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Racing

  • Aaero (Xbox One)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Aaero
    Developed by: Mad Fellows Games
    Published by: Reverb Triple XP
    Release date: April 11, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Rhythm rail shooter
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Mad Fellows Games for sending us a review code of this game!

    Earlier this year a successful Kickstarter was launched to bring Aaero to Steam along with its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts.  For a two-man development team, I’m impressed with the outcome and I’m sure that the backers will be pleased with the final product as well, as long as they like dubstep music.

    Aaero is a rhythm rail shooter game where you must guide your ship along the music rails when they’re present or else your ship will lose one of its three shields.  These shields are sacred and are not replaceable in the level. When you lose all three you’ll have to start over from the beginning.

    Shields can be lost by hitting an obstacle or by sustaining an attack from enemy aircraft.  Some areas of the map are open and you can freely fly, while many areas, including the inside of a giant sand worm, are very cramped with partially blocked pathways.  Sometimes the path closes in on you and you have to quickly steer towards the remaining opening.  Other times there are helpful arrows to let you know which direction to head toward.  Last but not least are the completely cheap deaths/shield depletions from areas closing in on you without any warning whatsoever.

    Aaero
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun rhythm rail shooter game
    Weak Points: If you don’t like dubstep you’ll find the music annoying
    Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence

    Enemy aircraft and their attacks can be targeted and shot at with the right joystick.  Your ship can shoot several shots at once, which is quite helpful but never enough when multiple enemies lock in on you simultaneously.  If you enjoy boss fights, you’ll be happy to know that there are some in this game.

    At the end of each of the fifteen levels, you’ll be scored on the percentage of time you’ve spent on the music rails, how many enemies you have killed, and by how many of the optional targets you have destroyed.  There are online leaderboards to compare your score with everyone else’s and don’t worry, I won’t be much of a threat.  Aside from aiming for higher scores, you’ll also want to unlock the most stars possible for each song since they’re required to unlock other tracks/songs in the game.  

    While I played on the default/Normal difficulty, there are several more including Advanced, Master, and Chill Out.  You can play Chill Out at any time, but you’ll need to have a 90% completion on the Normal difficulty to play advanced and 100% to enjoy the Master mode.

    Aaero
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The controls are pretty simple, but mastering this game will take some patience and skill.  The left joystick is required for staying on the music track/ribbon.  I like how parts of the song play and fade away depending on if you’re on the ribbon or not.  The right joystick is for locking in on enemy targets and the trigger fires your weapons at them.  Doing all of this simultaneously while staying on the fluctuating track takes some serious coordination and precision.  

    It’s no secret that I’m getting older and my hands quickly got tired after playing three or so tracks.  If you can handle more than that in one sitting, count your blessings!  People dealing with carpal tunnel may want to play this game on another platform or skip it altogether.  

    Other than the first song which got a bit repetitive since it was used for the tutorial as well as first mission, the majority of the game’s music is pretty pretty good... if you like dubstep, that is.  If you don’t like electronic music or dubstep, you’ll probably want to pass on this game.

    Since I’m a sucker for music games, I enjoyed Aaero and recommend it to anyone who likes space shooters and rhythm based games.  Other than shooting down spaceships, this game is suitable for pilots of all ages.  I look forward to upcoming titles from Mad Fellows Games.

  • Bank Limit : Advanced Battle Racing (PC/VR)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Bank Limit : Advanced Battle Racing
    Developed By: Tastee Beverage Studios, LLC
    Published By: Tastee Beverage Studios, LLC
    Release Date: August 16, 2016
    Available On: PC (HTC Vive/Oculus Rift/OSVR supported)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Arcade Racing
    Mode: Single Player with online multiplayer
    MSRP: $24.99

    Thank you Tastee Beverage Studios for sending us this game to review!

    Once in a while, you play a game that could have been great, but….  Unfortunately, Bank Limit is one of those games.  

    In Bank Limit, you race against other (computer controlled or human) racers through a set number of laps on a track.  If you see them in your sights, you can blast at them with weapons that are mounted to your vehicle, which are aimed by simply looking at them.  Blowing them up is not fatal, but it sets them back enough to allow you to go right past them.  You can also boost and slide around the track, gaining advantage over your foes.  And you can even fly.

    The basic premise is great, and something I was sure I would enjoy.  Here is a VR racing game, following the style of F-Zero, with what appears to be very smooth and high speed racing, along with inter-vehicular combat.  What’s not to like? Unfortunately, my hopes were quickly dashed once I started it up.

    There are several areas where Bank Limit falters, and a few where it succeeds.  It needs to be said that the main racing game engine is actually pretty good.  There is a decent (but not great) sense of speed, and zooming up and down steep hills and drops is a lot of fun and feels like you are on a roller coaster, in a good way if you have your VR legs.  (VR legs refers to an ability to handle motion in VR that doesn’t match your body.  Some people get nauseous.)  Shooting your opponents is a little clunky, but works okay in VR.  The sound effects also work well enough.

    Bank Limit : Advanced Battle Racing
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent graphics; good sense of speed and movement; lots of content; racing engine is solid
    Weak Points: Incredible lack of polish, which kills the experience; clunky controls; no tutorial and hard to follow manual; terrible interface; non-vr controls are borderline unusable; some levels are very frustrating
    Moral Warnings: Non-fatal vehicular violence

    But what doesn’t work is unfortunately a lot.  It must be said that I played most of my time with this game in VR, using an HTC Vive.  The Vive motion controllers make the game nearly unplayable, so I used an Xbox One controller.  You can also play without a VR headset, but I found the control scheme to be much less pleasant, since aiming while driving is easier said than done.  If only the issues ended with the choice of controls….

    After launching the game, you see a main menu that you don’t immediately know how to navigate.  In order to use the menus, you have to use a rather strange combination of pointing at things with your head and choosing things with the gamepad.  It’s really, really strange.  Perhaps it makes sense with a mouse and keyboard, but here it’s just odd.  You do get used to it though, and I was able to navigate around okay.  But I had to learn how to use a menu.  Consider that for a moment.

    Once I got that figured out, I was looking for some help on how to play.  There is a manual, but it’s also a tragedy in interface design.  There are something like sixty pages, each one of which is very short.  There are a lot of buttons with various functions to remember, and a lot of tips dispersed in there, but no context to apply it to.  There is enough complexity in this game that it really needs an interactive tutorial.  It would go a long way in helping with this.  As is, it’s difficult and unwieldy.

    Bank Limit : Advanced Battle Racing
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 54%
    Gameplay - 8/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 1/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Once I figured out how to boost and slide around, shoot my foes, and what button means go, I found the first few levels of racing enjoyable.  There are still a lot of features that I don’t understand how to use, or maybe I’m not using correctly, but without any kind of interactive tutorial, there’s no way to know if I’m doing it right.  Unfortunately I had to get to the first level with flying.

    This level reminded me somewhat of Rainbow Road in Mario Kart; there are lots of opportunities to fall off to your doom, and there are even sections of track that are missing, where you fall/float/fly to the next section of track.  Except that you can miss.  Especially if you are in slidey boostey mode.  (It’s hard to describe, but you move differently and a bit faster when you hold the triggers.) Being the stubborn type that I am, I tried this level at least a dozen times, and never was able to finish it.  And not only that, but I found that falling off spun you around or floated you down in really uncomfortable ways.  This caused the worst VR nausea that I have ever experienced.  And since I stubbornly kept trying, it got worse and worse.  For the first time since I have owned my HTC Vive, I ruined the rest of my day via VR nausea.  No game is worth that.

    It’s a shame, really.  Bank Limit has some great ideas, but a seriously flawed implementation, along with a serious lack of polish, holds it back from something I, or most others, could recommend.  Sadly, the Steam reviews currently reflect this at the time of this writing, with 100% negative reviews.  While I hold out hope that the developer can address these issues and turn Bank Limit into something fun and worth playing, in its current state, I have to agree with the Steam reviewers.  Avoid.  On the plus side, morally the game is squeaky clean outside of some non-fatal vehicular combat.

  • E-Racer (Preview)

    This is a single player or online racing game. You can actually play online championships. The game has many modes, arcade, championship, time attack and multiplayer. All you have to do is choose your car and join the race. From a Christian stand point, I don\'t see anything wrong with this game. This demo is easy to install. It runs in Windows 2000 but it actually managed to give me a blue screen! So I must dock it for stability. The graphics are good. Force feedback was not supported. I find the cars very difficult to control period. However the keyboard was a little easier to use. The music was good, dance style. In the demo you can only choose two car models to try. I tried both cars but had difficulty controlling either one. I did not enjoy this game that much. I hope you have better luck if you buy it. The idea of online championships sounds fun.

    Rating

    Appropriate 5/5 Interface 2/5 Game Play 3.5/5 Music/Sound 4/5 Graphics 4/5 Stability 3/5

    Overall 72%

  • F-Zero GX

     

    Review by Pure Fun

    In most racing games, it really stinks when you finish in eighth place. In F-Zero GX, you?re lucky if you place eighth because there are 30 participants in each race! F-Zero GX, the latest installment in the fast paced racing game franchise, is the first F-Zero game on the GameCube. F-Zero GX (referred to as GX hereafter) is developed by Amusement Vision, the same company that developed Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2. Although Nintendo owns the Caption Falcon franchise, Sega published this game, after recently forming an alliance between the software giants. This fact is quite obvious, because the first screen you see in the game displays the Nintendo and Sega logos next to each other.

    History of F-Zero

    F-Zero (1991)

    - First game in the series. Second game ever released for the SNES. This was the first SNES title to use a technique that Nintendo called \'Mode-7 Scrolling\', a form of Parallax scrolling, to simulate 3D environment

    F-Zero X (1998)

    - First true sequel. Rendered fully in 3D, released exclusively for the Nintendo 64

    F-Zero Maximum Velocity (2001)

    - First Game Boy incarnation of the series. Very similar to the original SNES title (unlike other GBA - SNES ports however, this has different new tracks from the original)

    F-Zero GX/AX (2003)

    - Latest in the series. Simultaneously released on the GameCube (GX) and to arcades (AX)

    Modes, Modes, More Modes!

    GX offers a wide variety of modes to take part in, such as Story, Grand Prix, Versus, et cetera. Story mode is a new variation of play in which you compete in races, complete objectives, or even knock out certain characters. Each event you participate in is a chapter of the story, which is started and concluded with nicely rendered movies pertaining to the story that is being told. For example, the first chapter shows Captain Falcon taking training, and the objective is to go around a track three times and pick up all of the capsules laying on the track. Once you successfully finish the race, the next chapter is available in the F-Zero shop, where you can buy it in exchange for a few tickets, which are acquired by placing well in the Grand Prix circuits. In the Grand Prix mode, you are faced with a few courses and compete with 29 other racers. GX allows you to compete in Easy, Medium, and Expert modes. The Easy Mode contains known courses such as Mute City, while Medium and Expert modes offer harder courses like Big Blue and Port Town. The higher you rank overall, the more tickets you get at the end of the Prix, which you can use at a store to unlock new pilots, buy parts for your custom ship, or unchain new chapters for Story Mode. Versus mode tells it like it is; versus permits up to four players to compete between each other in split screen mode. As you may know, Nintendo has been slowly releasing games with LAN (Local Area Network) support, allowing many GameCubes to be connected together to play against each other. These games include the highly anticipated Mario Kart Double Dash!!, 1080 Avalanche, and Kirby Air Ride. When I was playing this on multiplayer, I thought this could be even better if it were online supported. Well, it turns out that it isn?t even LAN capable. If it were, I would give GX a higher score for multiplayer.

    Arcade Linking

    The connectivity between GX and its arcade counterpart F-Zero AX makes up for the lack of online capabilities. If you bring your GameCube memory card to the arcade and use it with AX, you can transfer unlocked characters in the GameCube version to your AX, unearth new parts for custom ships and more. The first time you play F-Zero AX, you will be prompted for your F-Zero license card. If you don?t have one, the machine will print one out for you with your name, license number and your best times. Then you can take your card back home with you, enter your license number into a website and compete for the best times over the internet.

