DSiWare | Big John Games | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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28th September 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Conceptually, Kart Krashers pulls from, not bumper cars or circuit racing, but platforming as its core point of reference; its name thus stems from the demolishing of stage props and the gathering of collectibles, rather than conflicts over vehicle-to-vehicle collisions. Measures have been taken so that many of the elements players can interact with are more stationary in nature. Within each space, you'll find a limited assortment of coloured stars and gold rings that you can drive through to contribute to a total score. Applying a layer of pace to the simple premise, you can grow a multiplier that will gradually wane if you don't continue supporting it by, if not collecting, then by crashing into props and knocking out enemies. Giving these mechanics a home through an arena-style setup, the game will see players visiting ten different locations so they can get to the bottom of some mysterious circumstances surrounding the in-game championship. Far be it for the game to present anything in the way of intrigue, the attempt to try and unify its available drivers and settings together in this way is met with weak and fairly uninteresting execution. And because there's an intended focus there, it's not something that can be completely excused.
Nevertheless, coverage of each world will involve three events of near-identical setup whereby you must aim for score conditions that will net Golden Wheels. In addition to a speed indicator and a health bar, the Touch Screen puts such conditions on display so you know what you're working towards. However, I'm not sure why both this and the star count weren't fixed to the top screen HUD instead for better clarity. To press for an all-encompassing design, the only changes in layout you'll witness across events in the same world will be with the item arrangements and maybe a few new obstacles. The sorts of obstacles to be encountered will differ depending on the location, but these can include zombies, flying saucers, as well as metallic robots. Generally these aren't anything to get worked up over as your main goal of collecting is well-protected from any sort of ongoing struggle; as for immediate hurdles, that's a whole other topic of discussion -- one that I won't delve into quite yet. Assisting you in your process are a series of items that can, for example, wrap your vehicle in an invincibility shield, give it a boost of speed, or temporarily attract nearby collectibles by way of magnetization. Aside from the rather odd broom power-up, these elements are pretty ordinary, but that's not really a problem in itself considering the nature of the game.
In all fairness, Kart Krashers does run with its collect-a-thon theme without deviating in error or creating confusion, yet its roots and even its connecting elements aren't anything to be drawn in by when viewed in separation. Although it cites having elements of action, there's not much of that actually coming to the forefront; what's emphasized far more is, again, the collection component, mostly to an unchanging degree. For the sake of added perspective, consider that most traditional racing games have a circuit-based setup to make up the basic orientation of the package, while supplementary battle and/or mission modes break up the pace. Kart Krashers mostly does away with having a kart racing element and becomes what could be described as an extended mission mode. And it's not that you're doing so for the benefit of earning upgrades to improve your chances out on the track; for all intents and purposes, this is the "track." One might quickly conclude, then, that such circumstances would only lead to repetition, but it's not something that's ruinous to the fun factor. That, sadly, is accomplished through other methods that are by far much more aggravating.
From a design standpoint, the lack of definition in areas causes both the surface and underlying structure to take a nosedive, unwittingly offsetting the most remote amounts of enjoyment. Until now, I've refrained from discussing the game's functionality, only because it better relates to the point I just brought up. Truthfully, Kart Krashers' controls are a bit sloppy on their own, but it must be said that persons who purchase this game for their 3DS will have to contend with an even more disadvantaged state. The control issues are that much worse with the Circle Pad, to the point that I'd even describe them as horrid more than 50% of the time. Just to go into detail: A third of the available drivers don't have good handling and their performance is too inconsistent to be considered reliable. Some vehicles spin out very easily -- so easily, in fact, that you won't even see a need for the otherwise useful hand brake -- while others control rather imprecisely when traveling at faster speeds. The way I see it, saying that cars have unique stats isn't an excuse for a lack of refinement. The grip isn't all there, and to be clear, these problems aren't completely corrected by a change in button input.
In terms of the environment layouts, they're often either good or relatively average, but never are they badly-designed. In fact, some -- like The Mall and CityScape -- are quite likeable. It's the elements found within (and even the design in some cases) that don't reflect a level of prudence. Once again, the game uses arenas for players to carry out their objectives, and initially this comes out with the presentation of open-spaced environments. Even with some of the later levels leading up to the final map, this openness is still apparent. But in connection with the way these stages in particular are laid out, there's little discernible organization to the item placement. With items often being scattered about, this helps make gameplay less straightforward and appropriately opens up the possibility of having different path exploration possibilities, especially in connection with building to a high multiplier. The way they're sometimes carelessly strewn about only further drives the loose nature of the game, though, and that's not something everyone will be pleased with. I do think that the more you get into it, the more said looseness will be seen as less of a negative trait.
