Today I learnt 3 things. 1). Bibi Blocksberg is a thing that exists. 2). There’s been 2 previous broomstick racing games featuring Bibi Blocksberg that were successful enough to warrant a third and 3). This will be the first and last game in the series I play. Bibi Blocksberg: Big Broom Race 3 is one of the poorest kart racers on modern day consoles and will only appeal if you’re a huge fan of the source material.
Never heard of Bibi Blocksberg before? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Originally a German children’s audio drama series that started out in 1980, the titular girl Bibi is a witch who gets into all kids of trouble with her friends and normally has to be bailed out by her magical mother. A huge success in Germany, the drama spawned 6 animated movies and a long running TV show, some of which has been dubbed in English and can be found on streaming services in the UK. There’s a number of games available in Germany featuring Bibi and her best friend Tina but Bibi Blocksberg: Big Broom Race 3 is the first for home consoles, hitting Switch and PS4 back in October.
In Bibi Blocksberg: Big Broom Race 3, the witch crew are bored and looking for something to do, so they decide to have a broomstick race. The plot to the game, as paper thin as it is, is presented through comic book strips shown on screen. Rather than race in their own time and space though, Bibi tells her friends that they’re going to some places she has visited before – A Transylvanian monster spot, an oriental city and back through time to the time of the Dinosaurs.
From here on out, Big Broom Race 3 is a by the numbers racer that uses all of the kart tropes that you’d find in any other entry in the genre to create an uninspired, rough and feature poor game. The target of each race – no matter the game mode – is to pass the finish line first and to do so, you can earn boosts by drifting around corners or tailing others and fire off potions to slow down your fellow witches.
There are 14 race tracks in this game – 4 for each of the game zones and 2 bonus races – each of which have their own theme. There’s a haunted castle themed level in Translyvannia, an Aladdin-esque bazzar in the Oriental city and a lava race course in the pre-historic past. They’re all colourful and in-keeping with their core concept, some of which boasting short cuts and branching courses in their laps.
While the track side visuals are on point in Bibi Blocksberg: Big Broom Race 3, the track design itself leaves much to be desired. All the tracks have an invisible wall around the outside of them, a real game design relic from the past, that you’ll snag on and bump against when cornering. This is most noticeable when the invisible wall doesn’t match up with floor textures that visually represent the track to the eye – expecting to cut of a little of the corner only to run into an opaque wall is jarring. This is exasperated by a total lack of collision detection in the game – with game walls or other racers – that’ll having you juddering against things as you compete for the space. Elsewhere, there are moments when the track design is betrayed by its desire to be visually appealing – While the majority of racing is done hovering just above the ground, it occasionally takes the racing up and over things which is never indicated, leaving you looking for a way forward. Lastly, there’s one track that contains a sandstorm that takes away your control over your racer during the mid portion of a lap then randomly spits you out. Head into the sandstorm in 1st position and you could end up dead last by the time you’re out of it. For a racing game, this randomisation removes any competitiveness so no matter how fast you are, you could still end placing near the back of the pack.
Then there’s the frame rate. While it’s stable on some race tracks, it’s atrocious on others. When the screen gets busy, the rate slows down to single digits at times. When you combine these frame rate issues with a general juddering to the racing as the broomsticks seem to clack and snag along the ground, especially when on high slopes or loop the loops, and a tonne of pop in from track-side objects, it becomes a visual monstrosity.
As for game modes, Bibi Blocksberg: Big Broom Race 3 comes complete with single and local split-screen multiplayer options with 3 game modes, but no online play. For a quick blast of play, you can pick a single track from the roster, choose your witch (of which there are 8) and your broom (each of which has their own stats and strengths) and away you go. For longer sessions you have the rally mode, which is a small tournament that lets you complete on all 4 races from a selected zone, the winner the witch with the most points after all 4 races. Lastly, we have team race where the 8 witches are split into 2 teams of 4 and are awarded points based on their finishing position. The issue with Team Race’s however, is that you’re only shown who is on each team once before the race. When racing, it’s impossible to tell if the witch ahead of you is on your team or not. While there’s no friendly fire with spells or potions, the spells peter out if fired at a team mate, making them a waste.
The one aspect of Big Broom Race 3 that’s unforgivable is the audio. Each and every one of the broom sticks give off a whistling sound that grows in volume and intensity as you speed up. Imagine sitting with a boiling kettle next to you while playing a game. That’s exactly what it feels like to play this game. This is joined by a soundtrack that’s little more than 5 notes repeated throughout.
Unless you’re a big fan of Bibi Blocksberg, there’s very little in Big Broom Race 3 that’ll appeal to you. There’s some stand out moments in its 14 race tracks – racing on the ceiling in the Transylvanian hotel or flying over a waterfall in pre-historic times the most memorable – but these are surrounded by a plethora of technical issues, uninspired or abrasive track design and audio that’ll give you a migraine. Far from bewitching, Big Broom Race 3 is one of the poorest racers on PS4.
Bibi Blocksberg: Big Broom Race 3 is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4 (review version) and PC.
Developer: Independent Arts Software
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. Please see our review policy for more information.