    Graphics

    The graphical quality of this game is nearly perfect. All of the textures on the ships, tracks, menus, etc. are very, very detailed. The special effects are quite impressive as well, from the scuff marks when you ram into someone else to the sparks flying out from your engine when you boost. The frame rate is excellent as well. The game runs extremely smooth 100% of the time, even with all of the other 29 cars in view. Kudos goes to the Amusement Vision graphical team on this one.

    Sound

    F-Zero GX is presented in Dolby Pro Logic II, which is one of the best surround sound classifications available. All of the voice tracks in the cut scenes are well done, as well as the distinct sound each ship makes when whirring around a 180 degree turn at 2,000 KM/hour, for example. And, yes, it really is that fast.

    Appropriateness

    As far as inappropriate things go, this is just about as violent as your average NASCAR race. GX is rated Teen for Violence, which is due to ships blowing up, and for Suggestive Themes, because a couple characters have some inappropriate clothing, which really isn?t seen anywhere except in a few of the movies in the more difficult chapters in Story mode. F-Zero GX is a solid addition to the F-Zero franchise. With split timing controls, stunning graphics, and connectivity to AX, this game is a must buy for any fast paced futuristic racer fan.

    Ratings:

    Graphics: 10/10 Sound: 10/10 Multiplayer: 8/10 Story: 8/10 Lasting Appeal: 9/10 Appropriateness: 8/10

    Overall: 88%

  • F1 2016 (PS4)

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    Game Info:

    F1 2016
    Published by: Codemasters
    Developed by: Codemasters Birmingham
    Release Date: August 19, 2016
    Available on: PlayStation 4, XBox One, Windows, iOS, Android, tvOS
    Genre: Racing
    Number of Players: 1+
    ESRB Rating: E
    Price: $39.00
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Do you love racing games where you can just hold the accelerator button down and madly steer and drift around tight turns?  Do you get a kick out of shoving other racers off  the course and causing spectacular accidents?  Do you hate having to deal with the fine details of your car's performance? If so, then you'd be better off playing Burnout.  F1 2016, on the other hand, is practically a racing simulator, in which the player takes on the role of an F1 race car driver and joins one of the international racing teams.  It is the eighth and latest release for the F1 series of racing games.  Like many other sports games, it includes real-life teams with real-life people under license from F1 Management.  

    To be honest, when I first sat down to play this game I was expecting an up-to-date version of Pole Position.  I was shockingly, massively, comically wrong to have had that expectation.  

    First, F1 2016 isn't just a simple racing game.  The only thing it has in common with a game like Pole Position is that yes, you're controlling an open wheel race car on a race track.  That's where the similarities end.  F1 2016 is much more like a racing simulator with a learning curve so steep you almost need climbing gear or a rocket pack to get up over it.  Driving an F1 race car is not easy, especially when it's not enough to get the car safely across the finish line.  You also need to obey F1 racing rules.  

    Second, if you don't know the official rules for F1 racing you'll take a lot of penalties during the race and will probably get a black flag (ejected from the race) as a result.  (Ask me how I know.)  Contact with other cars, cutting corners too sharply, ignoring a blue flag, etc. are all ways to draw penalties which will add up.  

    Third, the performance of your car is a function of your own tweaks and modifications.  Having trouble cornering?  Adjust the front wing angle to get greater downforce.  Car not slowing down fast enough when approaching a hairpin turn?  Increase brake hydraulic pressure.  Need more top speed?  Adjust the gearbox ratios.  If you want to play this game to its full potential you have to have an understanding of real F1 basic engineering principles.  For me, it's an opportunity to learn all kinds of things I never had any idea about, but it can be frustrating to the player who would rather just race the car and not think about those things.  

    Sadly, there's no booklet in the game case and the in-game tutorials are simply short videos explaining some elements of the game.  I would have liked a real-time tutorial to help beginners get up to speed on game controls, basic racing principles and techniques.  The first time I did anything it was a quick race on the Monaco track and it took me several minutes just to figure out how to get the car to move.  I'm not being critical of the control setup here.  Once I learned the controls they felt very logical.  I would just have liked to see more guidance in the form of tutorials or a manual.   

    This is definitely a game for F1 racing fans.  If you've ever been in a conversation in which you've said something like "Sebastian Vettel really pulled an upset over the Mercedes team in Australia this March!" then you'll really get into this.  If you have no idea what that sentence means, then a good bit of this game will just feel like fluff.  The racing teams are all there, along with the drivers for each team in the 2016 roster as well as their actual cars.  The player can be any driver they like for the quick races but there's also a career mode where the player creates their own race car driver character and joins a racing team, replacing one of the two actual drivers on that team.  

    F1 2016
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: High realism, great graphics, lots for diehard F1 fans to do
    Weak Points: Steep learning curve, tutorials not very useful, no instruction manual
    Moral Warnings: None

    This game isn't just about race day.  There's practice sessions and qualifying runs, as well as tweaking and upgrading the car based on player experience during practice.  The player also earns points toward buying upgrades for the car by doing well during these sessions.  Because F1 tracks aren't usually simple ovals, braking and low speed cornering are just as important as full speed on the straightaways.  The player needs to be mindful of the condition of the car's brakes, gearbox, aero surfaces and suspension to get the most out of the car.  Different race tracks favor different configurations for the car so researching the number of turns and straightaways is crucial for knowing whether to configure the car for better low speed cornering or high speed straight sprints.  Some tracks reward a more balanced approach.  Some car settings can be tweaked on the track but others can only be done in the pit between practice sessions.

    Of course, tire wear and type also matter.  Should you go with soft tires for good grip and longer life, or super softs which will not last as long but grip even better and make the car much faster?  Other factors influence this decision as well.  Is it a warm day or cool outside?  Will it rain?  The car grips better in the late race than the early race because of all the tires leaving rubber behind on the track.  Yes, this actually matters and affects how the car performs and should be taken into account.  This is what I mean by being a game for fans... If you don't know or don't care how all of these factors will affect the way the car handles then you'll probably be better off playing a simpler racing game.  This game takes itself very seriously and really goes all out to make it as close to real F1 racing as can be achieved using a console that sits in your home.   

    What the game lacks in tutorials it makes up for in the sheer number of options the player can set to affect the difficulty (and realism) of the game.  Presets exist for beginners up to experts, but custom configurations are also possible.  Automatic or manual transmission?  How fragile is the car?  How stringently will the rules be enforced?  How tough is the AI for the other racers?  If the option is chosen, the game will also show the most efficient path for the race car to take when dealing with corners and the indicators even change color to let the player know when their speed is too fast to safely take the corners.  There's plenty of flexibility here.  

    The game plays on the standard PS4 controller.  I've heard that the game is even more fun with a steering wheel controller, but the price tag on those devices means I'll be sticking with the standard PS4 controller for the foreseeable future.  On the PS4 controller the left stick steers the car while R2 works the throttle, but with the very small travel of those controls it's hard to make really fine adjustments to steering and speed.  I can definitely see where a steering wheel/pedal controller would help.  I don't blame the game for this; it's just the nature of the controllers.  A typical game controller is just not optimized for racing games.

    The rumble feature in the controllers is actually more useful in this game than any other game I've played.  It isn't just there for realism, it actually lets you know what's happening.  Go off track and pick up dirt and debris in your tires and you'll feel it in the controller even after you get back on track for a while until all that junk falls off of the rubber.  Damage the car and you'll get the feedback when steering around corners or straightaways depending on what's busted.    

    What really tickled me is that as I was watching the 2017 season opening race I felt like I really knew the track, because I had been running a few practice sessions and qualifiers on that track inside the F1 2016 game.  As I watched the camera view from the drivers as they raced down the track, it really did look just like the game.  These guys really did their research.

    F1 2016
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The nice thing about the multiplayer environment is that it looks and feels like the real thing.  By that I mean the game has come close enough to realism that to actually race against other live players has many of the same challenges and factors as reality.  Well, there is one exception... No collisions, at least on the level of difficulty I was on.  Cars just pass through one another like ghosts.  

    For the extra dose of realism, the multiplayer environment is set up just like real F1 racing, with practice sessions, qualifiers and then the actual race.  This can make it difficult for a player to find a session that's just starting so they can get in on it.  A player can also create custom sessions if a group of friends want to get together and have their own.  There's also a multiplayer championship.  Fortunately for me, a rookie room is available where a player can find quick races of three laps to get in on.  This makes it a lot easier to find some online fun but the community doesn't seem to be very large and so it can be tough to get into a race session just in time.  The option exists to spectate until a race is over, at which point the player can then jump in.  Sadly, none of the sessions I joined were full.

    The graphics are great, in some cases almost photo-realistic, at least during the race.  Between races in career mode you speak with a variety of other characters in the game and the facial movements still have a long way to go.  It's the look of the cars and the track that really shine.  Drive off the track into the grass or sand and you'll see bits of dirt and grass stuck in your tires and splattering onto the "camera lens."  They gradually fall off once you get back on the pavement.  

    During the race the player can choose from a variety of camera perspectives, including a chase view, the driver's perspective, the TV camera mounted behind the driver (my favorite) and others.  

    On the PS4 version, the music, sound effects and UI sounds come from the TV speaker, and the voice of the crew chief comes in through the controller speaker or headset if connected.  It adds a little realism to feel like the crew chief is talking to you over the headset with the engine roar coming in from outside.  I did notice some problems where he would be talking and the audio would break up a bit, almost like when talking to someone on the phone when they're getting a bad signal.  I don't think this is an intentional part of the game.  Also, since the default PS4 headset is a single ear bud, I only got audio in one side of the stereo headphones I was using.  (I borrowed the headset from my wife's Wii U and it did work in the PS4 controller.)  

    The game plays smoothly and didn't crash or freeze when I was playing.  The only issues I noticed were the audio issues mentioned above.

    This game is a straightforward racing game, so morality issues are minimal.  Of course one can drive the car in a reckless and dangerous manner which puts other drivers at risk in the game, but this is never encouraged by the game itself and in-universe imposes penalties against the driver in accordance with F1 racing rules.  There were no language issues noticed and no sexual content.  There's no occult or supernatural content of any kind.

    I really enjoyed this game a lot, and despite the complexity even my almost 5-year-old son was able to get the hang of driving laps around the track with the difficulty set to low.  We don't have a category for the quality of the instructions so I took off a point from game play to reflect the shortage of information.

    If you're ever online and you see a driver named "El Toro Bravo" from Ecuador, that's me.  Stay out of my way because I still don't fully have the hang of this game and F1 cars come apart very easily when they collide...

     

  • Fast RMX (Switch)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Fast RMX
    Developed by: Shin’en
    Published by: Shin’en
    Release date: March 3, 2017
    Available on: Switch
    Genre: Racing
    Number of players: Up to 8 players online or locally, 4 player split-screen
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $19.99

    Fast RMX is one of the few Switch launch titles that retails for less than $20.  For that meager price tag you get to race through thirty futuristic tracks riddled with various obstacles to keep things interesting.  Besides the challenging tracks, you’ll have to manage your racing machine’s phase/color to take advantage of the numerous power strips to give you a significant speed boost.  If your vehicle is in the wrong phase, it will slow you down instead.  Orbs are scattered throughout the course and collecting them will fill up your boost meter which not only increases your speed, it also lets you knock into your opponents and cause them to spin out of control for a short period of time.  

    In the championship and multiplayer modes your racing vehicle can withstand a fair amount of damage.  If you get knocked off course, you’ll be respawned at the cost of a slight time delay.  In Hero mode, your vehicle’s shield and boost share the same meter.  Do you speed up at the expense of zero defense or do you forgo the boosting abilities to withstand a bump or two from your opponents?  If you get hit too much or leave the track, it’s game over.

    Fast RMX
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fast and futuristic racing with unique tracks and obstacles to avoid; plenty of people to play online against
    Weak Points: Like many Switch games, the graphics are good, but not great
    Moral Warnings: Vehicular violence

    The Championship mode has three different difficulties: Subsonic, Supersonic, and Hypersonic. At first there are a handful of cups and vehicles to race in.  The racing machines are rated by their acceleration, boost, and top speed.  As you complete and rank in cups, more cups and vehicles will become available.  The multiplayer and Hero modes can utilize unlocked racing machines.

