It’s time for the third lap of the franchise for Nickelodeon Kart Racers – this time re-built and re-imagined from the ground up. While the previous games had a few highlights to enjoy, overall they were middling games. Whilst I’m happy to report that this is the best of the three, the bar wasn’t high to begin with and it has only just surpassed its predecessors.
With 40 characters to unlock and play as, 36 tracks to drift boost in, and a staggering amount of customisation for the karts – Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3 is a game packed with content. However, volume of content doesn’t always equate to the amount of enjoyment to be had and this is a prime example.
A Whole Bunch Of Eeeediots
To address this from the top, as it’s been a vocalised issue for the past two games. There is voice acting. Now before you pop that bottle of green champagne on the podium, a few things need unpacking. It surprisingly adds a lot more life to the moment-to-moment gameplay, making it a welcome addition to the game.
However, wrangling a potential 40 actors (subject to actors doing multiple voices) is what I can only assume a big undertaking of the process outside of development. Highlights include the original actors for a good portion of the characters, but the ones voiced by someone else is incredibly noticeable and even a little lacklustre. Some do come across as ‘one and done’ takes though, which hampers the light-hearted comic presentation.
40 playable characters is wild, a few are notably re-skins of the same but overall the roster is great. If it’s the memorable shows from the 90’s – like Ren and Stimpy, Real Monsters – or the modern classics – such as Legend of Korra, Spongebob – they’re almost all there. Even the designs of the Ninja Turtles are based off the 80’s show, brought into the modern day. It proves there was a lot of thought put into picking them.
I Slime. Like A Limo Slimer? No, Like, For Movies
Driving is solid, albeit a little derivative. That’s not to knock the base gameplay for imitating the best to do the Kart Racer genre, but it does mean there’s nothing new here. Like most Kart Racers, you have the acceleration, brake and the now formulaic jumping drift. Across the tracks you’ll have pick-ups dotted around that vary from: Support, Offensive and Defensive. Visually they’re different but if you’ve played Mario Kart you can expect more of the same. Hans covering the screen acting as a Blooper, or a homing American Football acting as a Red Shell. Familiarity helps the transition between older IPs but there’s nothing new to differentiate the game outside of the visuals.
The second game saw the introduction of a pit crew which Slime Speedway has also included here. It breaks up into three roles – The Chief is tied to your slime bar which can be built up through collecting slime coins (the currency, also making you faster), and driving through slime. Once the bar is filled you can use the Chiefs power, which similar to the pick-ups is broken down into the three categories.
The Crew Mechanic and Crew Engineer round out your team. These however, are passive abilities that build up over time and execute either once filled or triggered by other players. In total there are around 90 of them to choose from, each of which being a deep-cut or fan favourite characters. It adds so much variety but by being so vast, there’s a lot that are inconsequential. After being stomped on online, I think there’s a clear meta that’ll bag you a win against real players. Maybe a streamlined amount with some balancing would have benefitted the gameplay as opposed to the fan service inclusion of so many characters.
Why Are You All Dressed Like Wienies?
As I previously mentioned there are 36 different tracks, with varying degrees of quality. While they have been re-built and re-imagined from the ground up, there are a good number of the returning levels/themes. If you’ve played the previous titles, you’ll feel like you have driven down them before. All of the levels are directly inspired from the shows involved, but the tracks themselves go from great to frustrating – I’m looking at you Turtle Lair. None of them however match the tracks of the genre leaders in quality. When I say ‘great’, it’s relative only to its own franchise.
This time round the titular Slime Speedway has reinvented even some of the older tracks in the series. The Slime Speedway is a separate path that builds up your Slime meter, with obstacles to jump on the path at great speed. It’s visually overbearing and when everything else is going on in the screen it’s hard to decide just what to concentrate on. On top of that, they’re treated like semi-secret paths that aren’t obvious if you’re not paying attention but other than some Slime build up there’s no good reason to choose that path.
In the harder difficulties and Time Trials they’re not a favourable option as they’re not any faster than the original path. It feels counter intuitive and whilst the majority of the player base may be young or casual to not even notice this, it hinders your progression in the later stages of challenges. It leans into the sliming aspect of Nickelodeon lore but it feels like a moot aspect, despite being the title of the game.
The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Bro!
