It’s an interesting challenge, trying to review a game when you’re 30 years older than the target demographic. There’s elements of Paw Patrol: Grand Prix, the latest tie-in game from Outright Games and developers 3DClouds, that I would heavily criticise if I found them in the latest Need For Speed or WRC game. Rubber banding, for example, or ‘bouncy’ invisible walls around the track. Here though, they’re intentional. And for good reason.
It takes a great deal of insight from a game developer to create a game that can be played and enjoyed by parents and their children alike. Having spent the best part of a week racing against my brood of kids as Chase, Rubble, Rex and the rest of the Paw Patrol, I can say with certainty that this game displays a lot of that insight. My youngest kids – 4 and 6 – have been having a blast. While the older ones will deny having fun with Paw Patrol: Grand Prix (Far too cool to admit such a thing), they are betrayed by their smiles and laughs while on it.
The Kart-astrophe Crew?
Paw Patrol: Grand Prix is a kart racer in the same vein as Mario Kart and Blaze & The Monster Machines only set in familiar Paw Patrol locations. The aim of each race, as you might expect, is to cross the line before anyone else behind the wheel of your chosen Pup’s vehicle. You’ll speed around the track for a few laps before crossing the finishing line.
Akin to most of the games in this genre, you’ll be able to use tools and projectiles to help you get an advantage over the rest of the field. These are primarily (almost) random pick-ups in the shape of Paw Patrol badges that are strategically placed around the track. Run into one of these badges and you’ll be granted a tool/power-up/projectile.
These tools can be used to slow down your opponents or speed yourself up, depending on what you’re given. One power-up gives you a boost that’ll propel you forward quickly. Another slows down all of the other Paw Patrol members in your vicinity. One of these tools fires a blueberry pie onto the track and will slow people down who drive through it. There’s even a Blue Shell (from Mario) like power which will slow down the race leader.
No Pup Is Too Small…
While the pick-up powers are your main source of offense in Paw Patrol: Grand Prix, each racers also has their own signature ability too. These can be activated after you’ve eaten enough Pup Treats that littler the race tracks. Each one eaten fills a gauge and once it’s full, your ability will unlock.
These abilities are unique to each racer and lean into the speciality and personality of the characters. For Example, when Rubble has filled up on Pup Treats, he can use his excavator to dump a big boulder on the track behind him. Zuma can leave a trail of water in his wake to slip people up. Ryder wraps himself in an invulnerable shield. The special ability of each racer will have a mild influence on how you race with each of them. Most of these powers are really fun developments of the Paw Patrol skills.
It’s a shame that the same creativity doesn’t extend as far as the race tracks. Don’t get me wrong, the tracks that are here are fun tours of 3 iconic Paw Patrol locations – The streets of Adventure Bay, the snow kissed lanes of Jake’s Snowboarding Resort and winding roads in The Jungle. There’s 4-5 race courses at each location (13 total) which can be played at either day or night, which is nothing to sniff at. Personally, I think it’s a shame that Paw Patrol: Grand Prix doesn’t take the opportunity to feature a wider variety of locations.
It could have been great to race around Barkingberg, circling around and through around the castle. While Rex is in the game, The Dino Wilds aren’t included in the game as a track. Classic locations from the TV show like Pinecoast Forest and Rattlesnake Ridge aren’t featured either.
Green Means GO!
The tracks themselves manage to balance their features against simplicity to be both fun for accessible. You won’t find an abundance of corners or twists and turns on any of the tracks here, and there’s no hairpins of chicanes. There’s one snowy track with really long, winding corners that stands out as the most exciting.
While playing Paw Patrol: Grand Prix, you can feel the restraint that has been applied by developers 3Dclouds to make these tracks playable for anyone, of any age. You can complete most of these tracks without ever using the drift/brake button (which comes with the obligatory Mario inspired speed boost after a few seconds). There’s branching paths on some tracks which will give you an advantage that very few of the AI opponents make use of. There’s ramps and boost pads around every track but never in locations that can cause a crash.