    Playing with up to eight players online is quite fun.  Finding people to play against is not an issue. Finding people worse at this game than me is another story.  Depending on how you place in the race you can get points added your profile.  The top three players with the most points in the end are awarded first, second, and third place.  The same point system is used in the single-player races as well. I like how the game keeps track of your personal best track records for you too.

    Fast RMX
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The tracks take place in all sorts of futuristic environments including cities, jungles, under water, and in space.  There is a fair amount of detail, but sadly I’ve been spoiled by the superb graphics in other popular racing games like the Forza series to appreciate the visuals in this title.  For a Switch game it looks good though.  

    Most of the tracks have serious obstacles to avoid like turbines, electrical discharges, dense fog, and giant sand worms. Like many arcade racers, you can expect many jumps, twists, and turns as well.  Many tracks have phase shortcuts that propel you into the air if you have your vehicle in the proper phase/color.  If you’re mismatched, then you can pretty much expect to fall short on the long jump.  Phasing is accomplished by pressing the X button and the A button accelerates.  The trigger is used for boosting.

    Overall, this is a family friendly game though there is some aggressive driving, especially in boost mode.  Fans of F-Zero and arcade style racing games should definitely consider adding this to their Switch game collection.  The price is quite reasonable for this fun launch game.

     

  • Flatout 4: Total Insanity (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Flatout 4: Total Insanity
    Developer: Kylotonn
    Published by: Strategy First
    Release Date: April 4, 2017
    Available on: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Racing
    Players: 1-12
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen, Lyrics, Violence.   
    Price: $39.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks Strategy First for sending the review code.

    Racing games are another one of those genres I can be very picky and in depth about; I apologize for anything that seems a bit too nerdy or long winded in advance. Flatout 4: Total Insanity is a game in a genre that has not seen much life lately. While it has many famous and unique aspects in its franchise it doesn't do much to shake the racing genre. Thankfully this adventure wasn't bad, but it failed to put any sort of smile on my face. The only feeling seemed to be some burns on my stomach. This is Flatout 4: Total Insanity.
     
    Flatout 4 is all about racing and car destruction. In Career mode you start by buying a certain type of car then you compete to win money in traditional races, time trials and arena battles. The many cars in Flatout are separated by class, derby, classic and all-star. You unlock new cups by doing well in the previous cup. Every racer has a nitro meter that can only be built up by crashing into the destructible set pieces in the environment or crashing into other racers. Once your car takes enough damage you're out of the race and forced into last place. If others were blown up before you, then you'll be placed above them. The more infamous parts of the Flatout franchise are in Flatout mode. This can go from death matches in arenas, to being faster than a bomb tied to your car. Flatout mode also has the many famous stunt challenges which usually involve ejecting the car's driver to achieve various goals such as landing in beer pong cups or using him to play golf. New challenges can also be accessed by doing well in previous contests. You'll spend most of the in game currency to unlock cars and give them upgrades. You have a quick play mode where you can set up a race type, arena type or stunt type game. However, if you didn't unlock cars in Career mode or the new challenges or maps in other modes, you won't have much to choose from for a quick play map. It seems only all stunt challenges are unlocked from the get go.  In total between the three main game modes you'll have up to 20 different variations to choose from, though the majority of these are from the stunt mode.

    Flatout 4: Total Insanity
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The Stunt mode is fun and the feel of a demolition style game is captured decently.
    Weak Points: The unlockables are not worth one's time. The visuals are boring, progress is boring. Everything gets boring really fast.
    Moral Warnings: The game encourages brutal car crashing. The selection of music has explicit lyrics.

    The biggest flaw with this game is that it gives me no motivation to unlock anything. Most of the race track and arena maps are slight variations of country roads, mines, sewers and an occasional stadium. Each car only seems to have about five different paint jobs you can choose from. The characters you can unlock are all variations of punk rockers and literal clowns. The characters don't do much except appear in portraits on one side of the HUD during a competition. The various game modes are locked in quick play unless you unlock them in Career or Flatout Mode. Sure, you can set a nitro or damage modifier in quickplay, but that isn't enough to justify locking everything up for a feeling of progression. I might as well just play my preferred modes in Career and Flatout Mode. The soundtrack is nothing to write home about either; it's all forgettable wild rock and roll songs. I ended up putting my own soundtracks on and just turned the music off. Keep in mind while I may be biased towards rock, I feel even I could choose a better list of rock and roll than the game did.
     
    The franchise is famous for its wacky physics, yet it doesn't excuse the poor controls the cars have during a race. If you hit a turn wrong or collide into objects you will lose complete control of your car. It's very difficult to recover from a bad crash swiftly during a race. If you're way off track, you can hit a button to be put back on the course, yet it is a slow recover. This adds to the problem of unlocking things. If they wanted to keep wacky physics on high, they should have given the car tighter and less floaty controls. An adjustment to the physics in the race mode might have helped as well. The Arena mode makes slightly better use of the physics, yet you'll want tight controls to maneuver between attacks from other opponents. The only time the physics engine is not a hindrance is in the stunt mode. Don't try to play this game with a keyboard, controllers are a must. Don't expect a lively online multiplayer community either. You will have to rope in a few pals if you want to play with other people.

    Flatout 4: Total Insanity
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 60%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Most of the negative reviews for this game focus around a promise of Steam Workshop support that was never put in and supposed bugs. I was not able to recreate any bugs. However, the other major complaints such as lack of content for initial asking price, poor visuals and the poor physics are all understandable. Put this game under last minute Christmas gift quality. It's ok but it is nothing to write home about. You won't wanna play it for hours on end and it certainly does not do anything for the racing genre.
     
    According to general gamer consensus, Flatout 2 is the best in the franchise before it fell off the radar. After playing Flatout 4 I can agree with this wholeheartedly.

    The game's violent crashes have a brutal feel to them yet you'll have no blood or dismemberment. You won't have to worry about gory sound effects or screams during explosions either. A decent amount of the soundtrack has explicit lyrics. This game has no other moral problems.
     
    Flatout 4 is ok yet it's nothing I'd tell people to race towards. They wanted to capture old arcade style demolition racing games yet all it could do was crash and burn. I don't recommend you fly out of your window for this game. Boost towards more exciting racing titles instead.

  • Formula Fusion (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Formula Fusion
    Developer: R8 Games Ltd
    Published by: R8 Games Ltd
    Release Date: June 1, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Racing
    Players: 1-10
    ESRB Rating: unrated
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks R8 Games Ltd for the review code.

    Formula Fusion is a cool game, but not as cool as I hoped it would be. It helped that I was a bit behind on my reviews I owe; at the time of writing this several patches have hit that got rid of the abundance of performance problems. That being said, this isn't the game to replace Wipeout or F-Zero like some people hoped. This is Formula Fusion.

    Formula Fusion is a high speed racing game putting you behind the wheel of extremely fast hover vehicles. You compete against AI or other players in traditional races or time trials. Doing well in a race will earn you tech credits which you can use to buy upgrades for your vehicle and its weapons. The racing types include a standard race, endurance, time trial, speed lap, clean race and elimination. The modes are as follows. Standard races are a traditional 3 laps around the track. In endurance your health slowly goes down after the first lap; you will need to pick up shield power ups to keep going for as long as possible. Time Trial is trying to score the fastest time on your own. Speed lap is similar to time trial except you have to finish the course faster than other racers to win. Clean race is a standard race without weapons. Elimination is a long race that will not end until all other cars have exploded. After every lap, the player in last place is eliminated from the race permanently.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The game's challenge is top notch, it will make you want to keep racing.
    Weak Points: The game has no real character or life to it. The racetracks, music and visuals are all boring. The changes in difficulty are rather confusing, I am unaware if Im experiencing a bug or the game's meant to speed up like that.
    Moral Warnings: The only thing you'll have in this is cartoony explosions, and the cars do have weapons.

    I usually write positives first before negatives, but I am changing it today. This game is still decent at the end of the day yet I wonder if it would have been better if it didn't try so hard to be other games. The effects in the game are either a hindrance to gameplay or they just ruin the visuals. The blur effects that are left on by default are rather ugly and just ruin the look of the vehicles and the world around you. Add the camera shake and you just have a distraction. Thankfully you have options to shut it all off. There are eight tracks and night variations yet nothing about the tracks add to the challenge, they are just there. The music is very simple techno loops, nothing special. The paint jobs are boring as well, nothing that sticks out on your vehicle. While the game has weapons they are rather boring and negligible; throughout my races, the missiles, mines or blinders never seemed to make a difference in the race. This is a racing game you'll want to play on keyboard. While I can't speak for the console version of the game, using a controller makes the vehicle feel heavier. When I used keyboard I had a much smoother experience with and without steering assist enabled.

    The saving graces of this game are in its challenge. The hover vehicle you drive feels like a beast waiting to be tamed. I'll admit for my first few races I had to turn on steering assist to get used to how your vehicle handled. As I practiced I learned how to use the soft breaks to make turns and when to hit boosts and when not to. While the game itself lacks character, it gives me the inspiration to beat my record by a few seconds every time. The speed is exciting, the drive to perfection is exciting. Every win nets you tech credits which you can use to buy upgrades that improve the performance of your vehicle. The variation in game modes also helped keep my interest in challenging my top speeds.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    Now I am feeling mixed on the difficulty settings. While I was able to win races on advanced difficulties the AI performance wasn't what changed. I couldn't tell if the cars sped up or the game did. Even with all the fancy effects shut off, on the elite difficulty I was able to lap other cars with only steering assist and an engine upgrade on my loadout. Using the same loadout on lower difficulties lessened the speed of the game and made the races harder. I am unaware at this time if this is a bug or intended. I'll keep the game installed at the very least for a month and see what changes.

    Other than the boring weapons and the explosion if you lose all your health, you won't have any moral worries with this game.

    While this game is far from perfection, it is something that deserves at least a try. While I feel it has released in an incomplete state from Early Access, the devs still have a chance to improve the game. Additional content is planned and may be good enough to change my review.

  • Garfield Kart (Android)

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    Game Info:

    Garfield Kart
    Developed by: Anumen|
    Published by: Microids
    Release Date: November 12, 2013
    Available on: Android(reviewed), iOS, PC, Mac
    Genre: Racing
    Number of players: single-player, up to six players multiplayer
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $1.12

    Thank you Microids for sending us this game to review!

    I loved the Garfield cartoons and comics as a kid; I guess it's still running as a CGI animated series, but I have not watched it.  This racing game has many of the memorable characters including Garfield, Jon, Odie, Nermal, Arlene, Liz, Harry and Squeak.  Their 3D character models look great and the colorful race tracks feature nice locales including Garfield's neighborhood, shopping mall, the lake, and desert dunes.

    Like many karting games, you can play multiple difficulties such as the 50cc, 100cc and 150cc.  Before you take part in the Grand Prix you can go through the tutorial to learn the basics.  The Time Trial mode helps you familiarize yourself with the track and beat your own best times.   If you don't want to commit to champion racing, you can play a single race.

    Before you start the race, you can customize your driver, car, and accessories.  Car spoilers can increase your car's speed or mobility.  Hats are also available and they can increase the effectiveness of your weapons.   While there are some freebies, most of the good stuff can be purchased with in-game points that can be earned or purchased.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and colorful racing game
    Weak Points: Micro-transactions; generic sounds and music
    Moral Warnings: Comic mischief

     The game starts you off with 400 points which can only buy you boosters to give you an edge during the race.  Harder difficulties sell for 500 points each and better cars can cost you 2500 points apiece.   It may not sound like a lot, but when you only get 8 coins for winning a race, you'll have to save up for a while or cave in and buy points.         

    Parents should take precautions to disallow in-app purchases if they let their kids play this game on their phone or tablet.  My son enjoys playing this game and thankfully he knows better after learning this lesson the hard way on a different game.  (Fortunately it was only 99 cents.)

    The weapons in this game are family friendly and consist of springs, pies, pillows, perfume and flying saucers.  The spring can help you avoid an upcoming obstacle or fling your opponent's car around.  Pies are self explanatory for anyone who has watched a cartoon in their life.  You can launch them forwards or backwards.  The bewitching perfume can enamor your enemies for a little while and the pillow will cause them to nap for a couple of seconds.  The exploding diamonds and flying saucers will delay their targets.  The weapons are acquired by running over candy pieces on the track.  

