June 17, 2024
Not even Shrek can save this one. The Finger Guns review:

In the efforts to create a kart racer to take on the titans of the genre, Dreamworks All-Star Kart Racing is a feeble attempt at a competitor to Mario’s throne. With a lack of polish across pretty much every aspect of the game, uninspiring courses and poor control, there’s very little here to inspire even the most ardent Shrek and How To Train Your Dragon fans.

Whilst they look across the table at the likes of Disney Speedstorm (free-to-play but actually demonstrating how to take a licence and use it efficiently and excitingly) and, to a lesser extent Nickelodeon Kart Racers, Bamtang Games’ have taken hold of some fantastic characters and dropped them in a kart racer that’s about as uninspired as that idea. The world awaits something new from the worlds of Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and the like and one imagines they’re not going to be overly impressed with a racer that feels unequivocally dull and without merit.

Though the first clue might have been in the publishers GameMill Entertainment who have also spent the year releasing utter dross such as Skull Island: Rise of Kong and The Walking Dead: Destinies, probably the two worst games of the year outside of Gollum.

Still, it’s not a complete disaster. Whilst it’s never going to be bothering Mario on the highest podium (and is obviously a direct influence here), it’s the lack of effort with the licence which feels the most egregious. Whilst the voiceovers do their best (Puss in Boots, in particular, is a highlight), damn near everyone else feels like a cheap knockoff of the characters they actually are, which is bizarre. We’ve got an Aldi Shrek, a Lidl Donkey, a Poundland Po. Of course, it’s not realistic financially to bring in the actual voice talent of these characters but their stand-ins are so bad it makes you wonder if there’s anything here that will satisfy the fans and aside from these group of characters being in one game together, I honestly can’t think of much.

And I say it’s not a complete disaster because it’s frankly the Trolls (Dreamworks’ latest animated ATMs) that actually link this game together and make it feel cohesive. They can mess with the tracks and make them more difficult depending on your character choice and if you collect enough musical notes dotted around the track they’ll provide you with additional power-ups and weapons. It’s a neat little addition that certainly gives the game its one original thought.

A classic kart racer trope is also the boost start which is present here though this time it’s presented in a rhythm game, in which you need to hit the buttons at the right time in order for your boost to load and then hit the accelerate button for it to work. At first, it’s bizarrely fiddly, and there’s no guarantee it’ll work each time as I’ve discovered on multiple races. The fact the same button isn’t used for the boost level-up and acceleration is jarring, and means it’s overly complicated from the off, leading more often than not to a much slower start to the races than you wanted.

The lack of polish has been mentioned, but it really shows its face in the menus and the presentation overall. The UI is ugly and looks like it’s been dragged out of a 90’s IP chaser, their collision detection is weak and although there is some fun dialogue between the racers if they’re near or hit each other, it gets old fast because it’s so repetitive. The music is just dreadfully implemented and does not fit the courses in any substantial way. Ugh, I don’t want to go on like this but I’m really finding it hard to not write a review that’s just scathing. Unfortunately, sometimes we just have to call a spade a spade.

Dreamworks All-Star Kart Racing has precisely two original thoughts and one of them barely works, so it’s difficult to go out on a limb and say this is a must-buy because it simply isn’t. If you’re looking for a kart racer that isn’t on the Switch I’ll continue to recommend Disney Speedstorm. Yes, it’s free-to-play and is full of microtransactions that are encouraged and difficult to escape if you want to unlock certain characters, but making your own progress in the game is far more satisfying than what’s on offer here and is full of terrific courses that feel like you’re slap bang in the middle of Disneyland itself.

Sadly, there’s so little here to recommend over the likes of Speedstorm and Mario Kart 8, even Nickelodeon Speed Racers had some fun with its license. This feels like a wasted opportunity with some huge names to bring them back to the forefront. Ergo, it wasn’t to be.

But don’t worry Gingerbread Man, you can keep your gumdrop buttons.

For now.

Dreamworks All-Star Kart Racing is really trying to play with the bigguns but just isn’t doing enough differently to justify why anyone should care, especially if you’re a Switch owner. Name recognition can only get you so far and not even everyone’s favourite giant green ogre can save this one.

DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing is available now for PS4, PS5 (review platform), Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC and Nintendo Switch

Developer: Bamtang Games
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy from the publisher.

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