Nintendo 64 or Sony PlayStation. Although they got one of those later, I never had much seat time with ‘Wipeout,’ but I did like the experience. Well, circa 2001, right in the heart of Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom marketing push, it commissioned Groove Alliance to create a Wipeout-style game for web browsers.
The game featured floating, futuristic vaguely Mazda-shaped cars, racing along canyons and futuristic cities clearly inspired of the Wipeout series. That super iconic “zoom-zoom” said in a child’s voice sound effect is played when you roll over a boost panel. Mazda logos litter the side of the track, and the game’s end screen says “Brought to you by the all-new Mazda Protege 5!”
Eventually, I guess Mazda thought the game didn’t fit the aesthetic and aura of their site, and sometime later in the early 2000s, the game was removed. Groove Alliance removed all the references to Mazda, restyled the in-game car models, and the game was re-released on Shockwave’s website as simply, Skyracer Impulse.
Was it just a crappy wipeout clone, with impossible handling and cheap product placement? Yeah, but eight-year-old me ate that junk up.
DJ Fu Wax Attack
Before Scion tried to court youths with its (honestly kind of dope) CD samplers, Ford tried to entice the DJ kids through a game of its own.
One-half early ‘Mario,’ one-half ‘PaRappa the Rapper,’ the DJ Fu Wax Attack games were two side-scrolling platformers where your goal to create a DJ mix and then run to the “show,” completing the level. You played as DJ Fu, a red-headed DJ, spinning up the hottest Drum N Bass or Hip Hop beats that the year 2000 was serving up. The sequel added more mixable sounds, and a second playable character, DJ Zee.
Maybe the game was a bit cynical and targeted, but it was fun. The sounds loops were amazingly high quality for a 2000s era early flash game commissioned to sell Ford Focuses.
Like Mazda: Skyracer Impulse, eventually, Ford got tired of the game. Noize Play removed most references to Ford branding (though not all — you could sometimes see a stray Focus in a loading screen or background image), then they dumped it on the Shockwave website.
Like a lot of the stuff we’re trying to preserve here at Car Autance, DJ Fu and Skyracer Impulse have been completely outmoded, and forgotten by most. Adobe Shockwave and Flash are no longer supported formats on internet browsers. People have preserved these games, but playing them on a modern computer is a lot harder than just clicking a link and waiting ten minutes for it to load up on your 333MHZ Bondi Blue iMac.
Sigh. I miss when automakers used to be fun.
One last note: As I mentioned earlier — we did not have much luck finding reliably playable versions of either of these games online today. But if you’ve got a link, don’t be shy about dropping it in the comments. Same goes for other automaker-sponsored titles we should know about or do future retrospectives on!