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Racing

  • 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.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    All-Star Fruit Racing
    Developed By: 3DClouds.it
    Published By: 3DClouds.it
    Released: September 4, 2017
    Available On: PC
    Genre: Racing
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 - 4 offline, 8 online
    Price: $14.99

    Thanks 3DClouds.it for sending us this preview copy to review.

    Have you ever played Mario Kart and thought that the game was too tame with not enough ways to mess up your friends? If so, then this game is perfect for you. All-Star Fruit Racing is a kart racing game all about going fast and using a mixture of power-ups to 1-up the competition. To juice things up even further, the game is themed entirely around fruits and what seasons they grow in. Who hasn’t ever been in last place and wanted to blast the person in front with a pineapple shot from a bazooka?

    In All-Star Fruit Racing, one of the main features is the juicer. This is a series of tanks that fill up depending on what color power-up you collect. When one tank fills, you can use that ability. If two tanks fill, you can use a multi ability that combines those different abilities. If you fill all four you can use your super ability. This super ability is defined by what character you select. You can also choose to turn off different tanks which will give you control over which ability to use. I really like the juicer mechanic, but I rarely found myself using it to its full extent. The game is a pretty fast racing game so I never really got around to mixing abilities nor did I ever really target a specific color of pick-up to fill certain tanks. I found it more beneficial to focus on racing and just use abilities when I got them. I seemed to do fairly well racing like that, but focusing more on abilities could still be a solid choice. It just wasn’t what I had much success at. There were also some pick-ups that would fill your tanks completely while also deactivating two of them. These were pretty interesting. They are also the best way to learn how to combine the tanks to make certain abilities.

    This game’s races are all really fast-paced. To help you keep building up speed is the game’s drift mechanic. The longer you drift, the bigger the speed boost you’ll get from doing it. If it wasn’t for the speed boost I probably wouldn’t drift. A lot of the turns are really easy to do without drifting. In addition, the drifting can be a little weird. To drift, you need to be turning and hit the drift button. When hit, you can then turn to do a tight drift or a wide drift. I’ve found very few turns are tight enough to require the tight drift. In addition, the tight drift is the default drift since it is triggered by the same button you use to turn. You need to quickly change to the other turn button to change in a wide drift, but you have to change so quickly that I found myself sometimes changing before I hit the drift key. Luckily, if you mess up, the speed boost you get from turning is good enough that it normally helps offset some of the negative effects from hitting a wall. Maybe in some of the courses that still need to be added the drifting will become a more vital component, but as of right now there is not much of a reason for me to try mastering it.

    All-Star Fruit Racing
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A solid fruit theme; fun kart racing action with interesting power-ups; pretty and varied levels; not a hard game to learn.
    Weak Points: Some aspects of gameplay not fully explained; the races are a little fast to really use some of the more strategic elements of gameplay; the art overwhelms the UI.
    Moral Warnings: Some cartoony violence.

    I really enjoy the variety of different types of races in this game. In addition to the standard races you have time attack, elimination, and dragster. Dragster is a pretty unique one where it puts your special ability on a cooldown. I feel like in this race, the character you pick is really the most important since you’ll be using their special ability the most often out of all the races. I also enjoy how there are different types of tracks to race on. Some tracks have shorter laps and have more laps, some are your standard three lap tracks, and some are sprints which have you just racing from one point to another. The different cups you can race have a mixture of these tracks in them. Some tracks even had shortcuts in them. I enjoyed how some shortcuts weren’t always the most optimal route to take since some had obstacles on them that could really slow you down.

    This game also allows for a lot of customization. You get to build your own kart to race in. Some of the options here, like the frame, are a little lacking, but I hope that to just be because it is still in early access. The selection of characters is also nice, but the reason for choosing them really comes down to what ability they have and whether or not you like it. Everything in this game looks really good. For this game, they went with a very cartoony artstyle with a lot of bright colors. My only real complaint for the art is that some of the stuff is so bright it kind of overwhelms different parts of the UI. The sound design is also nice. The music is good and really helps build the feeling that this is a fast-paced game. The sound effects are also decent.

    This game controls pretty smoothly. The only problem I really have is with getting the drift to work properly. The keys for deactivating the different tanks were a little funky, but I never messed with them much. The game does come with a tutorial that teaches most of the stuff you’d need to know about the game. I wish it covered some more stuff about what all the different abilities are, but that might have made it last too long. The game was stable for the whole time I played it. I didn’t notice any bugs or have any crashes.

    All-Star Fruit Racing
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

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

    Currently, the game allows for up to four players to play in split screen multiplayer. There is an online multiplayer mode, but it still has a big WIP on the button to select it. To play online, you either need to host a server or join a server being hosted by somebody else. When I was checking it out, no servers were currently open. It says they are working on improving the online multiplayer mode so it should become more populated as time progresses.