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    While your car drives automatically, you can steer with motion detection or touch screen arrows.  I first installed Garfield Kart on my HP Tablet running the CyanogenMod and while it did run, the tilt controls did not work.  Rather than enable the touch screen controls, I installed it on my Samsung Galaxy S4 and it ran flawlessly on that.   

    One of this game's selling features is that you can compete against others online or locally no matter what version of the game is being used.  Sadly there was nobody to play against online.  Maybe there will be more players online when this game becomes available on Steam.

    My final complaint about this game is the audio.  I like how each track has its own background music and the sound effects are decent.  The character voices are extremely generic and only consist of grunts and giggles that become annoying after a while.  

    Even with its flaws, Garfield Kart is a cute racing game that is sure to draw in kids with its charming visuals.  The entry price of roughly a dollar is reasonable, but can easily cost you more if you or anyone else wants more in-game points.  Hopefully the multiplayer aspect picks up or else you're stuck with playing with nearby friends or by yourself.  

  • LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3)

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    Game Info:

    LittleBigPlanet Karting 
    Released: November 6, 2012
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Available On: PSP, PS3 (reviewed), Vita
    Genre: Racing
    Number of Players: Single-Player, Multiplayer
    Price: $20
    (Amazon affiliate link)

    LittleBigPlanet Karting is a spin-off of the popular LittleBigPlanet games. As the name implies, the game is a departure from the series’ typical 2D gameplay. Instead, it is a 3D go-kart racing game. Though it’s not as fun or as well polished as the other LittleBigPlanet games, LittleBigPlanet Karting is an entertaining game that allows you to use your imagination in many ways.

    The game’s basic formula is the same as the other LBP games: Play, Create, Share. You can play the story mode (or other people’s levels via the community), or create your own race tracks or battle courses and share them online.

    The story mode, like the first LBP game, is really more of an example of what you can do with the level builder rather than an attempt to come up with a really interesting plot. A gang of evildoers called the Hoard are terrorizing LittleBigPlanet, and it’s up to your character, Sackboy (or Sackgirl) to stop them. The Hoard seems to always be riding karts, so catching up to them on foot is impossible. Realizing this, Sackboy takes a kart from a Hoard member (who just happens to fall into a flame pit) and drives off to stop the Hoard. There are a few appearances from the (literally) cardboard characters of LittleBigPlanet, but unfortunately, none of the more entertaining characters from LittleBigPlanet 2 return.  Though technically it’s not bad, the story mode feels like a step backwards from the second game.

    LittleBigPlanet Karting’s gameplay has often been compared to ModNation Racers. That would make sense considering it was developed by the same company, United Front Games. Though I have not played ModNation Racers, I’ve done enough research on it to say that they definitely have their similarities. Since I haven’t played it though, I can’t say for sure how similar they handle.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Mario Kart-like gameplay is very fun; customizable characters, karts, and levels; detailed, yet colorful graphics; level creator allows you to make almost anything; short community loading times; the narrator
    Weak Points: Respawning takes too long, performing tricks is harder than it should be, character customization isn’t as polished as the previous LBP games, level creator is mind-boggling at first, some of the music is annoying
    Moral Warnings:Cartoon violence

    The basic gameplay plays a lot like Mario Kart. You’re put on a track with about seven other kart racers and try to cross the finish line three times first. Some levels are not races, but battles. In these levels, you’re put in a small space with other racers and try to hit each other as many times as possible to earn points. The racer with the most points wins. Like the other LBP games, you’re able to collect score bubbles and prize bubbles, which unlock content that you can use in create mode. Hitting the R2 and L2 buttons on the ground allows you to slap your opponents in the direction of the button you pressed. This really doesn’t give you any real advantage, but gives you a good laugh. You can also spin left and right in midair using the R2 and L2 buttons. If you run over creatinators (gun-like helmets that work like item boxes), you get a weapon that can either hit enemies or give you a boost. What I especially like about the gameplay is that it gives you an option to choose whether you want the X button to drive or the R2 button to drive.

    The gameplay is fun, but isn’t as polished as I would have liked. Though it is for the most part well constructed, there are two things I would have liked to have been improved.  First, respawning takes too long. Most of the weapons you use destroy the driver you hit, as opposed to items in games like Mario Kart where they just have you spin around for a second. If you get hit, respawning takes so long that you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose your place. Fortunately, if you have a weapon in your possession, you can hit the square button at the right time to stop the incoming weapon from hitting you.

    Second, the ability to spin and do tricks in midair is nice, but can lead to serious frustrations. When you land from a trick, you drive in whatever direction you land in. Though it’s realistic, it can be very annoying if you land improperly. It would have been much better if it was programmed to automatically have you drive straight when you land, regardless of what direction you’re facing. As far as the actual racing part of the game goes, it is fun, but there are better karting games out there.

    Of course, the basic gameplay isn’t why most people buy LittleBigPlanet games. If that were all there were to it, the franchise wouldn’t be as well recognized as it is today. The LBP games main attraction has always been the ability to make characters and levels, and LittleBigPlanet Karting is no exception.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The character creator is very similar as it is in the other LBP games. You unlock many costume pieces in the story mode such as hats, shirts, and pants, allowing you to make hundreds of combinations of outfits. Unfortunately, the customization is a bit more limited that before. In the other games, you could put stickers on costume pieces if you wanted to change the color. In Karting, you can still put on stickers, but they will likely touch the whole Sackboy, as opposed to the particular costume piece. Because of this, I haven’t been able to remake very many of the costumes I made in the previous games.

    In Karting, you can customize your kart. Like the character customization, you unlock different kart pieces in the story and are able to make several combinations. You can select the body, wheels, chair, steering wheel, and type (such as hovercraft or tank). As with the costumes, sticker placement isn’t as good as it should be. Fortunately, almost all of the downloadable content (DLC) from the previous games can be re-downloaded into Karting, allowing you to play as your favorite DLC characters again. Also, Karting has been getting its own DLC which allow you to buy new karts for the game.

    In regards to customization, Karting’s main attraction is the level creator. It works very similar to the other LBP games, but with some differences. The most noticeable difference is that it is in 3D, as opposed to the other games where it was 2D. Some of the controls are different, which takes some time getting used to, and the entire concept has a pretty difficult learning curve. Fortunately, the tutorials it comes with are very helpful, and before you know it, you’ll have a fully functional track (or battlefield) to enjoy by yourself or with friends.

    The multiplayer is pretty good, but has some rather odd flaws. (As I have not tried the online multiplayer, I will only talk about the local.) The first being that if you have more than two friends playing with you, the races you do will not include the other CPUs. Playing two-player is fine, but it still kind of takes the fun out of racing with more than one of my siblings, since we’re the only ones on the track. The second is that unlike LBP 1 and 2, other players can’t sign in with their PSN account. That means that if they have their own custom karts or characters, then they would have to remake them on the profile they’re on.

    I’ve had some rather unpleasant experiences in regards to its stability. While building levels, sometimes the game would freeze and I’d have to rebuild everything I hadn’t saved. One time I voice acted in a level and a glitch took away the recording. I was never able to make the character I was voicing have sound again. However, these complaints might have been fixed in a patch they uploaded before, because I haven’t had these kinds of experiences at all recently. On the plus side, the loading times on the community aren’t nearly as long as they were in the other two games.

    The game’s graphics find a near-perfect balance between realistic and cartoony. A lot of detail can be seen within the objects, characters, and scenery; but not so much that it takes away the colorful, cartoony look of the LittleBigPlanet series. Of course, I can’t tell if the graphics really got better, or if it seems that way because the closer camera allows more details to be seen.

    The music is sort of a mixed bag. On one hand, you get most of the songs from LittleBigPlanet 2 and some new catchy ones to use in your levels. On the other hand, a good portion of the new songs are quite annoying and will (to your displeasure) get stuck in your head. I’d say that overall, the soundtrack is better than LBP 1, but worse than LBP 2. Though there is virtually no voice acting aside from some grunts and noises, it should be noted that Stephen Fry returns from the other LBP games to voice the narrator and is once again hilarious to listen to.

    There really isn’t a whole lot to mention in Karting regarding the content. Like most go-kart racers, you throw items at your rivals, but that’s pretty much it.

    LittleBigPlanet Karting is a fun racer that gives you multiple ways to create levels, characters, and karts. Though I have my problems regarding the stability, I still recommend this to fans of games like Mario Kart. If you already own the game ModNation Racers, I’m not sure if you should get this one. As far as I can tell, they’re very similar games. For those LittleBigPlanet fans and racing fans who don’t have ModNation, Karting is a game you should seriously consider playing.

  • Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

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    Game Info:

    Mario Kart 8
    Developed By: Nintendo EAD and Namco Bandai Holdings
    Published By: Nintendo
    Released: May 30, 2014 (in USA)
    Available On: Wii U
    Genre: Racing
    ESRB Rating: E for everyone
    Number of Players: 1-4 locally; up to 12 online
    Price: $46.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Mario Kart 8 is the eighth main game in the series, excluding the arcade Mario Kart games.  As with every Mario Kart game, they added some new gimmick, this time being anti-gravity.  The game also carries elements from Mario Kart 7, such as underwater driving and the use of the glider.  Bikes also return in this title.

    The four usual Mario Kart modes appear in this game.  These modes are Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS Race, and Battle.  Grand Prix allows you to choose and unlock cups, characters, and engine classes in the game and get a star rating based on how well you did in 4 races.  The four engine classes, which are 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and mirror all appear like in previous games, however new to Mario Kart 8 is the 200cc mode.  This mode is a lot faster than 150cc and due to how fast you’re going you will probably have to stop your kart at some point during the race.  Time Trials allows you to race by yourself or with a ghost player to see how quickly you can complete the race.  VS Mode is similar to Grand Prix, but you don’t unlock anything and you can change some options before the race starts to your liking.  Battle mode has you start with three balloons and your goal is to take out everyone else’s balloons with items, while defending your own balloons.  Although in this game you battle on select race tracks instead of exclusive battle mode stages like in previous games.  This was honestly a very poor choice and made battle mode a lot less fun.

    Alright so enough about the modes, now let’s get into the actual gameplay.  The gameplay is simple, you race against 12 opponents in a race to get 1st place.  There are various item boxes and coins throughout the track for you to collect.  Coins allow you to increase your top speed and unlock new vehicle parts.  Item boxes allow you to gain an item to be used offensively or defensively.  There are also various other objects and enemies throughout the track that will try to hinder you from finishing the race.

    Mario Kart 8
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Online mode is extremely fun, tons of characters, amazing tracks, anti-gravity was implemented nicely
    Weak Points: Battle mode is poor, Online matches often lag
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence, Haunted mansion track

    The game has an online mode which, in my opinion, is a lot more fun and challenging than racing against CPU players.  You can play either a VS type race or battle mode online.  Before the race starts you can choose from three different courses that are on-screen or you can choose it to be selected randomly.  Everyone in the race will vote for what they want and the game will decide which person’s option it will use.  The actual races are, for the most part, lag free, however there have been occasions where I was disconnected from the match due to my internet not being strong enough.  Sometimes the race would lag for one person and not another, which means if one person threw an item and hit someone, the other player actually did not get hit, and thus completely wasting an item on your opponent.  The map on the screen showing where all the players are in the race can also occasionally be inaccurate for a time, due to players lagging.

    The main gimmick of this game is anti-gravity.  In nearly every race there is some place where you can get into anti-gravity mode.  Being in anti-gravity is pretty much the same as normal driving, except you're either on the side of a wall or completely upside-down, and your wheels also turn sideways.  Also, when you bump into another driver, you and the other driver will receive a small boost instead of just regular bumping.  There are these little bump things also occasionally laid out for you to get the same small boost you would get from bumping another racer.  You will know when you will be entering anti-gravity mode by a blue line on the track.  I think anti-gravity was a very neat gimmick and it worked out well.

    As for sound, the sound effects were extremely well done.  I liked most of the songs, and even a couple songs I loved, although there were a few courses where their music was more of the “meh” type.  The graphics were also very well done and everything looked very clean.

