You know, sometimes I see a game and know in my mind that it’s going to be bad, but still somehow let one thing about it make me feel excited to give it a try. With Nickelodeon Kart Racers it was the sense of nostalgia, with the characters that star in it and the tracks that I’d be racing across being a big part of my childhood. Turns out I was just being naïve, since they couldn’t even get the feeling of nostalgia right here despite having a wealth of content to work with. It’s just a poor, poor game.
It’s worth mentioning that the racing itself isn’t awful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not particularly exciting either, but it never feels offensively bad. You’ve got things like drifting in order to get a speed boost (which will be familiar), a myriad of weapons including one that automatically attacks whoever is in first play (again, familiar) and rubber-banding so that races stay competitive throughout (wait a minute…) – you know, basically all the stuff we’ve seen done well in Mario Kart.
Somehow though, despite being similar to Mario Kart as far as the gameplay mechanics are concerned, it just never feels as good. The drifting is a little floaty for example and will take a while to get used to, whilst your rubber-banding opponents are always behind you in a way that doesn’t always feel that fair. Nickelodeon Kart Racers does try to add its own unique touch though by giving players a speed boost, which can be replenished by driving over the slime in-game. It at least shows the developers had some initiative to do something original with the game, but when it’s combined with un-exciting racing it’s hard to care about it too much.
The driving being bland wouldn’t have been such a problem if the game had a good selection of characters and tracks, but it fails to deliver there too.
Now the characters that are available aren’t the worst – you’ve got a few iconic faces amongst the twelve playable characters like Tommy, Angelica and Reptar from Rugrats, SpongeBob and Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants, Arnold from Hey Arnold and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, whilst each character will be familiar to anyone who has watched Nickelodeon, the potential was there to have a much larger and more diverse roster of characters. Where’re the characters from the likes of Doug, CatDog, Rocko’s Modern Life, Aaahh!! Real Monsters, Angry Beavers, The Fairly Oddparents, The Wild Thornberrys, or even Inside Out Boy? The characters that are available are taken from just four of Nickelodeon’s shows, and honesty, it’s not good enough considering the game is supposed to be a celebration of the brand as a whole.
The tracks are also spread across the four shows and in fairness you do see some elements of them showing up. However, they’re so bland in design and unremarkable in presentation that it’s hard to feel particularly enamoured by them. You’ve got twenty-four tracks to race across in total which feels like an impressive amount, but when you consider a lot of them simply feel the same and that half of those tracks are just full of green slime, you quickly see that diversity isn’t at the forefront of their design. I’d be remiss not to mention that some tracks add an interesting twist to gameplay though, such as having whoever is last place at particular points get eliminated or having set markers for you to drive through during each lap – it’s not a significant enough change to make the game feel better to play, but at least it does add variety to what is otherwise a pretty dull experience.
The game offers a selection of Grand Prixs for players to complete, though all of the tracks are available from the get-go so you don’t have to work to unlock anything there. There aren’t any characters to unlock either, with the only thing you’ll earn from playing the game being more car parts or coins. There is multiplayer included though, allowing you to take part in local races with your friends or one of three competitive battle modes: a coin collecting mode, a capture the flag mode, and a standard battle where you take each other on with the game’s weapons. The multiplayer isn’t terrible and in fairness it’s probably where you’ll have the most fun with Nickelodeon Kart Racers, but don’t expect to be kept entertained by it for too long.
Presentation-wise, Nickelodeon Kart Racers isn’t a pretty game. It actually looks like it’d belong on the Nintendo Wii, with everything looking so generic and unattractive for the most part. Worst still, the game lacks any music or voices from the shows associated with it, so there’s nothing there to make you feel like you’re a part of the world of Nickelodeon other than the characters’ appearance. You’d have thought that the developers would have taken a few soundbites from some of the shows or even the theme songs themselves, but nope – just generic tunes throughout. It’s mighty disappointing, but just sums up how poor of an experience Nickelodeon Kart Racers is.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers isn’t just a poor racing game, but a poor experience as a whole. There are almost no real redeeming features, with the racing itself rarely ever feeling enjoyable thanks to its lack of personality and features. The fact that it’s on a console that just so happens to have a brilliant kart racer in Mario Kart 8 makes purchasing the game all the more unappealing too, especially when you consider the disparity in quality between the two titles.
Want to know the worst part though? Nickelodeon Kart Racers could have survived offering a poor racing experience thanks to the charm of the licences it has at its disposal, but it didn’t even manage to get that right with it instead poorly utilising content from just four shows. I felt almost no nostalgia in the game at all, with it instead looking ugly and using very little from the cartoons that its based upon to try and win it some brownie points.
It just doesn’t seem to get anything right and whilst the racing itself isn’t necessarily the worst I’ve ever played, I’d never recommend that anyone should give it a purchase. Even die-hard Nickelodeon fans are going to want to avoid this one.
Developer: Bamtang Games
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment, Maximum Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One