    This is a game that is really safe for kids to play. The only thing that brings its score down is some cartoony violence with shooting pineapple rockets and melon sharks at the other players. Vehicles, when damaged, only slow down for a bit. The bigger thing I see that might make it not suited for younger kids is that the game has more difficult controls that could frustrate some children, but they might just brute force their way through like I did.

    All-Star Fruit Racing is a very promising Early Access game. It needs more content, but the ground work they have laid so far is good. The game feels well worth its $14.99 asking price. If you are interested in kart racing games and are looking for something a little bit different, this game is for you. I know I am most certainly looking forward to what else they add into this game by the time it gets fully released.

  • 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.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Break Arts II
    Developed By: Mercury Studio
    Published By: AGM PLAYISM
    Released: February 9, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Racing, Mecha
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1-6 players online
    Price: $14.99

    The mecha genre is a troubled one. A genre known all throughout the world but one that mostly the Japanese dabble with. It has a very passionate community of enthusiasts that simply love seeing robots beat the tar out of each other but doesn’t get a whole lot of love when it comes to video games. Indie Japanese studio, Mercury Studio, who previously created Break Arts: Cyber Battle Racing for the mobile operating systems try their hand at developing yet another game, and this time they released it on Steam for PC users.

    The main draw of Break Arts II is its customization and frankly it's a pretty great system. When one first enters the garage, an in-depth tutorial is shown to you, explaining the various parts and what they do. Every single thing that belongs to the mecha can be changed, from the mecha itself to even the various weapons it can wield. At first only a few parts are there to wield but as one increases their grade, which can be done by winning or placing high in races, more parts are unlocked. The whole thing may seem overwhelming, but the game introduces you to a few premade sets that one can use to jump right into the action until they get a feel for the system. The main objective of the race is to get in first, while optionally taking out the other racers with your weapons. One has various tools to their disposable, such as a boost, a type of side boosters to help take turns better, a reverse system that lets you retaliate against attacking enemies while also giving a rear view to stay on track and an overdrive system that lets your mecha reach the absolute limit and blaze through. The game does a pretty decent job at giving the player a sense of speed.

    The custom system for an indie game is even better than some AAA games that I have played and is comparable to games in its genre such as Gundam Breaker or Armored Core. There are so many parts to swap in and out it's incredible. There are even joint parts to add to increase the spots for parts. The customization isn’t just for show either; it also factors in many things such as acceleration, boost speed, turning and control, and even how much damage one can take. The more damage one can withstand, the heavier and slower the mecha is on the course. The lighter they are, the faster they move around but also cannot take much punishment. This also factors into the gun design as depending on the parts, it affects its damage, impact, shot velocity, and even recharge period. There are a variety of weapons such as laser carbines, machine guns, traps, and rocket launchers. This, accompanied by smooth jazz playing in the background, and around 300 save slots for machines, hours can and will easily pass by. The developers really put a lot of time, thought and effort into this system and deserves much needed praise.

    Break Arts II
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very detailed and in-depth customization; the mecha themselves look very nice
    Weak Points: Grand Prix is repetitive with fluctuating AI; long loading times in some areas; numerous bugs
    Moral Warnings: Half the game is trying to shoot down your opponent with various weapons

    The problems with this game sadly start to arise when one actually starts to play the game. The big draw of these user-created games and such is to show off your creations to other players but one major thing that a person will notice is when racing. All the mecha except for your own are represented by these low-rez diamond polygons and it doesn’t seem that one can share their creations online either. The environment also stands out in a slightly negative fashion from being pretty simple compared to the detail of your creation. The weapons are mostly on a lock on system that is represented by a circle that covers the enemy diamonds when one gets close enough. This makes the weapons feel passive in nature, and I would have preferred a more active aiming system.

    As stated previously, the main way of increasing grade is to complete the Grand Prix, but the AI is very odd, sometimes even unfair in some cases. Even on the higher Grand Prix it seems to be the flip of the coin as to how they act and races can easily be determined in the first 10 seconds of a race, whether it's the other 5 racers completely ganging up on you, or that they all attack each other and leave you with zero resistance, or one diamond just happens to be the fastest player of all the land with seemingly infinite boost capabilities. There are only a dozen or so courses in the game so offline races can be pretty repetitive and feel quite grindy due to the unlocking method of obtaining more parts.

    Break Arts II
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 58%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 2/5

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

    The game's controller settings are kinda odd and do take some time getting used too while the keyboard controls just plain stink and no option to keybind is always a bad sign. I've experienced quite a few crashes and bugs trying out the game. There is one annoying bug where if one changes too quickly through the menus in the garage, the game can be stuck on a loading screen. Even loading times in some instances are very long where one time it took me 2 whole minutes to load one race.