    Mario Kart 8
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There are a couple options for how to play, one being the Pro controller, another being the gamepad, and the last one being the Wii remote.  The Wii remote has two ways to control, one way without the nunchuck and another way with the nunchuck.  There are a couple other control options as well that are mostly variants of the ones I already mentioned.  I don’t own a Pro controller so I wasn’t able to test that controller option out.  The controls via the Wii remote are ok, but it is somewhat hard to drive because the sensor can’t detect the motions of turning the Wii remote extremely well, although I never knew you could use the nunchuck as a controller option, so I wasn't able to test that out either.  Granted it still does a good job, but it could be better.  Playing on the gamepad in my opinion is a whole lot better as the inputs are buttons, which are much more responsive than motion controls.  There is an option on the gamepad to change it from stick controls to tilt controls, but it is basically the same as the Wii remote motion controls.

    There is some DLC you can buy for the game. Two DLC packs are available for you to buy and each will unlock you with three new characters, a couple of vehicle parts, and two new cups.  If you buy both DLC packs you will be able to pick which color you want for Yoshi and Shy Guy.

    The only moral warnings for this game is that there is a little bit of cartoon violence by hitting your opponent with items.  There are also an undead character you can play as if you buy the second DLC pack, and there is a haunted mansion track.  A couple other tracks also have undead characters.

    Overall this game is very well polished and is one of the best games in the series.  All the new characters, items, tracks, and anti-gravity were extremely great!  The only complaints I have about the game is the battle mode, online mode can get laggy, and the inability to hold more than one item.  Although thankfully this game is getting a port on Nintendo’s latest console, the Nintendo Switch, which will address most if not all of these issues!

  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
    Developed By: Nintendo EPD
    Published By: Nintendo
    Released: April 28, 2017
    Available On: Switch
    Genre: Racing
    ESRB Rating: E for everyone
    Number of Players: 1-4 locally; up to 12 online
    Price: $58.95
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the first ever port of a Mario Kart game (excluding Virtual Console), porting over Mario Kart 8 from the Wii U. This game isn’t just a basic port, however; it includes some major changes to its battle mode, while also adding some other small changes and additions.

    Now, as this is a port of Mario Kart 8, I’m going to save you the trouble of going through all the original Mario Kart 8 content and just go straight to the new and changed stuff (if you want to see the original Mario Kart 8 content, visit my Mario Kart 8 review. To start off, this game includes all the DLC from the original game right off the bat. This is quite nice as I never did get to play the DLC from the original version. Also everything, excluding kart parts and one character, is unlocked immediately.

    Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also has some new vehicles and characters up its sleeve. This game also sees the return of two items, the feather and the boo. The feather is a little bit of a shock as this item hasn’t been seen since the original Super Mario Kart. Unfortunately the feather is a battle exclusive item, while the boo item is available in both races and battles. Both items function almost exactly the same as they did in the games they appeared in before. The boo item makes the player invisible to other players and invulnerable to projectiles. A boo will steal another players' item and give it back to you. The feather allows you to make a huge jump into the air, clearing big obstacles. The feather also allows you to steal a balloon or coins from another player if you touch the player while using the item.

    Another nice change is the ability to hold up to two items at once. Double item boxes also make a return. As a result of this you have to make a choice of whether to take a quicker path and get a single item box or take the longer path and get a double item box. Unfortunately you can’t switch between the 2 items. Another small change to races is that you can get a third level of mini-turbo, being the ultra mini-turbo. You will know you have the ultra mini-turbo by the purple/pink sparks that come out of your vehicle.

    Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Extremely fun; excellent battle mode; tons of characters and tracks to choose from
    Weak Points: Online mode is wonky (at the moment)
    Moral Warnings: Undead characters you can play as; haunted mansion tracks; cartoon violence

    Now on to the real change of this game, and that is battle mode. I mean, battle mode just went from nearly junk to being incredible! First of all, there are 5 different types of battle modes you can play. These being Balloon Battle, Coin Runners, Bob-omb Blast, Shine Thief, and Renegade Roundup. Battle mode is also played in battle arenas, in which five battle arenas are new and three are returning. Also if you lose all your balloons in Balloon Battle or Bob-omb Blast then you will respawn, with only half of your original points.

    In Balloon Battle you try to pop other players' balloons, while avoiding getting yourself hit. This time around you will spawn with five balloons when the round starts, though you will only get three if you respawn because of dying. You can steal a balloon using either a mushroom or a feather. Coin Runners is where you try to collect more coins than everyone else. You can also steal coins using the same tactics as in Balloon Battle. Bob-omb Blast is where the item boxes will only give you bob-ombs and you have to try to blow everyone else up, while keeping yourself alive. Balloons are used in this mode as well. Shine Thief is where you have to take hold of the Shine Sprite for 20 seconds, while avoiding everyone else who is chasing after you for the shine.

    Lastly there is Renegade Roundup. This mode is brand new to the Mario Kart series. In this mode you have two teams: one team is the renegades while the other team is the ‘law’ (aka cops). This mode is quite similar to Cops and Robbers. The renegades win if at least one renegade is not in jail when the timer finishes. The cops win if they catch all the renegades before the timer runs out. If a renegade gets trapped in jail then a fellow renegade can free you. Overall this mode is extremely well done and very fun to play. My personal favorite battle mode is Shine Thief. When you have the shine it kind of makes you feel like you’re the king of the court.

    Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The sound and controls are as great as ever. For the controls there are a few new options that help the newer folks to Mario Kart. One of them is “Smart Steering,” which prevents the player from falling off or going out of bounds while racing. No matter how hard you try you cannot get yourself to fall off the track. Another option is “Auto Accelerate” which, as the name states, makes your kart accelerate automatically, no button input required. The funny thing is if you combine Smart Steering and Auto Accelerate together then your character can drive on its own, as you don’t need to press even one button. Letting your character drive on its own will still count towards trophies and points, but it's not a good idea to do this on the higher engine class levels. If you do this on the very low engine class levels then you're pretty much guaranteed to win almost every time.

    The online mode is still extremely fun, but that fun is a little limited to how wonky it is. Every single time I hit somebody with a red shell or something and the player is dragging an item, the player has the “hit” animation and loses three coins, but never actually stops. This makes sense as the player has an item dragged, but he/she shouldn’t have had the hit animation or lose three coins. I do get it though as probably a good amount of players playing online are out on the go and don’t have extremely reliable internet. I’ve also been disconnected multiple times, although this could just be my Switch having trouble connecting to our internet. One change that I liked that they made to the online mode is that now a certain engine class will be picked. So you could have either 100cc, 150cc, mirror, or 200cc in an online race, while in the original version I believe you were stuck with 150cc all the time (unless a tournament picked a different cc engine class).

    Morality wise there isn’t a whole lot to worry about. There are a couple of haunted mansions to play in and you’re able to play as a couple of undead characters. There is also slight cartoon violence.

    Overall this is a great port and I think it was a smart decision to port over one of the Wii U’s greatest titles over to the Switch. The major issue from the original version is now fixed, and all modes are fun to play. If you own a Switch and never played the original version, then I have to recommend you getting this game. If you already own the Wii U version, then it’s up to you on whether you think it’s worth the extra $60 or not. Also note that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is exclusive to the Switch, the original Mario Kart 8 is completely unaffected.

  • Mario Kart DS


    Developed by: Nintendo Published by: Nintendo Release Year: 2005 ESRB Rating: Everyone For: Nintendo DS *Time to race...no wires attached. The acclaimed Mario Kart series has gone wireless, letting players race and battle with up to eight karts at once, regardless of whether everyone has a game card. An all-star cast that includes Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi?, Donkey Kong, Wario, Bowser and Toad will round out a truly all-star lineup of more than 30 courses drawn from every Mario Kart game. That\'s right ? players will tour courses from Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Super Circuit and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, not to mention brand-new tracks and arenas. With all the crazy items and frantic speed players have come to expect, this game is a Mario Kart fan\'s dream. The game has a new dimension of fun, since players can battle others around the world by connecting to Nintendo\'s new wireless gaming service, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, via Wi-Fi.* * From IGN.com Mario Kart DS is the fifth game in the long running Mario Kart series from Nintendo. Super Mario Kart for SNES started the series off with a bang when it showed that the modest graphical abilities of the SNES could be put to good use and create such a fun game. Then came Mario Kart 64. It was a big leap in graphics but it never seemed to match the charm of the original, it might even be because the graphics were much better and not as cartoony. Even though it didn\'t acheive as much acclaim as the original, it still did very well and was an extremely fun game to play. Then the gameboy advance version came out: Mario Kart Super Circuit. It was more of a revisit to the classic gameplay of Super Mario Kart and it was a smart move by Nintendo. It was probably the most anticipated game for the GBA and it definitely was not a letdown. Riding on the Mario Kart success wave, Nintendo thought it would change things up a bit and released Mario Kart: Double Dash!! for the GameCube. It was sort of a mixed bag. On the one hand it was incredibly fun to play with the new options (such as having two people on the same kart) but it also seemed like it wasn\'t very deep with few unlockables and an underwhelming battle mode. Then Mario Kart DS came along and peaked almost everyone\'s interest. It was a mixture of classic control and new graphics and Nintendo sure got it right!

    Game Play: 19/20

    The game play is amazing. There are so many options for single player and multiplayer that it\'s incredible that they fit it onto a little cartridge. Starting off with single player: There are 5 main game modes that you can choose from: Grand Prix, VS, Battle, Time Trial, and Missions. Grand Prix takes place over 8 cups with 4 tracks each, for a total of 32 tracks. There are three difficulty levels, 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. Each difficulty level ramps up the speed and how unpredictable the AI is. You must unlock all the tracks in each difficulty level in order to play them wirelessly or over the WiFi connection. VS is just the basic one race against 7 computer players on any track that has been unlocked. Battle is an insanely fun diversion from the usual racing with shells and banana peels galore! You start off with one balloon and 5 spares. You are able to blow up (through the microphone) two spare balloons for a total of three balloons on your kart at one time. Then you must pound your opponents with everything you\'ve got until you are the only one left with balloons. There is also another battle mode called shine runners where whoever collects the most shine sprites (from Super Mario Sunshine) is the winner and the people with the lowest amount are periodically kicked off. Time Trial is just driving by yourself to practise the course or to try and get the highest time on all courses. You can unlock ghosts of the developers of the game if you beat their time, but it\'s really hard to do so. Missions are the biggest addition, there are tons of missions to go through in single player with objectives (such as driving through the tires in order, breaking all the item boxes etc...) and even though in the end they are pointless, it still allows for an hour or two of extra time. The multiplayer is incredible on this game. Wireless multiplayer can be played single-card or multi-card and you are allowed to play VS races and battles. This is by far the most addictive portion of the game. For people with a wireless router (or who have purchased the USB connector) there is also online play through Nintendo\'s recent WiFi set-up. It is a bare-bones online match-up, but it can be really fun, especially if you can\'t find other friends to play with. There are problems with it, such as people disconnecting when they know they will lose, not being able to find people that you found fun to play against etc...

    Graphics: 8/10

    The graphics in this game are certainly not mind-blowing, but they are suitable for a game like this and most importantly of all: they are perfectly smooth. Not once have I noticed a frame-skip or "choppiness" throughout my entire single player experience. The multiplayer has some lag, but that is just due to bad connections and not the graphic engine. The courses for the original tracks for Mario Kart DS are very well done, with tracks spanning from inside (and outside) Luigi\'s Mansion, to a highway course where you are up against traffic. The lack of texture filtering can be disappointing at times, but that\'s due to the limitations of the DS and the necessity to keep the frame rate so high. The Retro Circuit (with tracks spanning all previous Mario Kart games) are a mixed bag. It all depends on the track. The SNES tracks have been "3D-fied" a little, but are all flat and a little monotonous. The Nintendo 64 tracks are looking better but lack a good draw distance. The GBA tracks look solid, albeit a little monotonous also, but the GameCube tracks look great on the DS and the draw distance at times is amazing considering the DS\'s graphical limitations.

