Nickelodeon Kart Racers (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 21.11.2018

Review for Nickelodeon Kart Racers on PlayStation 4

Since the birth of the genre, kart racers have been a popular choice for crossover projects that tie in many characters from different universes. It's a simple and straightforward format, requiring little to no setup, and people inherently 'get' them. Unsurprisingly, then, Nickelodeon has been down this path many times before, starting in the early 2000s, with Nicktoons Racing for the Game Boy Color, PSone, and GBA. That was hardly Super Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing, but it was stellar enough, with a cast ranging from Eliza Thornberry to CatDog. This was followed by Nicktoons Winners Cup Racing, and Nicktoons Nitro, which served its young audience well enough, and perhaps those with a nostalgic itch, too. Care must be taken, though, because these projects are often nothing more than lazy tie-ins that take advantage of parents and children alike. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon Kart Racers falls under this frivolous latter category.

Nickelodeon Kart Racers is developed by Bamtang Games, a developer studio based in Peru. It is not exactly a household name, but does have some previous experience handling children's shows and franchises, having developed Saban's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle for PS4 and Xbox One. It is also responsible for the browser-based Thor Boss Battles. Unfortunately, however, its latest project is an uninspiring and downright lazy affair. It's not difficult to make an average kart racer, with so much reference material, and that was probably all that was expected of Bamtang. Despite this, Nickelodeon Kart Racers falls spectacularly wide of the mark. Even considering its £30 price-point, it plays like a toy that fell out a cereal box. It's lightweight, skimps on all the features, and cuts far too many corners. Unfortunately, such is the popularity of these Nickelodeon shows, the title will probably still sustain itself. However, savvier parents will do well to sit their child in front of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, instead.

Screenshot for Nickelodeon Kart Racers on PlayStation 4

Why? Well, for one thing, Nickelodeon Kart Racers fails to take proper advantage of the franchises it represents. The cast of racers is surprisingly slim, only featuring characters from the currently relevant Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and SpongeBob SquarePants. All three of the previous kart racers from this series had a better range of characters, which makes this current roster unacceptably lazy and disappointing. The likes of Ren & Stimpy, Norbet and Dagget from The Angry Beavers, and Ickis from Aaahh!! Real Monsters, are nowhere to be seen. While, granted, these shows are no longer in the consciousness of young Nickelodeon fans today, there's just no excuse for such a limited selection of racers considering the wealth of possibilities. There were many other modern Nickelodeon shows that could have been dipped into. The inclusion of characters from shows from times past, too, would have provided more incentive for adults to join in the action with the younger players.

Almost everything about the game screams mediocrity and seems low budget. Although the selection of courses, from Bikini Bottom to Arnold's school, fit nicely within the universe of each respective franchise, the atmosphere and the gameplay itself are surprisingly devoid of life and excitement. One major reason for this is the lack of character voices. Players won't ever hear SpongeBob's trademark cackling or a familiar quip or two from Arnold because there's no recorded character dialogue. Instead, players get annoying speech bubbles that pop up on-screen mid-race. The omission of audio dialogue is a very bizarre decision, considering half the life of these characters resides within their voices. Not including any voice acting was always going to hurt the game's quality. Sticking in the audio domain, the music is incredibly irritating and cheap. It doesn't take advantage of any recognisable tunes from the shows, and instead seems like it was derived from something for the PSone.

Screenshot for Nickelodeon Kart Racers on PlayStation 4

Then there are the graphics and presentation, which are very lacklustre. It can be difficult to capture the aesthetic nuances of characters from different franchises, but nobody looks quite right in Nickelodeon Kart Racers. They all exhibit a plastic-like textural quality, and lack a lot of animation details that could have brought them to life in a more convincing manner. Overall, the visual quality is just quite basic and bland. It's up to the standards expected of a smartphone affair, but not really that of a console title in 2018. Don't misunderstand - it is eye-popping enough to keep young children's attention; however, likewise, it's also not as slick or pronounced in character as it ought to be. Considering the vibrant art styles of these shows, the efforts put into this department are underwhelming, at best. Compared to the likes of Mario Kart 8, it's decidedly last generation. It appears that visual quality simply wasn't a major concern during development.

The gameplay itself is nothing special, either. Most Mario Kart and Sonic & All Stars Racing knock-offs attempt to do something different, but Nickelodeon Kart Racers just borrows elements from here and there, accomplishing very little with any respective element. Vehicles morph into flying machines and hovercrafts, in the vein of Mario Kart 8 and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but the implementation of this is uninspired. The handling of these vehicle types is also very floaty and both could feel more distinct in handling. Some courses do change from lap to lap, with track hazards to contend with, too, but none of this produces anything out of the ordinary. There are also items to cause mischief with, although, somehow, they fail to provide a proper layer of strategy, compared to their function in more coherent kart racing experiences. Elsewhere, there are a great many kart upgrades and special customisations, but they don't provide enough of an incentive to persevere through such a generally forgettable experience.

Screenshot for Nickelodeon Kart Racers on PlayStation 4

Unsurprisingly, the best element of Nickelodeon Kart Racers is its four-player split-screen. In the company of friends and family, the racer at least has the potential to be a more energetic experience. Whilst playing local multiplayer, it's at least temporarily possible to forget about the many shortcomings. It's a setup that brings its own charm, after all. There's also a battle mode, which is exactly what you would expect, but at least shakes up the standard formula a little. It's just a shame that whilst the younger audience might experience some thrills within the multiplayer modes, anyone who knows a proper kart racing series will be asking themselves why they are not playing Mario Kart (or countless others) instead. Granted, the PS4 and Xbox One do lack an AAA kart racer currently; however, indie titles like Cel Damage HD or Bears Can't Drift!? - which are a fraction of the price of this full physical release - are far more deserving of the attention.

Screenshot for Nickelodeon Kart Racers on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

It's hard not to have strong feelings about the laziness of Nickelodeon Kart Racers. The cynic might suggest that Bamtang Games and publisher Maximum Games were never all that bothered about producing something of quality to begin with, so long as the title could still cash in on the lucrative Nickelodeon licence. This is a crying shame, and not just because the PS4 and Xbox One currently lack a Triple-A kart racer. Since the title doesn't even attempt to hide its shortcomings, it feels like its creators are perhaps aware that parents might not read up on the title's shortcomings before purchasing it for their child, safe in the knowledge that it's a recognisable brand. That, if true, is something to really take issue with. Thankfully, the world is full of people with a conscience, who will deter folk from this monstrosity and tell them to go play Mario Kart instead.

Developer

BamTang Games

Publisher

Maximum Games

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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