    In terms of morality, the only thing that sticks out is the fact that destroying your opponents is a main component in the game, but the violence is on a pure fantasy level as it's robots shooting other robots with lasers and explosions.

    In the end, Break Arts II is a hard game to recommend. The game's customization is downright amazing and holds a load of surprises and depth to it, the mecha themselves look sleek and well designed and the game is generally safe for both kids and adults to enjoy, but there are loads of inconsistencies with the engine that make the game pretty unstable. The devs are very responsive to feedback and already pushed out many updates that are slowly fixing the game. For mecha fans, the customization and a cheap price may be all the incentive for them to put down the money. For racing fans, the game leaves a lot to be desired in the racing department but does show promise. I just hope the game will last long enough for the devs to implement the untapped potential.

    -Cinque Pierre

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Crashday: Redline Edition
    Developed by: Moonbyte
    Published by: 2tainment GmbH
    Release date: August 10, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Action Racing
    Number of players: Single player, Online Multiplayer
    Price: $11.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you, 2tainment GmbH, for sending us a review key!

    Some games appeal to the eight-year-old inside you who wants to take Hot Wheels, smash them together and shout, “BOOM!” Other games shoot for the more refined automotive palate, providing a controlled and weighty driving experience that shows off the finest real-world cars on the planet. Many of us have enjoyed Mario Kart with friends at every LAN party for years. Crashday: Redline Edition provides tools to please any of these audiences. It has rocket and gun modes, stunt games, and several variations on the directive, “Gotta go fast.” The level designer is user-friendly, and integrating mods for everything from Dodge Chargers to Doc’s DeLorean has never been easier. Nevertheless, this is not a game designed to be played in a vacuum. The core game is fast, stable, fun, and small. This is a game that lives on its community involvement and engagement, and if you are not from the publisher’s native Germany, that involvement might be less than you hope for.

    The option highlighted when you boot up this game is “Play online.” Two options down is career (story) mode. Despite the obvious focus of the game, it is best to avail oneself of the single player options before hopping online. Cars in Crashday, though fun to drive, might take some getting used to. This game takes skill and precision, more so than starting career mode with a rocket-powered Wrecking Match might suggest. Having played for a while, I suspect that narrow tracks are partly responsible for the feel of unforgiving controls. Keyboard control is as good as one can hope for in a racing game--perfectly playable and never quite as comfortable as a controller. A Steam Controller worked well for my time with the game. Learning to handle Crashday takes effort regardless of control scheme. It is easy to hit turns too quickly and all too common to spin out. Start it slow, and you will grow to appreciate the controls. Start playing like it’s Mario Kart, and you won’t even see the dust your opponents leave behind.

    Crashday: Redline Edition
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Easy and deep customization through level creation and modding; game modes are distinct from each other and from other racing games; graphics, sound, and controls provide good sense of speed; low price relative to similar games
    Weak Points: Overly-reliant on multiplayer given the size of the community; a couple modes lend themselves to exploitable yet boring strategies; straightforward progression limits customization opportunities; indie rock and electronica soundtrack might put off fans of the genres
    Moral Warnings: Story mode exposition accomplishes almost nothing except establishing that the player is in a criminal organization and showing occasional pictures of scantily-clad women; some swearing in the story mode and music; unregulated online text chat; most modes allow or require shooting opponents with car-mounted guns and rockets, blowing up the vehicles

    Fortunately, most of the game modes do not demand you to floor it right out of the gate. Wrecking Match is a demolition-derby event, with explosives. In my experience, the explosives quickly overwhelm the need for precise and controlled driving. Bomb Run is a race in which each car has a bomb strapped to the roof. In a blatant and effective rip-off of Speed, the bomb has a minimum speed limit which rises over the course of the race. If a car drops below that speed, it is destroyed and knocked out of the race. Thus, Bomb Run encourages careful driving that becomes more frantic with time.

    Other modes encourage silly and fun driving by not constraining you to a set track. Hold The Flag asks you to pick up a giant smiley and drive it through checkpoints scattered throughout an open level. Pass The Bomb starts one driver off with a bomb which can be passed by bumping into another. After a set number of seconds, the bomb goes off; everyone who was not just blown up gets points. Stunt Mode gives out points for chaining jumps, flips, loops, and more together on levels full of ramps and corkscrews. There is potential for a well-planned route of high scoring mapped throughout the level; I found the easiest way to win to be going down a bumpy straightaway, turning around, and going down the bumpy straightaway again before the score multiplier resets. “Slow and monotonous” describe these runs, and neither word ought to be used of a stunt mode. Race mode is what it sounds like, and it often allows the use of rockets and guns to spice up the ride. All of these modes require skill and, with practice, it is possible to rarely lose to the computer.

