Nickelodeon Kart Racers is another in a long line of Mario Kart clones that has good intentions, but never really feels like anything more than a watered down version of that game. While Mario Kart focused on the varied and extremely popular characters from the Mario universe, Nickelodeon Kart Racers broadens its focus to popular Nicktoons characters from the ‘90s. In theory, this is an idea worth exploring, but developer Bamtang Games simply doesn’t delve deep enough into Nicktoon’s rich history or add enough of their own spin to the kart racing genre to pull it off.
That’s not to say that Nickelodeon Kart Racers isn’t a fun game, because it does offer a mostly polished racing experience that’s easy to pick up and learn, making it a perfect experience for kids and their parents. This is certainly made easier by its inclusion of couch play local multiplayer (which supports up to four players at once). Though, again, Nickelodeon Kart Racers’ lack of online multiplayer is disappointing for older fans of Nicktoons who may want to race with friends and is yet another indicator of just how barebones the game really is.
Racing on Nickelodeon Kart Racers is predictably similar to Mario Kart. There are three laps that must be completed before a winner is declared, coins that can be collected during a match (which can be used in the game’s shop) and random power-ups that can be picked up on the course that can either help a player gain the lead or keep it. These certainly help, but honestly, the A.I. in the game is never all that challenging even on higher difficulties. Of course, this can be circumvented by playing with friends locally, but the Ai.I.’s failure to provide much of a competitive edge just makes the game’s lack of an online multiplayer all the more disappointing.
Game modes included in Nickelodeon Kart Racers are typical for the kart racing genre: Grand Prix, Free Race, and Time Attack. These modes will offer nothing new for the Mario Kart expert, especially Grand Prix, which has the players competing in a series of races for points, with first place earning the most points as well as winning the cup even with a celebration that's similar to Mario Kart. It’s all very standard affair and further proof of Bamtang’s intention to appeal to children and capitalize on nostalgia instead of trying to redefine kart racing.
This approach would work better if Nickelodeon Kart Racers offered enough Nicktoons characters to sustain the game and ensure at least some semblance of long-term replayability. Unfortunately, the game only ships with twelve characters, four of which are taken up by the 2012 Nickelodeon animated television show versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sure, there are fan favorite characters like SpongeBob, Arnold (Hey Arnold!) and Tommy Pickles from Rugrats, but overall, character selection options are disappointing for a game with Nickelodeon in the title.
Racing as these individual characters never really seems fulfilling either, as all the karts essentially feel the same even with differing stats between them. This differs greatly from games like Mario Kart where each kart has weaknesses and strengths that players must adjust their play style to and it creates a gaming atmosphere that quickly gets old and feels downright monotonous. Of course, the aforementioned shop does offer new paint jobs and parts that improve vehicle stats, but the selection is thin.
Luckily, however, Nickelodeon Kart Racers redeems itself somewhat in the content department with a varied and deep map selection. There are twenty four maps available at launch, most of which are well-designed if not exactly spectacular graphics-wise (this is true for the entire game, though). The maps are grouped together smartly for Grand Prix Cups as well, themed after various Nicktoons shows and their most popular locations. This is where Bamtang at least partially succeeds with its attempted nostalgia trip and exploring the two dozen maps will likely take up the bulk of a player’s time spent with the game.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers’ price tag boasts a racer that’s $20 cheaper than the most recent iteration of Mario Kart and it’s a game that’s at least available on more systems than that game, but its lack of features, online multiplayer and barebones character selection make it an inferior product comparatively. Much like Bamtang’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle, there’s a lot of solid ideas and hints of a good game buried underneath the mediocrity that is the finished product. Perhaps one day fans will get the Nicktoons-centric kart racer they deserve, but unfortunately, Nickelodeon Kart Racers is not that game.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers is available now for Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch for $40. Screen Rant was provided with an Xbox One code for the purposes of this review.