In the years since Crash Team Racing, we haven’t seen too many Kart Racers on PlayStation platforms. With a licence attached that’s steeped in nostalgia, can Nickelodeon Kart Racer compete?
Right off the bat, the game looks unmistakably cheap – looking like a relic of the PlayStation 3 era. While I wouldn’t describe it as a bad looking game, the colours look oversaturated and the game in general looks a little blurry, lacking in any real detail. Even with this, it’s possible to make out details constantly popping in throughout each race.
Do you remember Cat-Dog or Ren and Stimpy on Nickelodeon? With such a strong stable of recognisable characters, you’d expect them to have some recognisable tracks, but not in Kart Racers. Despite offering an impressive twenty-four tracks, they are all themed around the four franchises that appear in the game; Hey Arnold, TMNT, Rugrats and Spongebob Squarepants. This lack of differentiation means tracks resemble each other too closely, something disappointing given the licence’s colourful, interesting and diverse characters. It feels wasteful of a licence that seems a perfect fit for the unique brand of slapstick racing that Karting games provide, and the green slime found throughout each track does nothing to mitigate the “been there, done that” mentality that creeps in after a couple of hours of play.
This extends to audio, where even the themes of each individual property are curiously absent, while racers rarely react audibly to what’s going on around them. The addition of soundbites here could have injected some personality into the action. Their absence, along with the aforementioned lack of diversity makes the game feel almost like a fan-made project – as if the licence was just out of reach.
The racing action in Nickelodeon Kart Racers is (as is to be expected), focused on drifting, weapons and shortcuts. Drifting feels good and weapons are varied (whilst arguably fitting into genre conventions). While AI rubberbanding exists to ensure races always feel at least somewhat tense, being overtaken at the last second having led a race can feel cheap when there isn’t a reason for it.
As a fan of Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing, I had hoped for better. My son seemed to enjoy it, so it’s probably more suited to kids, but a lack of reverence for the licence and a meagre content offering mean you’re better off looking elsewhere for a fun, arcade-style racer.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*