Backlog Quest: Day 23 – Dreamworks Superstar Kartz – Mario Kart it is not

Dear Journal,

Today a donkey beat me in a go-kart race.

Dreamworks Superstar Kartz is yet another imitator in a long line of Mario Kart imitations.  Like the countless other kart racers before it, Superstar Kartz fails to ever really capture the same charm and all around fun gameplay as the Italian plumber-starring original. Relying heavily on the cast of characters from Dreamworks popular films, the game doesn’t have much else to go on but ultimately, the game is just lacking in heart.

Basically it is the sell-out money grab version of Mario Kart.

Now, the racecourses are limited but descent and the power-ups are pretty standard fair for a Kart racer (though there is never any official explanation as to what each individual item does), yet the game just doesn’t play well.  Part of it is because like many other kart racers it fails to ever properly work out the metrics of the user-based competitiveness.

Confused?  Not entirely surprised. Many don’t realize that this was a part of Mario Kart (at least Mario Kart 64) and was nearly perfected for single player games.  You see, Mario kart has, or at least had a system. When you are in the lead, the karts behind you go faster. When you are behind, the karts ahead slow down to about the same speed as you (something you can overcome with items). While this never worked perfectly with two players for Mario Kart 64, it kept the single player challenging but not frustrating.  It was always possible to end up way ahead or way behind, but by and large this kept the game fun.

Like most other Mario Kart clones, Dreamworks Superstar Kartz never manages to get the system right. In this case it downright seems to ignore it. On a regular basis I found every kart to be faster than my own with little you could do about it. Even using an item on an opponent really only meant a few seconds of being ahead of them before they quickly catch up and then pass you again with ease.  On only a few occasions did I ever take the lead and on only one occasion that I can recall did I actually manage to place first.   The problem isn’t that the game is challenging, it is that it is frustratingly difficult when you seem to always be the slowest car on the track.

Combine this with the fact that the lower “cc” levels feel incredibly slow; making the only real enjoyable way to play the game 150cc, which is also the most difficult and things get worse. Basically, play a slow and boring kart-racing game or play one that seem very heavily stacked against you winning. Another aspect that made the game exceedingly difficult was that most maps had alternate routes, with certain routes being significantly shorter (yet not hard to reach such as the tunnel in Koopa Beach). All of this of course also meant that character selection was a joke, as I simply had to go with the character that was the fastest; completely defeating the point of a licensed game. I’m not playing as one of my favorite characters because I can’t make my decision based on that if I want any chance of winning; so does it really even matter that the characters are who they are?

Forcing my way though the entire racing mode quickly began to feel like a chore.  Especially when it became clear that the last set of races was just a bunch of recycled courses at night (there may actually be more courses in Mario Kart 64).  There really are some great ideas going on in Dreamworks Superstar Kartz (even if that “z’ in “Kartz” is maddening), but despite the cast of characters it lacks heart and polish.  To difficult for the kids to enjoy, far to crappy for you to get much out of it. Pass, and I don’t mean on the left.

Tomorrow I take on another classic remade in Goldeneye 007 Reloaded.

Final Rating: 4/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: Xbox 360
Time to completion: About 2 excruciating hours.
Gamer Score Earned: 220/1000
Price Bought at: $10
Current Price: $19.96 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: I’d say under $5, and only if you are just really curious.
Why you should buy it: You are in some way shape or form at gunpoint?
Why you shouldn’t buy it: Said gun says “replica” on the side.


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