    Career mode gives a good sampling of all modes while gradually unlocking better cars and parts. Unfortunately, at the end of the mode the unambiguously-best car is unlocked: hardest to destroy (save perhaps for the Hummer), sharpest-controlling, and fastest. For all the game modes’ variety, none of them give you a reason to pick a looser-steering car. There is no car with a higher top speed or better acceleration. This car is the entry point to competitive online play. Picking a lower-tier car because it looks more like a Lamborghini than a BMW is a good way to lose an edge on the competition. While there is something to be said for an even playing field, it is somewhat disappointing to lose the potential for interesting trade-off decisions.

    Online play gives a new level of challenge and injects needed variety and scope into Crashday. The modding community around this game has created a large selection of cars (real or fictional), tracks, and skin packs which can be downloaded from the Steam Workshop and activated easily. Mods necessary to join an online game are downloaded automatically when you connect. The experience is smooth and the lobby facilitates joining and creating games for the freshest of faces. It’s a shame that games are so hard to come by. I have not seen more than 25 or so players online at any one time looking for a game. The few games I have been able to join have been thoroughly enjoyable, from a go-kart mod to a long, ramp-filled drag-style raceway for Bomb Run. I hope this online community thrives, because it has a lot to offer the toy box that is Crashday.

    Crashday: Redline Edition
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Multiplayer has an open text chat. While most of the chat you see will probably not be in English, there seems to be no stopping players from swearing on the chat in any language. If there is a way to mute or block chat, I didn’t find it. In career mode, you are guaranteed to hear swearing (in English) in the lazily-acted voice-over explanations before events. Story mode will also show that the player is an illegal racer in a vaguely-defined criminal enterprise. This is reinforced by a couple events which involve evading or destroying cop cars. During one voice-over, the player is shown a few pictures of women who are likely quite chilly. These scenes can be skipped, and doing so will do nothing to diminish your experience of the game. There is no avoiding the wanton destruction of your fellow racers with rockets, bullets, and smashing fenders.

    Music is provided by indie alternatives to the rock and electronic music found in games with more funding. I think the bands do their jobs well enough, albeit with some inappropriate language thrown in. That said, there are not many songs, and you will hear them repeat several times before finishing story mode. Steam integration allows you to play music from your computer instead if you so desire.

    Crashday is an impressive game in many ways. Cars are fun to drive; game modes are fun to experiment with. The built-in level designer has already fueled the creation of many good tracks, and the community is taking it, along with Steam Workshop mod integration, and running for the horizon. If you enjoy racing games with a heavier emphasis on explosions than manufacturer labels, Crashday: Redline is a strong and cost-effective option. It is a shame that its online presence is not larger.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    DiRT Rally
    Developed By: Codemasters Racing Studio
    Published By: Codemasters
    Release Date: December 7, 2015
    Available On: PC, PS4/Xbox One coming April 5, 2016
    Genre: Simulation Racer
    Number of Players: 1+
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    MSRP: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Codemasters for sending us this game for review!

    I have always had a soft spot for racing games, but mostly those of the arcade-y persuasion.  I have good memories of early Need for Speed games, and going back even farther, games like Pole Position, Roadmasters, and Chase-HQ also bring back good memories.  Over the years I would enjoy Gran Tourismo, and eventually TrackMania quite a lot, but I never really got into dirt racing games too much.  I gave DiRT 2 a decent try, but I found that game to be too difficult for my arcade style foot to the floor approach, but it was far too flashy to be a real simulator. When I was given a chance to try out DiRT Rally, I jumped at the chance.

    You see, DiRT Rally is really nothing like its recent predecessors.  Rather than focus on flashy races and stunts, this game is down to business.  The physics feel extremely accurate, at least to me.  What really did it for me was when I slid around a corner, and in my front wheel drive car, stepped on it in just the right way, and pulled out of that corner, with my rear wheels fishtailing – just like I have done in real life in the snow.  (Don't tell my wife.)  It felt real enough that I could use my real driving experience to make me better at this game.  I was blown away.  Oh, and did I mention that I slid right off of the cliff on my first turn of a corner?

    Yes, that's right.  On surfaces with poor traction, your cars follow the laws of physics and don't always go the direction you turn your wheel.  What you quickly learn playing this game is that putting your foot to the floor is almost universally a bad idea.  Now, I drive a manual transmission in real life, so I understand a bit better than some how easy it actually is to break tires loose.  This is very much the case here, also.  

