Nickelodeon Kart Racers is a game I definitely wanted to give a go. I’m rather fond of a license game of any kind, purely because I know exactly what I’m getting. The majority of the time I’m acutely aware I’m not going to have my head blown off by its magnificence (Arkham, Spidey PS4 being very rare exceptions) but come away happy that I’ve got through a fun game that wasn’t ever trying to be anything more than the sum of its parts. The featured characters, the slime and the very name of Nickelodeon was enough to peak my interest, even if I was perhaps a couple years too old to really appreciate them in their golden age.
Still, despite the ‘hey, whatever, I know what it is’ kind of attitude I take with games such as this, NKR is still a demonstrably poor attempt to bring all of their greatest assets together to take on the heroes of the kart racing genre.
The racer features twelve of the classic characters we’ve come to know from Nickelodeon, namely Spongebob’s crew, Hey Arnold, Rugrats and TMNT are all represented here, but that’s it. The twelve characters included are the twelve you’re stuck with throughout the game and if that doesn’t make you feel a little shortchanged I’m not entirely sure what will. The sheer vastness of the companies history suggests they could have pulled from many different shows that for some reason didn’t make the cut. No Rocko’s Modern Life? Wild Thornberry’s? Jimmy Neutron? The Fairly Odd Parents? Danny Phantom? CATDOG? You could argue that they’ve only pulled from the most successful franchises, but it’s difficult not to sneer a tad at how little developer Bamtang Games have delved into the archive. Perhaps it was just selecting shows that are still relevant to a younger audience?
Either way, it’s not the only aspect of the game that’s been scrimped on. Taking the blueprints of damn near every kart racer you can imagine and then throwing Nickelodeon stuff on it seems to be the order of the day here. You can boost when pulling off a neat drift, there are a multitude of items selected from various cartoons you can use as either defence or offence, shortcuts and track boosts. It’s all so laughably generic, with so little to make it stand out from the crowd. Releasing this on Switch in particular is rather odd, considering the competition.
NKR does a fair bit but none of it well or noteworthy. The tutorial which ties the first few races together fails to tell you about certain aspects that would be handy to know from the off (I had to jump into the controller page to discover I could even drift at all). It’s probably obvious but I wasn’t prompted how to accelerate before the race began. Again, the game works, it’s all functional, it’s just not surprising, not thoughtful or with a single unique idea of its own. Except for maybe one.
Boosting your car is done by collecting slime, something Nickelodeon is very much associated with so…tick? Still, it’s fair to say that the slime is very much on show here. Whether it be spread across a track to collect and boost on, whether the track is nothing but slime and used as an alternative to water levels (persistent boosting is bonus in these levels for this reason) and when you win a race, you get dunked. I appreciated the effort gone to celebrate this particular aspect of Nickelodeon culture, it’s quite literally all over the presentation of the game much like the slime itself has been dunked upon it.
In terms of the presentation, the menus are really quite dull to look at, with the tracks themselves the saving grace in this particular area. When I was streaming the game earlier this week I noticed that the design got significantly better as the game progressed, designed to match their character counterparts in a very ‘kart racer’ kind of way. There’s certainly been a strong effort to bring these worlds to life (particularly the Spongebob tracks, which pushes the series’ unique visual style) and I don’t really have much bad to say about them. The hardcore fans of these shows should get a decent kick out of them.
It’s difficult to recommend Nickelodeon Kart Racers then, especially to Switch owners. Whilst you may think it’s the core audience this game is aimed at, unfortunately they have vastly (and I mean vastly) superior alternatives that will live in the memory long after this one has been forgotten. It’s not completely awful, there’s just so little here that has any kind of spark.
It’s a kart racer, that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less and let’s be honest, these characters deserve far, far better than this.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro) and Xbox One.
Developer: Bamtang Games
Publishers: Maximum Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publishers. For our full review policy, please go here.