    Sound: 9/10

    When it comes to sound, Mario Kart DS is top-notch. You definitely want to crank the volume up for this game. The sound effects for the karts and weapons are spot-on perfect and the music blends in perfectly with the theme of the game. I especially love the sound of the red homing shell when it\'s locked on to an enemy kart. The only problems with the sound are the repetitive "voice acting" that occurs when ever you pass someone or hit them with a weapon. It\'s usually nothing more than a grunt or other strange noise, but sometimes seems a little unnecessary. Overall, very well done.

    Stability: 5/5

    I have not encountered any bugs during my experience with this game. The WiFi connection can be a little unstable (laggy) but again, that is not because of the game, it\'s only because of wireless connections and the various problems that can occur from them.

    Controls/Interface: 5/5!

    Wow. Perfect. Nintendo has taken the highly praised control mechanics from the previous titles and tweaked them so they are absolutely perfect to play through the game with. I love the drifting in this game, and also I\'m glad they brought back the ability to bounce around corners or to alter direction. The only complaint I\'ve heard or read about the controls is that the accelerator and brake buttons are too close together. I never once thought that to myself while I played the game, but it may bother some people, especially since the controls cannot be re-mapped. The interface is also perfect, the menus are highly accessable, the touch screen is (thankfully) not used for anything more than a map, which is extremely useful when planting banana peels or staying on the road when your screen is covered in ink (one of the new weapons). Excellent.

    Violence: 10/10

    The only violent content in this game would be the idea of shooting turtle shells at people or trying to slip them up with explosive boxes or banana peels. The only effect these items have on the other players is a complete stop of their kart or a little delay while they spin around. Even the battle mode only carries the effects of losing a balloon when you are hit.

    Language: 10/10

    With the characters only making indistinct sounds and the inability to chat while playing online, there is no possibility for harsh or foul language, which is a major plus.

    Sexual Content: 10/10

    As with all Mario Kart games (and really all Mario games) there is no sexual content to speak of in this game. The only thing that I have noticed was that someone drew a part of the male anatomy as their emblem during online play, but that wasn\'t part of the game only the immaturity of one player.

    Occult/Supernatural: 9/10

    There is no magic in the game at all or any occultic images. I hate to take a point off but one of the tracks (Luigi\'s Mansion) takes a stroll through a graveyard where there are classic Mario ghosts floating around and the trees use their roots as legs and walk from side to side. I REALLY hope no one would be offended by that but I had to put it in here just to be completely sure.

    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    There\'s nothing to worry about in this category as there are no authority figures present and it\'s all presented in a friendly and cheery way as the previous titles were.

    Totals:

    Gameplay: 19/20 Graphics: 8/10 Sound: 9/10 Stability: 5/5 Controls/Interface: 5/5! Violence: 10/10 Language: 10/10 Sexual Content: 10/10 Occult/Supernatural: 9/10 Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    Total Score: 95/100

  • Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

     
    Rated E for Everyone by the ESRB.

    Mario Kart Wii is the sixth game in this long-running franchise, which started on the SNES, and has been one of Nintendo\'s high profile releases since. While in many ways it is similar to its predecessors, in particular the N64 or DS iterations, there are changes in a few key areas which keep things fresh. Not only can you drive with a controller like in previous entries, but you can also pick up the Wii Wheel, insert your Wii Remote, and really drive your way across the finish line.

    The basic mechanics of Mario Kart are fairly simple. You drive one of several different go karts, or new to this game, mini bikes. You also get to choose a favorite character from the Mario universe with which you drive your way through one of the thirty two courses to try and win first place. But that\'s not all. What gives Mario Kart its distinctive style is the item system. All around the track there are item boxes, and inside you can get one of several somewhat random items, which can range from banana peels, koopa shells, magic mushrooms, and more. Many of these can be used directly on your enemies. For example, you can drop bananas for your foes behind you, or throw a koopa shell at an enemy ahead of you. You can also use magic mushrooms and other items to get a quick burst of speed. And let\'s not forget the blue shell, which almost unavoidably hits the race leader and anyone nearby...

    Another area important to Mario Kart Wii is the drifting mechanic. While going around a corner, you can press the jump button, and hold it down to drift into a turn. Depending on the vehicle, it can help you make turns that you could not make without drifting, and it has the added bonus that your speed does not decrease for the duration of the drift. New to this version is the Manual and Automatic modes. One of the big bonuses to drifting is that in addition to improved turning, you get mini turbos if you drift long enough; this is unlike previous versions where you had to alternate left and right quickly on your controller to activate the turbo. Now you just have to hold on to the drift, and once sparks appear by your wheels, let go of the drift button and off you go. However, all of this complexity can be difficult for certain drivers, so they added Automatic mode. While you may think this has something to do with gearing, there are no transmissions in Mario Kart. On Automatic drifting, you don\'t have to press the drift/jump button to drift. You simply turn sharper. Mini turbo boosts from drifting are disabled in this mode. This indeed makes turning much simpler, and can be advantageous at times over Manual drifting, though skilled drifters will still have the edge most of the time because of boosts. Any advantages most likely depend on the course and skill levels, as you might expect.

    Minibikes are a pretty big addition to Mario Kart Wii. While they seem pretty similar at first, their differences start to become apparent. First of all, bikes are lighter; as a result, they are much more likely to be knocked around when hit by another competitor. Just like previous games, karts can drift around corners for up to two different levels of boost: first the blue sparks, then the orange for a really big boost. This is also true for karts here. Bikes are limited to only one level of drift boost, but in return, they can do wheelies. Wheelies are performed by shaking the Wii Remote (or pressing the trick button on the GameCube/classic controller) and they give you a small boost when going straight. They are also really useful in that they keep your speed constant, so they can really improve the duration of a mushroom, drift boost, or other track boost if timed correctly. They are quite useful. To compensate, you cannot turn very much (only very slightly) while in a wheelie, and you are very vulnerable to being knocked over. Another interesting difference is that on certain bikes, you drift \'inside\' instead of \'outside\', like a kart does. What this means is that instead of sliding out into a turn where you start to turn more sharply, you immediately grip hard into the turn. This definitely changes the feel, but it fits my tastes and style quite well; bikes of this type are my preferred ride because you can turn much more sharply \'on a dime\' then any other vehicle/drifting combination. Bikes are not labeled as inside or outside drifters; if you experiment with the different kinds, you will see what I mean. Naturally, different courses (and driver styles) impact whether or not a bike or kart is best for a particular case. In my opinion, bikes require a bit more strategy, and as a result, I find them more fun to drive.

    There is quite a bit of course variety in Mario Kart Wii. There are sixteen new tracks, and sixteen retro tracks from the previous five games, totaling thirty two tracks. Not too shabby. There are some really great ones also, as well as a few duds - but the good greatly outweighs the bad. A few take quite a bit of practice to get down, like Mushroom Gorge and SNES Ghost Valley 2 (which I have come to love). Others, like Coconut Mall, or Moonview Highway, or N64 Bowser\'s Castle, or DS Delfino Plaza, or.. (there are many more) are just tons of fun. While one or two could have been better chosen (DS Yoshi Falls? Huh?) overall the track list really is great.

    There are many different characters available, which have a weight of light, medium, or heavy. Each weight class has different typical advantages or disadvantages. In this game, all characters of the same weight class use the same vehicles; so for example, Mario, Luigi, and Peach all have the same rides, except that the color scheme is different. What differentiates them is that each character has subtly different strengths and weaknesses. For example, some characters turn slightly sharper, while another goes slightly faster. This difference is not immediately obvious, but the more you play, the more you will notice. When viewing a kart\'s stats, the character that you are affects what is displayed, so some people online have figured out what the differences are. All I can say is that while this game is remarkably balanced, as always there are a few standout combinations in my opinion. However, unlike some previous games, these standouts are not so ridiculously unbalanced that everyone will be using the same few combinations, which goes to show how good of a job they did balancing things this time around. Depending on preferences and tastes, there are a lot of great racers to choose from. Many new karts and bikes can be unlocked as you play through the single player modes, and even play online.

    As for game modes, much is similar to previous entries. There is Grand Prix mode where you race each cup, and Time Trial where you try to get the fastest time possible on each track. For Grand Prix, there are several standard speeds: 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. Each of these modes give the karts/bikes more power, and as a result, they go a lot faster. Also, 50cc is reserved for karts, and 100cc is reserved for bikes, though that opens up once you complete those levels. 150cc can use both. The AI gets a lot better in each successive speed grade as well. Eventually, you can unlock Mirror Mode, which flips each course around and makes things a lot harder, as the AI is as tough as it gets, all with 150cc speed. For Time Trial mode, you not only compete for the best time, but you can try to beat ghost racers made by Nintendo employees, and if you are fast enough, unlock fast ghost times - trials by the fastest Nintendo employees which can be hard to beat. In addition to this, you can submit your ghost times online, and complete against all of the best players around the globe. You can even race a rival ghost - someone who is only a little bit faster than you - as you try to get better and better. It\'s really great, and the online element really makes it rather addictive.
     
     
    For the multiplayer modes, there are several which return from previous games, the first of which is Battle Mode. This includes standard Balloon Battle where you try to pop your opponents\' balloons, and Coin Runners, where you try to collect coins around the track, and keep your opponents from theirs by knocking them out of their hands with shells; whoever has the most when time is up wins. There are also standard vs. races. These can all be played with up to four players locally, or twelve players online. It is this online play that is truly fantastic. Yes, Mario Kart DS has great online play, and is still very popular, but Mario Kart Wii has perfected it, as long as voice chat is not important to you (Nintendo does not want strangers to be able to contact children, so they do not add voice chat to their games). This is the first game where battle modes are available online, as well as the fun time trials mentioned above. There are also the above mentioned vs. modes. Up to two racers can use one Wii at a time, and competing online against others works amazingly well. I have never seen even the slightest evidence of lag whatsoever. All racetracks are available, and which is played next is chosen via a voting system. The only small gripe I have is that you can\'t change your vehicle without quitting out of WFC (Wi-Fi Connection) and reconnecting. Other than that, it\'s great fun. You can also \'text chat\' with one of many sets of preset text strings. This allows simple communication without allowing personal information to be shared.

    If fantastic online play was not enough, Nintendo has been implementing Tournaments. Every two weeks or so, they launch another tournament. Each one is typically a standard level with some twists that you have to overcome to get a good time trial. One level was particularly impressive in that the level was not available to play in outside of the tournament - I had never seen it before other then playing it in a tournament. Your tournament rankings are saved, and you can view your online rankings, as well as the best times of your friends, your region, and worldwide. You can also see what country they are from. I think it\'s a great system that really extends the replayability of Mario Kart Wii. Every few weeks I see my Wii glowing that \'new message blue\' and I know another tournament must be here. It\'s great incentive to keep playing.

    The gameplay and control responsiveness is really top notch. The Wii Wheel, while not quite as accurate as analog control, is quite remarkable for how well it works. While I do prefer the nunchuck controls for serious competitiveness, I was surprised to see how well Wii Wheel users can do online. Anyone who uses the wheel online will have a picture of a steering wheel next to their name, so you can tell their control scheme. I think it\'s a good idea, and it helps keep people honest.

    The graphics are really excellent. The framerate is butter-smooth 60fps, and I have never seen it dip, even with lots of people on the screen. The animations are really great, and each item thrown, banana dropped and slipped onto, or bob-omb exploded looks as good as ever, in the cartoony consistency you expect from Nintendo and Mario.

    Sound effects work equally well. Each slip, crash, and boom sound is what you would expect. Each race track has its own theme that does a good job setting the mood and keeping things fun. The voices are all what you expect, though I admit the Mii character\'s voice (at least the male one) is kind of dorky sounding, but it\'s not annoying. All in all, it\'s another high quality job.

    From a Christian standpoint, there is really almost nothing to complain about. There is vehicle violence in a cartoony, slapstick sense. There is no foul language, even online, since people cannot enter their own messages. There are ghost characters, called \'boos\', that are on a couple of stages, and you can unlock one to drive as. This is similar to other Mario games, and very cartoony, and nothing serious. There is no storyline - just a race to win. There is no sense of good or bad; even Bowser and Mario can race together with no feelings exchanged. It\'s a fun, lighthearted race that the whole family can enjoy.