    So, rather than aiming for top speed and keeping it there, you very much instead learn to drive at a comfortable pace to simply stay on the road, as finishing the race and earning some credits is far more important than doing it quickly and crashing.  This game does not allow you complete do-overs – you can restart a race, but that costs credits.  You can't really cancel out of championships once you enter.  A DNF (did not finish) can cost you money from car repairs and from paying your engineers.

    DiRT Rally
    Highlights:

    Strong Points:  Excellent graphics, sound, and voices; very realistic physics, much more so than previous DiRT games; incredibly challenging; stripped down, pure rally experience; excellent wheel support
    Weak Points: By far best experienced with a wheel; has many less modes than previous DiRT entries
    Moral Warnings: None!  (unless driving into a tree or off a cliff is considered violent)

    The customization in this game is a bit more realistic and a bit less flashy than some games.  You can make adjustments and tweaks, but you can't make a 600HP Ford Escort.  You can do things like adjust tire pressures, differentials, and more things along those lines.  You can also hire a pit crew to help repair your vehicles.  Every two races in an event, you have the opportunity to perform some repairs, which your crew helps with.  Each person has a set of stats, and their overall rating is a combination of them.  But they also cost money, and eventually will have to be rehired or let go.

    And go you must, but slowly, at first.  There is a certain joy each time you complete a race, and intensity required to do so, that I haven't experienced in a racing game before.  And I was impressed at how the game trains you through each successive generation of cars.  The first front wheel drive 1960s cars are slow, and very inexpensive.  When you step up to the 1970s cars, they are now rear wheel drive, and much faster.  The difference in feel and handling was startling.  But it also slowly trains you on how to handle the faster speeds.  Each successive generation does that more and more, until you can handle the latest all wheel drive super cars with relative ease.  (I have not reached this point.)

    It's also interesting how you can earn more and more credits with each race and rank that you achieve, making future and more expensive cars more affordable.  And while the standard Rally mode is the default (and least expensive) courses to enter, the hillclimb and rallycross races require their own cars, which you won't be able to afford until you have saved enough from rally racing.  Hopefully by that point, driving much faster and more powerful cars will feel a bit more natural from all that practice rally driving got you.

    The standard Rally mode is pretty much a set of point A to point B races, with at least four (more on higher difficulties) races per event.  Hillclimb is somewhat similar, except that you must first purchase a very expensive hillclimb vehicle, and race up a mountain twice, keeping your best time.  Rallycross is a bit more traditional racing mode, where you race in laps, trying to pass all of your opponents, attempting to win first place.

    While hillclimb and rallycross are locked behind credits in career mode, there is also a custom event where you can play whichever mode you like.  You can also pick any vehicle.  There are also leagues and a few other multiplayer modes.  Most of them are competitive based on times, but rallycross is simultaneous.  There are also challenges that are updated periodically for everyone to take part in and compete on leaderboards.

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

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    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

    The levels are in most (all?) cases direct re-implementations of actual rally driving courses that real rally drivers use.  They look simply stunning, and very realistic.  Some courses are mountainous, others desert, others forest, and yet others with snow and ice.  The level design is really great, and will challenge even the most jaded race driver.  As your co-driver tells you that coming up is a hairpin turn, you better listen – or you'll be in a world of hurt.  Really, a big part of getting 'in the zone' with this game is learning to listen and prepare for what is coming.

    The graphics are simply breathtaking.  The cars dent and ding in realistic ways. The trees and foliage look great.  The road itself is also really nice – and if you see a bump in the road, you can likely go flying if you hit it at high speed, so being careful is extremely important.  A crash or two can really ruin an otherwise excellent run – especially if you fail entirely with a DNF.

    There is also a weather system that really affects how you can drive.  And it looks great.  If you knock out your headlights at night, which is completely possible to do, you may find yourself unhappy with the results.

    The graphics scale quite well, and there are a ton of options to work through if you are a tweaker.  I was quite surprised that my AMD R9 290X required a handful of settings turned down from maximum in order to average over sixty frames per second, which is really important in a game like this.

    DiRT Rally is some of the most fun I have had in a racing game in years.  While I will continue to have a soft spot for arcade style racers, I was beyond impressed with what Codemasters has accomplished with this title: a realistic rally sim that is not only tough as nails, but really fun to play.  And rewarding.  However, while a gamepad does function as expected, and I did test it with both a Xbox One controller and a Steam Controller, this game really does deserve a decent racing wheel.  I am using an old Logitech MOMO that I got for a very low price, and it works great.  If you are looking for a fun arcade style racer where you just flatten the accelerator the whole time, please look elsewhere.  But if you want a tough as nails but very realistic rally racing simulator, then I highly recommend DiRT Rally.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Drift Tuner 2019
    Developed By: S&COR Games
    Published By: S&COR Games
    Release Date: February 1, 2018
    Available On: Windows, Android, iOS coming soon
    Genre: Arcade Racer
    Number of Players: 1+
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    MSRP: $9.99

    Thank you S&COR Games for sending us this game to review!

