Reviewed: January 11, 2007
Released: November 30, 2006
I must admit that I am a huge fan of anything Mario. Mario games cover pretty much every genre of gaming, including racing. Many racing games have tried to imitate the success of the Mario Kart series, but most fall short. Enter Cartoon Network Racing for the Nintendo DS. I can honestly say that I donít follow the Cartoon Network that well. It has been quite some time since I spent a Saturday morning watching cartoons. Most of the characters in this game I have never even seen before.
This game, like many others, tries to follow the masterful mold created by the Mario Kart series. Would this game deliver on the same level of enjoyment as Mario Kart or fall tragically short like so many have?
Like many other racers of similar style Cartoon Network Racing has absolutely no storyline. You simply turn on the DS and play. It is about as simple as it gets, which isnít necessarily a bad thing. You are offered three modes Championship, Time Trial, and Versus.
Championship mode has you square off against seven other racers in a four race set. Based on your placing in each race you receive a score. The racer with the highest score at the end of the four races is awarded the championship trophy. There's nothing new here. Time trial mode has you race around a track of your choosing trying to beat the best time for that track. This again is nothing new. Versus mode allows you and up to three of you friends to race against one another via the DS wi-fi connectivity on the various tracks that the game offers.
Although the three modes available are not anything new to the genre, there is a ton of unlockables throughout the game. When you start the game there are only nine racers, all are equipped with their own unique kart. There are eleven more to unlock. At the beginning there is only one championship set to compete, but three more can be unlocked. Each set contains four tracks so that adds up to 12 unlockable tracks. There are also a few mini-games and even cartoons to unlock as well.
The controls during the racing are very simple. You can just jump in and play. The touch screen controls arenít used during the actual races. It just serves as a map. Throughout the tracks there are a variety weapons available like in every other kart racer, in floating boxes, with question marks on them nonetheless. The weapons are the same that you would find in any racer of this style. There are rockets, speed boosts, and shields to name a few.
This game does have some game-play faults. Even for a Cartoon Network game this racer feels slow. The sense of speed just is not there. I felt as if it would be faster to get out of the kart and run to the finish line. If you hit a wall, or in some cases a tree, while racing you come to a complete stop. Then you have to try and get away from that object which occasionally I found to be frustrating as you get a feeling of being glued to that object.
Although I found this frustrating it was no where near the frustration I felt while playing the PlayStation 2 version. It isnít very often that a handheld version of a game is more entertaining than the console version of the game, but in this case the DS version is better.
The graphics in Cartoon Network Racing arenít bad theyíre just flat-out bland. The characters and karts are simple with little detail and the tracks have practically zero detail. The developer tried to make the racing tracks look like a cartoon setting with bright colors, which is noticeable, but again there is no detail in these environments so those attempts fell to the waste side.
On one hand there is the music, which is somewhat catchy and entertaining, and occasionally the characters will shout out there catchphrases which can be funny. Each track has its own music to match the environment.
On the other hand the karts have a constant humming noise which sounds nothing like a real kart engine and will get annoying unless you change the sound settings. Plus, when your kart goes astray, and trust me it will, and hits an object there is an over-exaggerated cartoon-like crashing or bumping sound which isnít exactly what you would expect after slamming into a palm tree.
The casual gamer should be able to make it through this game in a few hours. It may take a little longer to unlock all of the characters, tracks, minigames, and cartoons, but donít expect a very long and complicated game though because this is not one. After completion there is really nothing that would make you want to go back and play it again.
Children that watch Cartoon Network are probably the best audience here. Beyond them not many are going to find this game to exciting. I would recommend renting this one before you decide to dish out the $30 to purchase it, but if it comes to DS version or the PlayStation 2, the DS version is definitely the better buy. If you are hesitant to which kart game to purchase for the DS, just stick with Mario Kart.
Cartoon Network Racing, like many other kart racers, is stuck in the land of mediocrity. It doesnít have enough to make it as good as Mario Kart, but yet it is a better gaming experience than some other imitators.