On top of the Cup Races that make up a bulk of the gameplay, whether it’s Solo vs AI or Multiplayer (Online or Couch), there are also a few other modes to set itself apart. Challenge Mode sees you completing an objective per level, making use of the race tracks. You could be firing at targets or doing a certain amount of drifts and then winning the race. It’s a fine mode, every Challenge unlocks a various item or crew member and at the end of each group of challenges you’ll have a shot at unlocking a character by beating them in a race. This mode has the steadiest of unlocks, feeling the least grindy in comparison to everything else.
There’s also a Time Trial mode which is probably the quietest and weakest mode. Besides an optional Ghost that spurs you to beat their lap time, it’s just a race for one with not much that leads to progression. As well as that, there is a few game types that sit within an Arena Mode. Demolition, a free-for-all brawl using pick-ups to attack one another. Control the Golden Spatula, which is essentially a Capture the Flag. Slime Trails, a Splatoon style where you paint the arena as you slide and drive – this is arguably the best of the bunch. And Jellyspotters, one team are Jellyfish (Just driving with a Jellyfish on their head) and the other team with a net to catch them.
Overall, these modes are simply okay. I don’t think the controls of Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3 lends itself to be played in such modes. Usually Kart Racers are about hitting accelerate and drifting corners, with the option to brake/reverse being almost just a courtesy button that’s not needed if you’re playing well. The stop and start, seeking opponents and awkward driving just makes for a lacking experience. Like I said, the Slime Trails mode is probably the stand-out here and I think it’s the closest to the racing experience – by just drifting around and splatting the arena. There’re only 4 maps in this umbrella of arena modes that aren’t very big. This could be received better with a group of friends, if you can overlook the lack of depth to it.
Move it, Football Head!
This is the best Nickelodeon Kart Racers has looked, by a country mile. It’s vibrant and colourful compared to the more washed out colours in the previous game. Bamtang Games have ripped the 2D characters and placed them in a 3D world in an impressive way. All characters are cohesively designed no matter the franchise, making the look consistent and engaging. The UI this time round is better sign posted with an overall sleeker design, with the avatars of your pit crew having the same consistent art style too.
It’s on the cusp of looking current gen; I think the limitations of being released on all platforms stop it from having the highest graphical fidelity but the strong art direction carries the look of the game to not feel dated. It shows this has been rebuilt from the ground up as the look has had a complete overhaul which I’m sure will be appreciated by fans of the series and even newcomers.
Sound effects outside of the new addition to the character dialogue are all the same. Whether it’s the use of a pick-up or the splatter of slime, it’s all the same stuff. This is fine; if it’s not broke why fix it. However, the music has seen a slight change. This was another sticking point with the previous games, alongside the vocals. I think the complaints may remain as it really feels like white noise when playing. Nothing about it is distinctive to the respective franchise the level is themed after, apart from maybe the instruments used offering a “vibe”.
Ravioli, Ravioli, Give Me The Formuoli
Is this a bad Kart Racer? No. Does it stand out from others? Not really. But it plays well, it’s full of Nickelodeon charm that’ll make fans of Nick shows happy and it has a lot of content to offer. It’ll take a long time for players to unlock everything, and for a lot of people, time spent equates the monetary worth when talking about video games. I think I’d personally be a bit hotter on this game if it was the first of the Nickelodeon Kart Racing series; but it’s third time round and whilst third time is usually a charm, it still feels like this should be the first step when making it.
The aspects that are new for Kart Racer 3 outside of its complete rebuild are slight, but it’s a whole lot of the same if you’ve played the series before. I didn’t talk much about the online because as of right now, I’ve only managed to play one game, with one person. It seemed stable, waiting takes a while because of the small player base at launch that hopefully fills out down the line.
This kart racer is for the Nickelodeon fans and families alike. It’s an approachable entry for newcomers as it has a lot of reimagined content from the first two games. It’s also accessible, with a low skill barrier for entry that admittedly can go surprisingly high for experienced players. There’s a lot of content to get through but you’ll have seen the best of it after a hours and it doesn’t stand out amongst its peers, outside of featuring a load of Nickelodeon IPs.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3: Slime Speedway is out now on PlayStation 5 (review platform), Xbox Series S|X, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC (Steam)
Developer: Bamtang Games
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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