    I remember checking out Need for Speed: Underground many years ago and thinking how different it was from the other games in the series at the time. It took place at night, in an urban setting, with a focus on street racing and drifting being major parts of it. Over the years it gained a bit of a cult following, with many calling for a resurrection of the series. While that hasn’t happened yet, some games have been inspired by it – and while I can’t prove it, I would hazard a guess that Drift Tuner 2019 is one of them.

    Like many racing games, you can drive either from the view of behind the wheel or from above and behind the car. The 3D rendered graphics are pretty good for a small team, though clearly rough around the edges. The lack of anisotropic filtering is kind of obvious, but otherwise it looks pretty good. In the level you race in, it’s a rainy night in the city, and you drive around in your low-riding car. If you earn enough credits, you can buy upgrades to your ride, or get a new one.

    Drift Tuner 2019
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice atmosphere; decent but not great graphics; fun to race around
    Weak Points: Interface is clumsy, as a keyboard and mouse is required in certain areas, despite supporting gamepads while racing; no default configuration for gamepads; a lack of polish in many areas; I got stuck sideways once
    Moral Warnings:Gambling; girl wearing tight clothes and showing midriff 

    You earn credits by driving with skill – either by going really fast, doing crazy stunts, or drifting. If you can drift for long enough or go fast enough for enough time, you can rack up multipliers that help you earn those credits even faster. If you can manage to go fast, chain it into killer drifts, and so on, Bob’s your uncle. Once you collect enough cash, you can then choose to gamble it all away in street races. What I found frustrating is that there is nitrous available – there is even an icon for it on screen – but I have no idea how to activate it. What button you are supposed to press is not obvious, and there is no ‘nitrous oxide’ button that you can map to your gamepad. So of course I lost lots of money, trying to figure this game out…

    And that’s really my big complaint with this game: it’s really unpolished. It appears that there is just one medium-sized area, and the core gameplay is fun; there is plenty of potential here. The racing is fun, the drifting can be fun, if a little awkward at times. But the main menu cannot be operated by a gamepad, there are no default gamepad controls, the mapping function does not work if any of your sticks have even the slightest deadzone issues, and really, I could go on. It’s a game I want to like – but they need to spend some time polishing things up – quite a bit.

    What I find interesting is that Drift Tuner 2019 clearly has a decent following, especially on Android. It has over five hundred thousand downloads from the Play Store! That’s quite impressive. I am glad to see that it has a solid backing, and the Steam version has thirty-two active topics on the Steam forums, as well as nearly fifty reviews. So it’s a game that has decent exposure, and has a great potential upside. I hope that the developers keep at it.

    Drift Tuner 2019
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability/Polish - 2.5/5
    Controls/Interface - 2.5/5

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

    It does have an online mode, and I even saw some people were playing, but it wouldn’t let me start racing for some reason, so I played in free play mode. Most of the game is basically whatever the online mode is (the store page tag includes ‘massively multiplayer’, so clearly that’s the intention) as well as the single player free mode. If the interface was better, it might have been more clear what mode I was actually playing at the time.

    Drift Tuner 2019 is a game with a lot of potential. It’s mostly clean morally, except for the racing girl with tight clothes and exposed midriff, and of course the gambling. The graphics are pretty good, and there is a good base for fun here. Right now the game has quite a bit of polish needed before I could easily recommend it. I hope they do so, as I think there could be something quite special underneath that paint. At least the price is right!

  • 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%

  •  

    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%

  • boxart
    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...

     

  • 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.

     

  • boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    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.  

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Gravel
    Developed By: Milestone S.r.l.
    Published By: Milestone S.r.l.
    Release Date: February 27, 2018
    Available On: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Arcade Racer
    Number of Players: 1+
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
    MSRP: $49.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Milestone S.r.l. for sending us this game to review!

    Gravel is clearly Milestone S.r.l.’s attempt to compete with another popular single-word racing franchise, presumably DiRT. While I have not reviewed DiRT 4, (we reviewed Rally, but nothing since) Codemasters has always made solid racers. I did review Milestone’s Sébastien Loeb Rally, and enjoyed it, though the game was not without flaws and quirks. I am happy to say that Gravel resolves virtually all of those issues, and in my opinion is a much better game.

    Like most modern racing games, it’s a fully 3D rendered game where you can race from the perspective of above and behind the car, inside the cockpit, on the hood, or in front of the bumper. I found the hood view the best compromise between realism and visibility, though I could easily see how someone might think otherwise.