There’s also universal aspects of Paw Patrol: Grand Prix that help it cater to the youngest of players. Acceleration, as well as the pick-ups and abilities are all mapped to the face button on the Dualsense, rather than using the trigger or bumper buttons (because kids struggle to press R2 and square at the same time). Invisible walls keep you on the track, bumping you away from its edges. There’s intentional rubber banding to AI opponents; if you someone slow down or stop, the pack of Paw Patrollers will slow down and bunch together so that you can catch up. Big directional arrows around the outside of the track guide you where you’ll be turning next. It’s all so very approachable to youngsters.
Paw Patrol: Grand Prix’s accessible design philosophy is most aptly demonstrated by the auto-pilot. By playing the game on Easy (or by activating it via the pause menu on any other difficulty mode) the game will drive the Kart for you. It’ll accelerate and corner for you and even without pressing a button, it’ll keep you in the race. It’s not restrictive however – if you use the thumb stick, it’ll let you steer. But as soon as you stop steering, it takes the reins again. My 4 year old daughter has won a few races with this mode activated and those wins feel earned to her.
The Pups Save The Grand Prix
In terms of modes, most of the genre staples are here. You can race against the AI in a single race or race against friends in split-screen. There’s no online multiplayer here, which I’d usually complain about, but this feels appropriate for a game that can be played by the youngest of gamers.
The biggest portion of content in Paw Patrol: Grand Prix is the Adventure mode. Here, you choose an individual racer and enter a “Best Racer Pup” tournament being hosted by Mayor Goodway to find the fastest pup. A circuit of 14 races, you’ll visit every track in the night and day, progressing to the next should you place 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Each race is book ended by a few lines of dialogue from the Paw Patrol, structured kind of like an episode of the TV show. As in “Mayor Goodway has a reasonably good idea, the Paw Patrol get involved, The Catastrophe Crew try to ruin it”. It’s light, but there’s some structure here.
The involvement of the villains from Foggy Bottom is an aspect that spices up about half of the races in the Adventure mode (and in other modes, if you choose). Mayor Humdinger floats in his balloon around the track and drops dangers for you to avoid. Hay bails will stop you in your tracks if you run into them and domes of confetti will cover your screen if you drive through them. This adds another layer of excitement to each race.
Built For Its Audience
Paw Patrol: Grand Prix is undoubtedly built for its target audience. The theme tune – the actual one, not a sound alike like you sometimes find in kids games – is present and correct. The voice work in the game is either by the case that worked on the show or a very talented sound-alike team. This voice work brings a lot of the Paw Patrol familiar personality to the races with the characters chirping out their catch phrases when they use abilities and tools. The whole game looks the part though – while the visuals aren’t vastly varied, Adventure Bay and the other locations look great as you speed on through them.
There’s some notable appreciation for the show that’s unlockable in the game too, hidden away in that hats that are unlocked by progress in the Adventure mode. That time Rubble wore a cone on his head? That’s in the game. The Christmas hats are here, Mayor Humdingers top hat is here, even the crown that gets stollen during the Mission PAW is here. It’s a real slog to unlock some of this stuff but it’s a fun little celebration of some of the iconic Paw Patrol episodes.
Take out the fan service and Paw Patrol: Grand Prix is a competent, just above average kart racer. Taken as a whole package though, and with its target audience in mind, it’s hard to argue against the joy this game brings. The Adventure does drag on a little for the smaller kids but the other modes are enough to keep them satisfied. If you’re looking for a stocking filler for your mini Paw Patrol fans this Christmas, Paw Patrol: Grand Prix will fit that bill perfectly.
A deeply approachable and accessible kart racing game that’ll be sure to entertain fans of the TV series, particularly the younger ones, Paw Patrol: Grand Prix makes great use of the characters and licence – but could have gone further. A neat little stocking filler this Christmas.
Paw Patrol: Grand Prix is available now on PS5 (review platform), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC via Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Publisher: Outright Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.