Nintendo has perfected the Kart Racing genre with their Mario Kart series, and there have been many attempts by others to emulate their quality and success, but the only one that perhaps came close was Crash Team Racing by Naughty Dog. Despite all these years, it is hard to find a Kart Racing game as well made as Mario Kart and this doesn’t look to change with Nickelodeon Kart Racers. If you were hoping to experience an enjoyable game here, I have some bad news for you.
Nickelodeon Kart Races – in simple words – is a licensed cash grab. Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of it that I have seen this generation. Licensed games can’t consistently be that bad. There are some recent examples like the Adventure Time game, where it shows that if you actually manage to design a licensed game around its main appeal, it will be fun and successful. This is sadly not the case for Nickelodeon Kart Racers. This game doesn’t even come close to the PS1 Kart Racing game that was also based on Nickelodeon TV Shows.
So what exactly is wrong with Nickelodeon Kart Racers? The answer is everything. Yes, it is a terrible example of how to not do a Kart Racer. Just by emulating the formula of other successful games, one shouldn’t expect to get the same result. As a Kart Racing game, the first thing that you will notice once you boot it is the main menu. The design actually made me think this originated as a mobile game because it is completely bland and looks uninspired. The deeper you dig into the game, the more it becomes clear that there was not much attempt made here to create a modern Kart Racing experience.
It has all your standard Kart Racing moves. You can dash with a button by accumulating slime, you can drift around corners, and you can find shortcuts or boxes to gather items. These items don’t offer much innovation, in fact, most of them feel like they ripped off Mario Kart e.g. the pirate ship from SpongeBob that emulates the same effect as Bullet Bill or the cookies that act as mushrooms giving you speed boost. It is the lack of innovation that ruins the game badly here, and it merely feels like you are driving a lifeless husk of your favorite characters from Nickelodeon.
The single-player portion offered here will give you the illusion that there is an adequate amount of content, but it is essentially shallow once you discover the lackluster quality of the tracks. You can attempt a set of tournament cups with two choices of either playing alone or in a team. As you progress further in the cups, they start to divert into the same old content trying to pass them off as something new. Track selection itself is pretty average and their design is hardly exciting for you to replay them again. The layout of the tracks resembles scenes from TV Shows like Hey Arnold! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Rugrats. The total number of tracks shown in the game is 24, but most of them repeat assets so there is nothing unique about them.
The enemy AI is absolutely terrible even on the hardest difficulty setting. There is no sense of challenge here unless you can find a competent partner to play the game in a split-screen co-op. This is the only saving grace of this game, which lacks any meaningful single-player content. The character selection was my biggest disappointment. Perhaps licensing limitation was the issue, but you have barely any choice with the characters from your favorite TV Shows lacking any representation. There are total 12 characters to pick for a race, but most of them feel like skins of each other than offering different ways to control them.
The game never feels technically polished enough, and bugs can hinder you progress frequently. The handling of the vehicles is not that great with a lack of friction on tires, so it doesn’t even feel like you are driving a kart on a track. Visually, it looks like a relic of the past with the dated art style that tries to stay true to look of the animated shows. Even the audio quality for the tracks or karts fails to convey any favorable impression. Each racer can repeat a distinct set of catchphrases that continue to remind you that you are not precisely controlling clones but different characters.
The lack of character representation continues being an issue, however, it could be sidelined if there was more effort in making them control differently. One aspect in this regard makes it seem like the developers did think about it. Each playable racer can use a unique item power-up which suits their personality. These items that you can find by picking the collectibles in every track can give them their own unique powers.
In my opinion, Nickelodeon Kart Racers had potential with the way it targeted the nostalgia of kids from the 90s who are likely adults now. It has altogether failed to capitalize on it in any meaningful way. The limited number of franchise represented here is disappointing enough, but the lack of quality gameplay and presentation is a bigger issue. Unfortunately, the ship has already sailed here, so I doubt we can see a sequel or a good Kart Racing game based on Nickelodeon TV Shows for a while.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Nickelodeon Kart Racers is a Nickelodeon crossover racing video game developed by Peruvian studio, Bamtang and published by GameMill Entertainment in the North American release and Maximum Games in the European release. The game was released on October 23, 2018 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Final Score - 4/10
Nickelodeon Kart Racers is a game trying hard to stay stuck in the past. It is merely using the Nickelodeon name as a promotional tool, offering a shallow karting game underneath it. The lack of licensed characters, terrible tracks, and average gameplay doesn't help it stand out among the countless other Kart Racing clones.