    And it looks great. Some of the levels have incredible detail, and especially the ground where you drive is quite impressive. Only the desert levels looked less than stellar – the texture there is hit or miss, as is some of the foliage like the trees; one time I hit a tree and it looked... not good (and not just for my car). But the tarmac in the rain, or the dirt and mud looks fantastic while you romp through it. The cars look great also, and properly bend and twist as you slowly wreck them, which I always like to see.

    Gravel
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great graphics; animations look wonderful; wheel support works great; cars feel nice to drive; excellent video and sound options, including high frame rates and surround sound
    Weak Points: Some textures are a bit low resolution; I found a control bug, and I think a ranking bug but I am unsure; no one to play with online when I checked
    Moral Warnings: None!

    As racing games go, there is the arcade-style extreme, and the simulation-style extreme. I would put this somewhere in the middle. There are options to make the handling more sim-difficult, and others make it much easier. That part reminds me most of Forza, as the options are nearly identical – breaking assists, traction assists, and so on. If you turn them all off, it’s quite challenging, whereas if they are on I found it much easier. There is also AI difficulty, which is very easy to beat on Very Easy (duh) – but a few of the race types are against the clock, and can still be quite difficult.

    Most of the racing types are a lot of fun. Some of them have you racing from beginning to end, while others have you race laps. Some are on dirt and grass, with others are on tarmac and *ahem* gravel. Some are against a group of other racers, while others are against a single famous racer, and there are time battles as well. But what I do not like are the Smash-Up races. Here you have checkpoints with boards that flash random symbols and you have to hit the green ones, or suffer a massive slowdown. These are not fun at all, and I have never completed one at anything less than last place. I greatly dislike these levels… thankfully, you can do terribly on these levels and still see everything the game has to offer.

    There is a fairly comprehensive career mode, which is most of what I played. I had fun racing through the different locations and unlocking more and more cars to speed around with. There are some cars locked behind DLC; some free, some not. I never paid for the DLC, but I did use a few of the free DLC cars. Though honestly you really don’t need them; every level can be completed just fine without them.

    I have a Logitech G27 racing wheel, which is in many ways the most ‘standard’ and well supported wheel you can buy today. Good force feedback, along with a good build, a clutch pedal, and a 6-speed H-shifter. I prefer driving cars with a manual gearbox in real life, so I also do in my games. I chose H-shifter + clutch in the game options (which happens to grant a nice difficulty point bonus also). What surprised me was that I had no indication on how many gears the vehicles had. One Ford truck that I chose only had three! I kept trying to shift past third and it would stay in neutral – which is what a real car would do, but I wasn’t sure if it was my stick not detecting the shift, or what – until I realized what the issue really was. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it was to shift into a gear that didn’t exist repeatedly, until I finally just gave up...

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

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

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

    I did test out the game with an Xbox One controller, and it plays extremely well. It feels a lot like a Forza game does, and is tons of fun. It’s also much easier this way, though I still prefer the wheel. One bug I encountered was when I had the wheel plugged in and configured for the H-shifter with clutch, then switched to a controller. There is no button for the clutch, and the game did not register that the control configuration was impossible for the currently selected control scheme – so you simply could never put the car into gear. Oops! Another bug I ran into was I thought I earned first place against the clock but got eighth a few times – but I could have misread my perceived success, too. Every time there were other racers I was competing against, there was no confusion on my victory (or loss).

    There is a good amount of content, and the tracks are all well done and never got old for me. I saw sixteen tracks, along with more available with paid DLC. The main DLC that hides tracks is the Ice and Fire pack, which is $9.99 normally. I did not buy this DLC.

    There are five main modes: the career mode, which is where I spent most of my time, along with free race, time trial, weekly challenges, and multiplayer. I never was able to find an online race, but I also didn’t wait too long. Free races are what they seem like – you pick a car, track, and race against the AI without any effect on your career. Time trial is simply challenging each track alone and doing so as fast as possible. Weekly challenges are placed there for all players that week by the developers, and there are leaderboards where you can see how you did compared to everyone else.

    I haven’t played a good racing game in a little while, and Gravel most definitely scratched that itch. It’s a really solid racing experience, with a decent amount of content. It’s really fun to play, and it’s perfectly clean – there is nothing to stop anyone at any age from enjoying this game. While I can certainly understand waiting for a sale given the current situation online, it’s a solid racer absolutely worth considering for any racing game fans.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Kirby Air Ride
    Genre: Racing
    Developed By: HAL Laboratory
    Published By: Nintendo
    Released: October 13, 2003
    Available On: GameCube
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone: Mild Cartoon Violence
    Number of Players: 1-4 offline, 2-4 over LAN bridge
    Price: $54.96
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Holding down the A button to charge the boost gauge, I wait in anticipation for the race to start. The timer counts down. Three. My boost gauge is slowly filling. Two. Will it be enough? One. Will I release my boost at the right time? Go!

