Nickelodeon Kart Racers: review

The best thing about this game bringing together characters from SpongeBob, Rugrats, Ninja Turtles, and Hey Arnold is – arguably – that it seems to demonstrate they all live in the same universe. This is Nickelodeon’s equivalent of the MCU. This is Nickelodeon: Infinity War.

Rather than some sort of violent battleground, though, this is a kart racer (clue’s in the name). You know the deal. Brightly-coloured tracks, weapon pickups that tend to function in a way a certain moustachioed plumber would be familiar with… a kart racer. Credit where it’s very much due though, the fundamentals have been handled very well, and there are even a few attempts to do something different.

There are three speed classes (the lowest painfully slow for older gamers), which all share the same tracks and cups. Nickelodeon’s trademark slime plays a part in them all, as this is how you fill your boost meter. Drive through patches (or, sometimes, lakes) of slime to build up the meter, then hit the button to use up whatever you’ve collected in one shot. The handling is surprisingly good, and the highest speed is decent without being overwhelming for most of the intended younger audience. Combine all this with shortcuts and drifting – and, indeed, drift boosting – and the basic racing foundations are extremely solid. There doesn’t even appear to be rubberbanding!

Not sure we remember SpongeBob driving this in the cartoon…

In addition to the standard racing, there are two other race types. One is an elimination mode, where after a while the person in last place drops out every so often (but, with limited laps, at least half the racers will finish). The other employs a sort of checkpoint system, whereby if a racer passes too many arrow signs on the wrong side, they’re out. It’s a shame that there’s no customisation in terms of deciding which race type applies to which track, but this is a game with bigger problems to worry about.

Let’s take a closer look at the use of the Nickelodeon licence which, let’s face it, is the main appeal for pretty much anybody of any age likely to play this. Quite besides the fact that we’re a little distressed our beloved Ninja Turtles are present in their most kindergarten-friendly form (we like to pretend Donatello’s missing tooth is the result of a particularly brutal encounter with the evil Shredder), the roster is really rather disappointing. Not only are just four franchises represented, they only provide a total of twelve characters, four of which are the aforementioned beshelled heroes. Each character model is great, and looks exactly as it should. The problem is, look elsewhere, and the game immediately begins to struggle to represent the shows.

Firstly – an apparently small thing, but one likely to irk fans – there is no speech in this game at all. Not even any samples from the shows, let alone original dialogue by the voice actors. There’s no recognisable music either, just tunes that somehow manage to be simultaneously atrocious and instantly forgettable. Although there are unlockable skins, supposedly Nickelodeon-show-themed, they do nothing to brighten up the generic and distinctly un-Nickelodeony karts. Then, there are the tracks.

Tommy vs Angelica. Like Iron Man vs Thanos. Or something.

Each track is well designed, if unambitious. With no shortage of kart racers in the world, the issue is that these tracks rarely reflect the shows they’re supposed to be based on. The Rugrats ones do OK by throwing a few Reptars and Cynthias around, but the Ninja Turtle ones in particular could quite easily be dropped into any other cartoony racer without giving away the associated licence.

The inclusion of local split-screen multiplayer for up to four players is great – there’s even a multiplayer-only battle mode – but there’s no online play, sadly. The bottom line is, this is a solid kart racer with only very limited use of the Nickelodeon licensing.

If you and your kids will be satisfied with a racer that just happens to include the likes of Patrick Star and Tommy Pickles as playable characters, then pick this up; you’ll get a lot of fun out of it. If you’re expecting something more, give it a miss. Despite what we said at the beginning of the review, this isn’t Nickelodeon: Infinity War; it’s Nickelodeon: Justice League.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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