Going back to the two locations mentioned above (though they're not the only examples of this), whenever the setting is more directed -- which is to say that there are set paths to be followed -- things feel more comfortable and organized despite not being completely structured. Unless, of course, you're using one of the faster drivers, in which case you'll be spending a good portion of your time crashing -- and not the kind the developers want you to be involved in, either. Even in these situations, however, there are cases where certain manifestations don't make a great deal of sense.
One common issue with the level designs is that even when you're reasonably close to an edge, you'll often end up falling over the side. The way it all transpires is as if there's a gravitational force pulling you in that direction, as evidenced by these results taking place even while advancing at a slow speed. Keep in mind the control issues spoken about earlier and you can see how many stumbles would take place over the span of an event. Because your success is so dictated by the continuous collection of the mid-level elements, it behooves the system to adhere to a trustworthy standard. Sad to say, one of the only things you can count on is how consistently incompatible the game is with that very notion. It's not that the system is completely unmanageable, but it does fight you to what seems like little end with the impulsive goal of diverting your attention to the faulty technical aspects.
One implemented feature is the ability to flip your kart by pressing the Y Button, and after seeing for myself the wealth of times players will be forced to make use of this, I can see why they felt they had to include this as a manual setting. The amount of times your kart will be turned on its side or overturned completely is just ridiculous, but this worsens as you observe how frequently your kart will spin out of control in the air. Often this is a result of a number of things, from simply using the provided turbo boosts, to dealing with the control issues mentioned earlier. What complicates things even further is when turrets or helicopters have a constant presence throughout a mission. These will either launch homing missiles or drop bombs, respectively, and these only serve to compound the existing annoyances. Again, this is where there is a need for the manual "reset," but even the execution of this element is very unreliable. It's not uncommon to have to flip your kart five or more times just to get back on all four wheels, and that's after having done a fair share of aerial rolls. In other cases, no sooner do you land on your feet that another missile (or tornado, or tractor beam) comes and starts the annoying process all over again.
As if the situation wasn't already somewhat off-putting, the physics aren't very sound either. When going off ramps, instead of gliding naturally, vehicles quickly plummet to the ground. Also, the elevation triggered when using a turbo is rather inconsistent and makes shooting for platforms off in the distance particularly trying. So combine both these together, and you can see how this creates problems whenever you have gaps to be crossed. I'm also not sure how bumping into an enemy somehow makes my car flip over entirely when I'm not even at full speed. Clearly, then, it's not only in the matter of control that Kart Krashers demonstrates wishy-washy execution. With many of the mistakes made being beyond the player's control, the frequent slips have such a damaging effect, both on the game's effectiveness, and how players will receive what's been presented.
Not to beat a dead horse but if there's one thing that Kart Krashers is consistent with, it's the framerate. With very few exceptions, the game tracks quite well in this area. While the art and menu layouts may be unimpressive to some, the visuals, set pieces, and animations are pleasing enough and have enough colour to them that I don't think the average person will view the entire package in such a negative light. But it's hard to say, seeing that the technical flaws take center stage and distract to the degree that they do. I did encounter two glitches in my playthrough of the game, but they paled in comparison to the other problems that plague this game. And just as one final point: The game's music is also really flat, but the volume of the sound effects coming from your vehicle and the elements you interact with mean that you won't have to ponder too much over it.
I'm willing to allow for the fact that some (not all) of the control issues are more reserved for 3DS owners, and ordinarily, that might otherwise make the formula still worth exploring. But what prevents me from recommending this game is the other problems that are the result of design or programming faults, and that's not something you can blame on a control mechanism. Despite having achieved a sense of pace and presenting a few instances of good design, Kart Krashers is not an especially well-made game. The assorted flaws hamper a semblance of flow, fun factor, and ultimately the long-term success of the concept. With issues that are disruptive both in effect and frequency, caution should be exercised when weighing whether or not to invest in what is a flawed formula.
19/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Decent design with a good pace, loose execution isn't always for the good, physics aren't sound, variable control and programming issues
Presentation 6/10 - Some aspects like the music aren't all that pleasing, good visuals and framerate, a nice mix of environments, weak story
Enjoyment 3/5 - Some may find it repetitive but the structure has merit, fun to build up the multiplier, problems are manageable but minimize the fun
Extra Content 4/5 - Going through all ten locations will last you a few hours, scoring conditions for Golden Wheels are reasonable and balanced
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System