    This is a common occurrence in the beginning of all three styles of play: Air Ride, Top Ride, and City Trial. While the start is not as important as the race itself, every little bit helps against tough foes or challenges. With each mode, there are a range of rules, goals, options, and courses, in addition to 120 achievements for grabs. Whether you prefer playing alone or with friends, there is plenty to unlock and accomplish in Kirby Air Ride. Despite the fact that I dislike playing racing games, including Mario Kart, I still managed to sink in hundreds of hours easily.

    The first mode of play is over the shoulder racing, Air Ride. You start limited to a few simple, more balanced vehicles, but as you play and beat challenges, you will get rides built with more extreme flaws and benefits. Each race circuit revolves around a single theme, a few of them with secret passages or tricks. The course is also littered with creatures to eat or inhale for powers that might help speed you up, slow opponents down, or break the opponents' rides. Air Ride can be broken down into smaller sections: racing laps, racing distance, time attack, and free run. There is also a plethora of options to change, such as enemies on/off, ride health on/off, slow motion, help for players falling behind, and AI handicap and difficulty.

    Kirby Air Ride
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Hours of fun, challenges, unlockables, multiplayer madness, and simple controls make it very easy for people to play, even for ones who usually dislike racing games
    Weak Points: Certain vehicles are heavily unbalanced. Inconsistency in the effort put into certain parts of the game
    Moral Warnings: Mild cartoon violence and a creature with a witch hat and broom

    After Air Ride is Top Ride or top down mode. This consists of tiny circuits that fit in the whole screen. If you thought Air Ride was chaotic, Top Ride crams a lot of items, traps, triggers, and mayhem in one small area. The themes are similar to Air Ride, but the maps are very different. Races can be anywhere from 1 lap to 99 laps, depending on the settings. Laps are fairly short and last only a few seconds if you really try.

    Last but not least, City Trial. You get 5-7 minutes to cruise around looking for a vehicle you like, pick up power-ups, and maybe even bust up the competition's vehicles for power-ups. Occasionally you may even have an event or two happen, giving both buffs and debuffs. After time runs out, the real challenge starts. You compete against the other riders in a random contest of skill and the winner is decided from there. Something that excited me about this mode was the ability to hop off your vehicle and walk around on foot to places the vehicles can't reach. Free Play is definitely better to play with friends, as there are a large range of things to do to keep you busy.

    The game has great music playing for each course, unique and well made. Unfortunately, not all the sounds are pleasant as the temporary defense pickup hurt my ears while it was active. Graphics are surprisingly good in some places, but other places, like City Trial, have map elements that are simply boxes that were textured. The controls are fairly simple and in Top Ride you get to choose between two control styles. The game does have some bugs in City Trial, but you have to look very hard for the bugs and none of them are game breaking. In addition, some rides and maps are completely broken in terms of balance. I'm looking at you Swerve Star on Nebula Belt.

    Kirby Air Ride
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 5/10
    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

    Despite most issues I mention being in City Trial, it was actually my favorite game mode. I remember taking turns playing golf in Free Play. One player rode the vehicle and the other was the golf ball. We let physics handle the rest. Kirby isn't the only playable character; Meta Knight and King Dedede are playable in Air Ride and City Trial Free Run. If you manage to beat all the challenges in a single gamemode, your grid turns a nice, shiny gold. If you use purple boxes to skip challenges, you may be disappointed to find that they stay purple until you beat them. An extra challenge for people who want to 100%.

    The main moral issues with this game would be all the mild cartoon violence, and one of the creatures Kirby can eat has a witch hat and broom. Eating the witch creature gives Kirby no powers; Kirby will simply spit it back out. Kirby's eating is fairly non-violent; he simply sucks in air like a vacuum and swallows the creature in one big gulp. When Kirby's ride breaks, he flies up, does a few somersaults, and falls face first into the pavement. If this happens in Air Ride, Kirby will be able to do nothing except twitch slowly across the pavement. The player controlling a fainted Kirby can do nothing except slowly aim the direction of which way Kirby should twitch, on road or off-road, until the other players complete the race. If twitching Kirby gets run over again, Kirby is sent flying, somersaulting, and hitting the pavement again. Please keep in mind that this is unrealistic cartoon violence.

    Overall a good game, fun and definitely time consuming if you are a completionist. If you aren't motivated by achievements or real-life friends, this game may not be for you. As for moral warnings, again, mild cartoon violence and a witch looking creature.

    -skeer

  • boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    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!

  • 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.


  • 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

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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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