    Mario Kart Wii is a really solid entry into one of Nintendo\'s most popular franchises. Though in some ways it does not completely top the fabulous DS entry, it is extremely well done and a ton of fun. I recommend this to any fan of any other Mario Kart game, or anyone who wants a fun, family friendly race with a little competition as koopa shells go flying. If that wasn\'t enough, the family can play together, even halfway across the world.

    Appropriateness Score:

    Violence 8/10
    Language 10/10
    Sexual Content/Nudity 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

    Appropriateness Total: 47/50

    Game Score:
    Game Play 19/20
    Graphics 10/10
    Sound/Music 9/10
    Stability/Polish 5/5
    Controls/Interface 5/5

    Game Score Total: 48/50

    Overall: 95/100
  • Mario Kart: Double Dash (GC)


    It is hard to argue that Mario has been busy lately. Indeed, he has almost abandoned his platformer roots to brawl it out in Smash Bros, go RPG style in Mario and Luigi and, of course, hit the track in the infamous Mario Kart series. The latest entry of that series has just hit the Game Cube in the form of Mario Kart: Double Dash.

    Visuals:

    Mario Kart packs a mixed bag of visuals. Some of the environments are lush and beautiful, but most karts and characters feature bland textures and poor animation. Mario (not to mention several other characters) don\'t even sport real mouths, only drawn-on flapping lines that slightly match dialogue. Of course, this only irritates picky players, but it is frustrating that this game doesn\'t push the hardware by any stretch of the imagination.

    Sound:

    The sound is fantastic! On tracks you can hear background noises such as a crowd, rollercoasters and birds. All the characters have voices, including Mario being played by the same actor that first gave him speech in Mario64---and none of the acting comes off bland. Although, some of it is repetitive, such as every time Princess Daisy passes someone she feels the urgent need to introduce herself, and after the 232nd \'Hi, I\'m Daisy\' players feel like they want to beat her over the head with a chair.

    Game Play

    Contols are very well done in this game, and yet very straight forward. The game is split into 3 classes (50 cc 100cc and 150cc) which require growing skills on the controller, so players start out easy and gain talent rather quickly. A new addition to the gameplay mechanics of Mario Kart is the two person kart. Every kart now hosts 2 riders, one in charge of weapons and the other in charge of driving. Each character can hold a weapon, so players can keep a hard hitting weapon with the driver to use at a good time, without making themselves vunerable to other drivers. To switch roles, players need only to tap the Z button and driver and weapon weilder make the switch.

    Each kart is rated based on Speed, Weight and Acceleration. Speed is pretty much standard, how fast you go. Weight is how well players can push everyone else around. If you have excelent weight, you can push others off the road or ram them and steal weapons from them. Acceleration is of course how fast you can pick up speed. The karts are split into 3 groups, small, medium and large. Small karts have excelent speed, decent acceleration and low weight. Large Karts have aweosme speed, horrible acceleration and weight like you would not believe. And, of course, the medium karts are the balance between the two, usually having decent stats in every area. Each kart does have slightly skewed stats though, and it is odd that the specific riders do not affect the karts (ie you COULD use Mario and Luigi on Mario\'s kart, but if you kick Luigi off and switch him for Baby Mario {a lighter character} your kart weight rating does not change).

    Appropriateness

    Unless you consider your friend hitting your ride with a red shell offensive, there is nothing negative to be found here.

    Final Score

    sound 95 A gameplay 100 A Appr 100 A Visuals 95 A

    Overall 97.5

  • MegaRace 3 (Preview)

     

    System requirements
    OS: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000 CPU: N/A RAM: N/A HDD: 60 MB VIDEO: DirectX compatible graphics card SOUND: DirectX compatible sound card Age: 10+

    I first played Mega Race back in 1996 when it came bundled with my Packard Bell 486. (I didn\'t know any better) Back then I remember the graphics were a bit blocky, but most of all I remember the annoying announcer Lance Boyle. Overall it was a fun but cheesy game. I never played the sequel, I didn\'t know there was one. As soon as I heard there was a third release, I had to try it out of pure curiosity.

    The graphics have improved quite a bit, but the demo doesn\'t have movies in it like the original. Lance Boyle is still there too, you don\'t have look at him but he will be there shouting at you during the race. This is not your average racing game. In the demo you can play three modes practice, arcade and catastrophe. In the practice mode you can do races specializing in your attack, defense and racing/speed skills. In the arcade mode you get to race against seven others in the mouse gut map. Anything goes, you can win by eliminating the others, but defense and speed are important too! Finally there is catastrophe mode, in this race you have to survive the track. You will encounter slow down slime, falling rocks and giant insects. In the full version of the game you will have champion mode and multiplayer as well. No matter what mode you decide to play, you can always alter your megaracer. You can switch your mode to shield mode, kill mode or speed mode.

    In the arcade mode you have three megaracers to choose from. They are titled Big, Vulcain and Royal Badness. When choosing your racer you have many stats to consider. These include max speed, acceleration, brake, handling, life and energy. All of these are important so choose wisely.

    From a Christian standpoint, this game is pretty good as long as you don\'t get offended by silly comments. Lance will shout out during the race things like \'Die like a man big guy!\', \'I can smell your fear enforcer\', and \'Go killer boy\'. That\'s not too bad though. If you find good ol\' Lance annoying you can turn off his comments. By doing that I found it difficult to know which mode I was in (speed, shield, or kill). The game was easy to install, all you have to do is unzip it. There is a separate program to run to configure your video card and mode.

    For controls you can use keyboard or joystick. My joystick was detected but was not working well with the game, I could not control it. So I used the keyboard. The sounds effects were good, however Lance\'s comments can be annoying. There seems to be one music track that was techno/dance style. The graphics were good and ran smoothly and the levels were detailed and very colorful. Much better than the original. The game ran well in Windows 2000 however, I did encounter one glitch. When you exit a race it gives an error about accessing a memory card. Looks like they overlooked that when they ported it from console to PC. Other than that, the game ran great. If you like racers, this one is unique and has lots of eye candy.

    Final Ratings

    Graphics A Game play A Sound B Interface B Stability B Offensive Content B

    Overall B

  • Michael Schumacher Racing World: Kart 2002 (Preview)

    System Requirements
    OS: Windows 2000, Windows 98, Windows ME CPU: 450mhz AMD/Intel processor RAM: 64 MB HDD: 380 MB VIDEO: 16MB Direct 3D compatible graphics card SOUND: DirectX 8 compatible sound card INTERNET ACCESS: ISDN or better recommended AGE: Everybody

    Race through the beginnings of Formula 1 Star Michael Schumacher career as a Kart driver. Expirience the atmosphere of the worlds most famous race tracks and challenge the World in the Online Tournament. MS Kart is the ultimate Kart Race Sim with 3 different classes to choose from, 16 unique tracks with various difficulty levels and real-life like physics. Choose your racing outfit, color of your Kart, your driver name and more. Customize the apprearance of the upcoming Number One KartDriver. Learn to drive a Kart and follow the footsteps of the incredibly famous Michael Schumacher. Advance through the different race classes and difficulty levels and win the world-wide championship in the Internet, involving players from all over the World. *

    Racing Tracks

    In this demo you can do training, time trial and championship races. You will be racing around the world with tracks available from Japan, Italy, Germany, Great, and France etc. Mitzuma, JP is the only track available in the demo. The full version offers sixteen indoor and out door tracks. There will even be online play available as well! There are more tracks for download to keep the game interesting.

    Game Play

    When you start the game you get to set up your cart and driver. You can customize the colors for both. The training mode allows you to race against the ghost of a pro racer. Follow it\'s moves to learn how to handle the track more effectively. The second racing mode is Time Trail. In this mode you get to do three laps and compare your times in hopes of improving them. Finally there is Championship mode. In this mode you must first qualify to be entered into the race. Upon qualifying, you will get to race against six others and you get three laps to beat them. The full game makes the championship races progressively harder. Good luck!

    Appropriate?

    From a Christian standpoint, this game is very clean. I would recommend it to anyone.

    Overall

    The game was easy to install and setup. There are some nice advanced graphics options. You can allow lens flare and reflections. The graphics are great in this game! The sound effect and music are nicely done too. The music is techno/dance style. For controls there is joystick and force feedback support. The game ran very stable, I didn\'t experience any lockups. If you like Kart racing, I would highly recommend this game.

    Final Ratings

    Graphics A Game play A Sound B Interface A Stability A Offensive Content A+

    Overall A 97%

    * Taken from http://www.JoWood.com
  • Moto Racer 4 (Xbox One)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Moto Racer 4
    Developed by: Artefacts
    Published by: Microids
    Release date: January 24, 2017
    Available on: macOS, PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Racing
    Number of players: up to two locally, ten players online
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $19.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Microids for sending us a review code of this game!

    The MotoRacer series began in 1997 and I remember enjoying it quite a bit on my (much slower) PC.  The first couple of games were available on the PlayStation as well.  The third installment never made it to the consoles and received poor ratings.  After twenty years, the fourth game has arrived on multiple platforms. Can it restore the series to its former glory?

    In Moto Racer 4 you can jump right into the action and do a quick game or unlock more racers and bikes in the Career mode.  Since you only start off with a couple of bikes and racers it’s probably best to unlock more and find out which ones suit your racing style best. Unlocked bikes and racers can be used in multiplayer mode, but you’d better have friends to play against since nobody is playing this game online apparently.

    In Split Screen mode you can play against a friend in a point based championship mode or in a standard race.  Other game modes include King of the Road, where you have to stay in first place or Last Man Riding where the rider in last place is ejected from the race at timed intervals.  Last Man Riding is more fun in the career mode with more players than in split screen.  When I played the Hunter mode with my brother the races only lasted fifteen seconds since it didn’t take me long to catch up to him (the prey) despite the head start he was given.  The last mode is called Golden Helmet where the racers must find and wear the helmet for a set amount of time to win the race.

    Moto Racer 4
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A decent mix of asphalt and dirt racing
    Weak Points: Dated visuals; long loading screens; nobody is playing it online
    Moral Warnings: You can knock racers off their bikes

    In the single-player Quick Game mode you can do a Single Race, a multi-race Championship, a Time Attack, or Hot Lap.  You only have three laps in Time Attack while you can race an unlimited number of times in Hot Lap to beat the best time.

    The Career mode combines many of the modes and depending on how well you do, you’ll earn stars which can be used to unlock future events, racers, and bikes.  Before a race, you have to wager on your performance and gain or lose stars depending on the results.  The more stars you wager, the tougher your opponents will be.

    While most racing games focus on speed, Moto Racer 4 awards you style points for all the fancy moves you can pull off during the race.  Simple and long jumps will give you points if you can land properly while flips and wheelies can net you even more points.  If you cut too many corners or fail to do stunts properly, you’ll lose points.

    The controls are pretty straightforward with the right trigger to accelerate and the A button for doing stunts like wheelies.  If you do a wheelie long enough, you’ll get a speed boost. It is worthwhile to be daring, but you’ll have to be careful too. If you miss a turn or hit an obstacle like a car, you’ll respawn and lose precious time.  Thankfully, there is no blood or gore shown when you take a nasty spill.

    Moto Racer 4
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Before a race, you’ll have to stare at a loading screen for a bit.  While the quotes from the racers are helpful and entertaining, I’d still prefer not having extended loading times.  

    The graphics are another letdown.  Despite this being an Unreal Engine 4 game, the low quality textures appear to be a generation or two behind.   On a big screen this title could pass for a PS2-PS3 era game.   I was also surprised to notice my Xbox One Slim stuttering while playing this game.

    There’s a wide variety of maps and I like the changing locales ranging from forest and desert roads to expressways on tropical islands.  The maps are well designed and offer multiple routes and shortcuts to utilize.  

    There is no voice acting, but the sound effects are decent.  The background music is peppy and pleasant to listen to while racing.  None of it was particularly memorable though.

    Though the retail price is $39.99, it sells for less than $20 on Amazon.  While it’s worth the $19.99 price tag, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it at full price.  The lack of multiplayer is disappointing, but the single-player and co-op races are fun.  This game is suitable for aspiring racers and stunt drivers of all ages.

