No matter what console you play on, you will always be haunted by the looming shadow of shovelware titles. Making games as quickly and easily as possible in order to cash in on the success of a console is an idea as old as gaming itself. These types of games can fall into a wide array of genres, but many often fall into the beat’em-ups, party games, or kart racer categories – the latter being the case for Nickelodeon Kart Racers. While on the surface it appears to be another bargain bin purchase waiting to happen, perhaps there’s more to the game that justifies its $40 price tag?
The gameplay is your standard kart racing fare. You can accelerate, drift, and use items that you collect on the track to take out your opponents. The game also took some inspiration from other kart racers like Mario Kart 7 and Sonic All-Stars Racing. On some of the tracks, there are places where you can glide in order to reach another segment of the road, as well as ones where you must ride a sea of slime. Slime in a Nickelodeon game? You don’t say! Slime is a main focus of the gameplay since you’ll want to collect it to fill up a meter that can then be used to gain an extra boost of speed. You can collect slime by driving through puddles left on the main tracks, all throughout the slime sea tracks, or you can be lucky enough to find some in an item crate. I’ll give the game credit that the slime mechanic is done well, and slime management adds an interesting layer of strategy to the races.
One of the most notorious problems with shovelware racing games is in their controls. Thankfully that isn’t the case with this title. The controls are as solid as you would expect from one of the name brand kart racers. The only aspect of the controls that can feel wonky at times is on the slime sea tracks. While the controls are ok for these segments, at least once you get used to them, there are times that the controls will act up. There have been a few times that my character refused to turn on these tracks, as well as other times where your momentum slows down a ton for no real reason. I wouldn’t say these issues are common, but they do happen more often than they should.
A welcoming surprise is the amount of content in this game. There are 24 racetracks in this game, with a total of 11 cups in the Grand Prix mode. There are a few extra game modes like Team Racing, Time Attack, and Co-op races that will add more hours to your playtime. You’ve also got a variety of kart customization options that can be unlocked by collecting coins throughout the courses. You also have a wide selection of items to use in the races. Each character even has a unique item that they have a chance of getting, which can influence who you choose to race as a bit more.
There’s also a level meter that increases with each race you win, similar to what’s seen in Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed. When you level up, all you get for a reward is racing a bonus lap where you can collect up to 4 loot boxes. In these you have a chance of collecting either more coins or new kart options. While a neat idea, once you’ve unlocked all of the kart options you have no real incentive to keep increasing your level, especially since there’s no real impact on your racing stats.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this game is the lackluster character roster. This game is called Nickelodeon Kart Racers, and yet there’s only 4 Nickelodeon series represented in this game: SpongeBob, Rugrats, Hey Arnold, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (for a total of only 12 characters). With how many racetracks that are in this game, you’d think they could have filled up the roster with more characters. Or better yet, why not just make stages or items based off of other Nickelodeon series? There have been many crossover games in the past, and each one of them managed to give us a well-sized roster of Nickelodeon’s wide array of characters. The lackluster roster of characters in this game is borderline criminal.
Apart from that, there are other issues with the game that make it feel like they put as little effort in as they needed to. The graphics are especially bad and what you would expect from an early shovelware title on the Wii. Going from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to this is quite the downgrade. Almost all of the music feels stock and lifeless, with almost no tracks actually sounding like they are from any Nickelodeon show. There are only about 3 tracks in this game that are remixed from their original shows, but the rest is just generic music. The UI design is lazy, there’s a severe lack of character voice acting, and there’s no online mode to speak of. While the core game is ok at best, there are so many things wrong that it really ruins the overall experience. With arguably the best Mario Kart game already on the Switch, there’s just really no reason to purchase this title.
Final Thoughts: MEDIOCRE
Nickelodeon Kart Racers had so much potential, but in the end, it turned out to be yet another Shovelware failure. While the game has a lot more tracks than you’d expect, the overall package is a disappointment for both diehard Nickelodeon fans, and for casual players. If you or your kids are huge fans of the IP then it might be worth waiting for a price cut.
Jordan is a gaming fanatic who grew up in a home of shovelware. Years of discounted drivel has molded this man, shaping him into the seeker of quality he is today.