For many consumers of 90s-era cartoon shows, it’s hard to top Nickelodeon and its menagerie of iconic properties. Classics like Rugrats and Spongebob Squarepants evoke strong feelings of nostalgia for a number of people, but this means that companies are then able to leverage those rose-tinted brands for quick profits.
Keeping that in mind, Nickelodeon Kart Racers is now here.
Sporting 12 racers hailing from the two aforementioned Nick cartoons, as well as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hey Arnold!, gamers will be stunned to learn that’s the extent of the brands at play. Seriously, they’ve opted to forego any other characters and stick to a very mediocre selection of racers – presumably in order to both rush the game out and stay within the confines of a smaller budget.
There’s no Rocko’s Modern Life protagonist hidden behind a challenge. No Ren and/or Stimpy tucked away in the game’s shop. Not a single Doug is present to be funny with. Heck, they don’t even have Chuckie Finster to star alongside playable Rugrats mainstays like Tommy, Angelica, and Reptar. Given the depth of this brand, failing to go beyond 12 playable racers (three of which are just re-skins since all four Ninja Turtles are playable) is disappointing to say the least.
While the initial roster is lacking, I was willing to give the title the benefit of the doubt. After all, it is budgeted software that rings in at $39.99 CAD, so it probably won’t ever come equipped with all of the window dressings of a full-priced retail game. Of course, that was before I entered one of the first cups present within the game and realized that the lack of content ran much deeper than who I could race as.
Not only do these track leave something to be desired from a numbers standpoint, but they all feel so similar that it’s difficult to even tell which franchise any given track belongs to at times. It’s as if the concept art that initially made the title so visually appealing for fans (and is still present within the marketing and branding materials surrounding the title) was lost in the transition when it came time to actually implement it into the game.
To the credit of the developers, they do try to add to the longevity of Nickelodeon Kart Racers by featuring unlockable kart parts and paint jobs from an in-game store – the key word here is “try.” There’s even a levelling system that is built into the main game that allows players to work towards unlocking things via a ‘Victory Lap’ rather than spend the coins they pick up during each race. Ultimately, these aspects aren’t enough to broaden the scope of the experience, but they do provide players with objectives outside of 3-starring each cup.
The only issue with the inclusion of unlockables is that you then have to actually play more of the game to get them. With characters and tracks failing to provide consumers with a bang for their buck, the gameplay itself was always going to fall in line behind the two. Trying to mirror the success of Mario Kart 8 and its trifecta of land, air, and water transportation methods, NKR never really commits to thriving in either of the three methods of transportation. Even the weapons feel inconsequential in their design, sometimes only slightly slowing down an opponent by making them spin (momentum intact) rather than setting them back in the race.
Add in the lack of any voiceover work from any actors which then leads to awkward chat bubbles that appear on the screen during each bout, and it’s evident that the finished product lacks any bit of polish necessary to immerse Nickelodeon aficionados in the crossover-centric world on display here. Had Nickelodeon Kart Racers launched in the 90s then perhaps some of this could be forgiven, but in 2018 gamers deserve a lot more than what they’ll get here.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers is currently available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One. A code for the game on Nintendo Switch was provided to Okay, Cool for coverage purposes.
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