  • Moto Racer Collection (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Moto Racer Collection
    Developed By: Anuman Interactive
    Published By: Gravity Europe SAS
    Released: November 30, 2011
    Available On: PC
    Genre: Racing
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    Number of Players: 1 offline, 1-8 online
    Price: $10 new 

    Special thanks to Anuman Interactive for sending us this game to review!

    The Moto Racer games were a staple of my childhood. The CD for the first game is probably still at my parent's house somewhere. And the games themselves are still reasonably fun, if not very dated. The thrill of hitting a motocross jump, or reaching high speeds in a city is something not even graphical age can really take away.

    But this collection is nothing short of abysmal. It's honestly amazing how little effort seems to have been put into this collection. Other than making sure that the games launch and adding a built-in joystick map for an Xbox 360 controller, it doesn't seem that any additional work was put into this collection.

    First, there's the launcher. The launcher is the laziest part of this collection. It was very obviously made with Windows forms (So I doubt we'll ever see a Mac or Linux port of this), and was made by someone who spent maybe 15 minutes on it. It's just a drop-down menu that lets you pick a game, and sometimes the language. They didn't even change the default icon for goodness' sake! In an hour, I could teach a programmer how to make a better launcher than this...

    Moto Racer Collection
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great fun when it works, raw arcade racing still holds up well
    Weak Points: The launcher is poorly designed and doesn't launch the first game, control issues plague the second game, 15th anniversary game is simply awful
    Moral Warnings: Motorcycle crashes sometimes cause non-graphic wipeouts, but they reset after a few seconds

    But let's talk about the games. With the first Moto Racer, the launcher won't even launch the game! I kid you not, it launched my copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (which I had forgotten I had installed). If you go into the installation directory and launch the game directly from the executable, it will work. Besides the issues with launching the game, it has not been changed. It's just as good as I remember it, but it's controller support has not been updated for modern controllers. Running it with an Xbox 360 controller, the turns are way too fast. You can get used to it, though.

    Moto Racer 2 does not allow turning with anything other than a controller for me (Which has aforementioned sensitivity issues). This game is a marked improvement over the first though, even if it's not been changed since it was released. There are more tracks, and it's a tad more realistic than the first.

    Moto Racer 3 is the first one so far to run without any issues! It's not as good as Moto Racer 1 or 2 though. The tracks are pretty boring, and the menu system is sluggish. Not a terrible game, but far from the best entry of the series. It could be worse, however...

    Moto Racer: 15th Anniversary is, and there's no way to put this lightly, the worst in the series. It's a port of a mobile game, and it shows: Poor production values; bland and uninspired graphics; and very, very bad AI. There's nothing really enjoyable here. The tracks are simplistic and generic; the acceleration feels off (kind of like approaching relativistic speeds, which is horrendously out of place for a motorcycle racing game), and the graphics for the racers, while technically an improvement, make them look more like aliens than humans. The controls work, but the aforementioned speed issue makes it difficult to control well. 

    Moto Racer Collection
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 58%
    Gameplay - 8/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Even taking into account the age of these games, some aspects still work pretty well. The sounds of the motorcycles are loud and sound like the real thing, the voice of the announcer is clear and not irritating. The game has crashed a few times on me, but it was sparse enough to make me think they were flukes rather than an endemic problem. 

    It should also be noted that Multiplayer mode on the first three games (15th anniversary does not support it) requires a direct IP connection to play, you can't just host a server that people can browse to. It's definitely a holdout from the 90's, and because none of my friends have these games, Multiplayer was unable to be tested for this review. 

    As far as appropriateness goes, these games are quite clean. Motorcycles crash, which means falling off your bike (and if you hit someone, they fall off of their bike), but after a few seconds it resets you back onto the track. It does come at the expense of wasted time, though. I didn't encounter any language, and everyone is quite appropriately dressed for racing. Not much to say here.

    In all, this is a poor collection of great games. If you want to experience the Moto Racer games, just get them from GOG. They'll actually work, and you can experience them without some of the bugs that plague this collection. Other than the launcher, the 15th anniversary game, and being bundled together, this collection offers no additional “benefits” to the version from GOG.

  • Motorsport Manager (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Motorsport Manager
    Developed by: Playsport Games
    Published by: Sega (PC)
    Release Date: November 9, 2016 (Windows) November 23, 2016 (Linux)
    Available on: iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows PC, Linux PC
    Genre: Simulator
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E
    Price: $34.99 
    (Humble Store Link)

    Do you enjoy the feel of ripping down the racetrack in a pack of aggressive drivers at 180 miles per hour?  Do you love the thrill of dueling for first place?  Have you loved race car driving games since you were a small child?  If so, then this game isn't for you.  On the other hand, if you like making strategic decisions during a race, like which tires to put on the car at the next pit stop or how much to tweak the suspension based on driver feedback, then this is your game.  Motorsport Manager is a management simulator where the player takes on the role of manager of an international Formula One racing team.

    There are two main modes of gameplay.  The first is where all the racing team management happens.  This is where the player manages personnel, car maintenance and upgrades, corporate sponsors and racing league politics.  I must admit a lot of the things a team manager deals with in this game is stuff that had never occurred to me.  You start off choosing an International racing team to manage, each with a different amount of starting money and prestige.  As the manager, you decide which corporate sponsors to sign contracts with based on the base amount of money, length of the contract and bonuses for good performance in the race.  You have to scout out new team members to replace under-performing members of your team and that doesn't just include drivers.  It also includes the mechanic for each car and the technical team leader.  You not only have to consider the various skills of the prospective new hire but also the chemistry between teammates.  A driver who gets along well with the mechanic will get bonuses during the race.  Mind you, when you send an offer of employment to a prospective new hire they may or may not accept it based on their own expectations and how much in demand they may be.

    On top of that, you manage the cars themselves, directing your technical team to upgrade components which, depending on exactly how it's done, may risk being caught in a racing rules violation.  As if that weren't enough to keep track of, the driver of each car is going to have an opinion about the upgrades you put on the car.  Keeping the drivers happy is important!  

    Still not enough to keep track of?  Not to worry.  You manage the physical facilities the racing team uses as its headquarters and build new buildings or upgrade old ones as needed.  Of course, these things take vast amounts of money so your team had better have good contracts with your sponsors!  The game has a simulated social media feed giving you a sense of public opinion about your team and its performance, and of course there's always the team owner's happiness to consider, or your job security may be at risk...

    Motorsport Manager
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Plenty to do, highly detailed 
    Weak Points: The cars are the centerpiece of racing, but we don't get to see them race up close
    Moral Warnings: Mild Language

    There's even a section for racing league politics.  A new rule is proposed to make a change to one of the race tracks.  Do you vote for or against?  Maybe you abstain for now so you have greater voting power later.  The choice is yours, and based on the strengths and weaknesses of your team.  If your drivers are strong in the low speed, tight turns then a change to a track that adds a new curve might be to your benefit.  Not so much if your cars perform poorly at low speeds, however. 

    The second mode is race mode, where the player assumes real-time control of the racing team on race day.  The team fields two cars in each race, and each is managed separately.  This is where the player decides what kinds of tires to put on each car during each pit stop, maintenance to be performed on the cars and the strategies the driver should use.  It starts with practice laps, which are optional but well worth doing to fine tune the car's mechanical settings.  Based on driver feedback, you can adjust things like the angle of the front and rear wings, the stiffness of the suspension and transmission gearing.  If the driver complains that the car handles poorly at high speeds you can make adjustments to correct it to his or her preferences.  The two cars are tuned separately, because each driver has a different set of preferences and skills. 

    Then, there's the qualifier and the race.  There's one last opportunity to tune the car and choose the tires before the race begins, and there's plenty to do.  As the manager, you keep an eye on the weather so you can make choices about tires in upcoming pit stops.  Even if the weather is dry, do you use soft tires which last longer but aren't quite as fast, or do you push the car's speed with even softer tires for the extra speed, knowing they won't last as long?  How much fuel do you add in the pit?  Do you want to make any repairs to the car while it's there?  Every decision you make affects how long the car is in the pit stop.  Push the pit crew too hard and they might make a mistake, costing even more time.  

    It isn't just the pit crew that can be pushed too hard.  If your driver is told to drive aggressively, the car will take more severe wear and tear requiring more pit stop time.  Should the driver be more conservative to save fuel, or would you rather have them push hard for a few laps to try to gain a lead?  Should the driver be aggressive and take risks to get ahead during the slower turns, knowing this will wear down the tires and suspension faster, or should they hang back a bit and outlast the cars in front of them that may need to pit soon?  All of this and you're making decisions for two cars in the race, not just one.  This is a racing team, and you can have the cars help each other as well.  

    The game is controlled entirely with menus and buttons.  Since the player doesn't actually drive the cars the only input device needed is the mouse.  During the race the player can control the camera to allow the track to be seen from multiple angles.  There's also a zoom feature but the difference between fully zoomed in and fully zoomed out isn't much at all.  Even when zoomed in to the maximum, details of the cars still aren't visible, and when zoomed out to the maximum amount the entire track isn't visible.  It just feels like a feature that's only there because people expect it to be, but isn't really that useful.  

    Races can be long.  Very long.  Time can be sped up if things are happening too slowly (which is a strange problem in a racing game) but even at max speed the race is going to take at least a half hour or so.  That's fine with me, since I wouldn't set it much faster than that even if I could because there's plenty to do and keep track of.  With the physical condition of two cars, watching the weather and making real time decisions about how aggressive the drivers should be, it's hard to be idle. 

    This game has no multiplayer mode, which is a shame because the potential is there to let players pit their championship racing teams against each other.

    Motorsport Manager
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The graphics in the management section consist mostly of menus, which are clear and easy to read.  There's also a distinctly technical feel to them which I liked.  In race mode, the actual track and the cars are visible.  Buildings are rendered as 3D objects in the world.  The cars are also 3D objects but are only visible from a distance. Again, even when zoomed in as much as possible it's difficult to see details on the cars at all, and the only thing to distinguish the cars from each other is the body color.  I suppose the 3D buildings are gobbling so much of the GPU's power that to zoom in very close to the cars would really hurt the frame rate, but I feel like it would have been worth it to trade off a little more of the environment to get a better view of the focus of the game: The cars.  Maybe I'm a little more disappointed by this than I ought to be, but I got into this game in the first place because the little boy in me just loves to watch F1 cars zoom around a racetrack up close.

    I did like that as the race progresses, the track looks less and less clean as the cars leave rubber on the track from the tires.  I also like that when it rains,  the view is slightly distorted as if rain drops were hitting the "camera lens."  It's very subtle so that it's still easy to see what's happening, but it looks great.  These effects add a good bit of realism to the experience.

    The sound effects are adequate if not particularly memorable.  Get used to the sound of race car engines, as that's really the centerpiece.  I'm not completely sure but I think the sound does change somewhat as the engines sustain wear and tear during a race, but it's subtle and may just be my imagination.  When drivers send radio messages from the track it sounds like a generic static garbled message.  It's not meant to be understood.  Instead the text is displayed on screen when the driver speaks.  I can understand why they did it; unless the developers got a ton of voice actors to provide a wide variety of voices, every driver would just sound the same anyway and this approach seems to be a reasonable compromise.  Still, it makes the game feel like it has less production value.

    The game didn't have any crashes or issues on my HP gaming laptop with Windows 7. The frame rate was somewhat low during races and my graphics card isn't very old.  The only big drain I can see would be from the 3D environment, unless the 3D models of the cars are far more detailed than it seems.  Load times are decent and the audio remained smooth throughout.

    This game is free from moral issues for the most part, though a player can have the chief designer modify the car in such a way as to potentially break the racing league rules. Radio messages from drivers (displayed as text) sometimes contain mild profanity when they're frustrated during a race, but nothing one wouldn't hear on regular broadcast television.  It's refreshing to play a game where nobody's getting killed.  Cars do occasionally crash, but I have yet to see a fatal one.

    I like this game a lot.  It's very detailed, so I think it'll be a lot more fun after I get over the learning curve and start to really feel like I know what I'm doing, and I'm eager to get there.  I highly recommend it for any die hard fan of racing as a sport, but not for those who like more action oriented racing games.

     

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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