Kart racing games are notorious for being an easy cash grab genre, where a license holder gets a rush job done and that is it. And this is a very accurate statement of the first instalment, however Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 is such a huge improvement that it is actually a fun game to play to the point that I almost 100% the game to review it. The game feels like Mario Kart with items set to frantic.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 is a race between some of the most classic and beloved franchises in the company’s repertoire, with iconic characters such as Spongebob and Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants and the ninja turtles from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to more cult classics like Zim from Invader Zim and Rocko from Rocko’s Modern Life. With a roster of 30 characters, some of which are unlocked through gameplay, there is a wide selection of representation to choose from. Speaking of unlocking characters, this is achieved by two different methods: winning a Grand Prix cup or by defeating the characters in their challenge over in challenge mode.
Grand Prix is your standard four-track race with a variety of courses, usually with the last course corresponding to the franchise you unlock the character from. The challenge mode is a great addition to the game with single-player challenges ranging from getting to first position in 40 seconds or hitting a certain amount of targets placed on the map before you finish a lap. There is also an arena battle mode which is a fun break from racing however unfortunately, there are only two arenas to battle in.
Now for the defining factor of any kart racer, the mechanics of racing. Each racer has their own stats in Top Speed, Turbo, Steering, and Drift which can be expanded upon with customisable engines, exhausts, and wheels. The other mechanics that are common among many kart racers include a start boost which is achieved by pressing the accelerator in time with the count down lights, drifting which takes a little bit to get used to due to being a bit aggressive, and drift boosts which are shown in increasing value by coloured sparks at your wheels with blue being the best boost.
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The unique mechanics are what helps define Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 from other kart racers and a lot of this is focused around the slime mechanic in the game. On each track, there are puddles of slime, slime tokens and trick pads which all will fill up your slime meter. This is used to fuel your crew chief’s ability which can vary from a boost to a special item use. Your crew chief is chosen before the race starts and is a character from one of the represented franchises with a powerful ability. Beside from the crew chief, you can choose two crew members which have smaller abilities like receive a free slime token on a timer, get a boost whenever you get a slime token or receive a specific item after using an item.
Kart racing games have two major aspects that can make or break them. The first one being the game’s mechanics as previously discussed in the gameplay, the other is the course design. The basic layout of the courses is relatively well structured across the 28 tracks with a good variety of twists, turns and obstacles that fit the thematic element of the show it is based on. For example, Double Dare is laid out like an obstacle course with brick walls hindering small sections of the course and slime is spread out everywhere, similar to slime being a big aspect of the show.
Aside from the basic layouts, there are numerous shortcuts on several different tracks, many of which you can miss if not paying attention the first few times around. Taking these shortcuts can be achieved by boosting over rough terrain, hitting a door with an item to temporarily open passages, or by anyone hitting three panels on the straightway leading to the shortcut appearing for a limited amount of time. Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 has some well designed tracks with a good variety of skills tested.
Story / Personality
Not many kart racing games have a story behind them and Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 is the same, just pure unadulterated kart racing and that’s pretty fun.The racers that you can choose from have a good bit of personality in them displayed by their animations. This is most noticeable in the podium animations and while the lack of voice acting is a shame, the victory gloating and third place pouting is a delight to watch.
Graphics / Art Design
Visually, the whole art design oozes Nickelodeon in every aspect of the game, from the bright colours, slime everywhere, and the pure chaotic energy. The racers are all 3D models, which is a bit off-putting for some characters like Ren from Ren & Stimpy but it still captures the characters relatively well. The supporting crew images look like they are directly lifted from their respective shows which is a nice touch of nostalgia. Each exhaust in the game has their own particle effects which are more noticeable when performing a boost. The bubble blower exhaust does as the name suggests, spray bubbles while the mutagen exhaust sprays out mutagen when boosting.
Music / Sound Design
Each track has very fitting music for the show that it is based off of, with more of an asian style for Ba Sing Se or beachy music for Goo Lagoon Boardwalk. I quite enjoyed the music in the game although the menu music being a short tune does repeat often if you are waiting to join an online lobby. While I will praise the music in the game, I unfortunately have to say that the game lacks any voice acting which is a detrimental choice which could have added some more personality to the characters.
Final Score: 83%
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2 is a fun, chaotic addition to the Switch’s collection of kart racing games. Relive childhood Nickelodeon memories, no matter what age you are, with a good mix of classic and modern characters in a chaotic racing game that you can enjoy with friends. While there are some lacking features such as voice acting and, from my experience, no online community, there are enough positives to enjoy in Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2, especially if you have a family.
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