I am most definitely a huge sucker for all things kart racing but even I feel this is lacking. Nickelodeon Kart Racers (NKR) is that game that tried to fill me up with nostalgia yet it left me hanging along the way. It offers traditional kart racing mechanics with some of my favorite childhood TV show characters from the Rugrats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spongebob Squarepants. And sorry Arnold (Hey Arnold!), a football-faced kid didn’t really appeal to me back then and even now. Developed by the Peruvian game studio, Bamtang and published by GameMill Entertainment in North America while Maximum Games for its European release on systems like the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
With only 12 characters available between the four previously mentioned series, it’s as barebones as Sheldon J. Plankton. Having only the bare minimum game modes from your average single-player content like Grand Prix and Free Race with both solo and team modes or Time Attack. Multiplayer modes however does not include an online mode but your average split-screen couch-coop races from Grand Prix, Free Race with both modes and Battle Arena where players of up to four fight it out in an arena be it free-for-all, capture the flag or Tag. There’s two dozens of game maps that can and will change depending on the current lap as it closes and open new ways to progress.
That 12 characters however comes with their own special attacks to keep each character unique aside from the general power-ups that anyone can use. Spongebob has his jellyfish attack that simply blinds you with a swarm of jellyfishes while Patrick Star would throw his pet rocks at you from behind. Sandy has her lasso to latch on you while propelling her forward. Tommy Pickles from the Rugrats however has his gigantic ball that gets thrown to stop you in your tracks and her sister Angelica has her pack of cookies to give her the sugar rush and speed boost for three consecutive uses. Reptar on the other hand is similar to Patrick but instead of throwing rocks, he breathes fire to shoot people in the front. The turtle brothers, Leo, Raph, Don and Mikey has their shuriken shots, ramming ability, gadgets and nunchuks respectively. Helga with her football-shaped… sorry! I mean Arnold-shaped bubble gum art can put her enemies in a yucky mood as their tires get slowed down with it. Arnold the pigeon man gets propelled to the front by a swarm of pigeons that also includes invincibility and auto-drive similar to getting the all-star power up from Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed.
Speaking of Sonic All Stars which honestly looks very similar, Nicktoon racers can transform their karts based on the terrain aside from the customization of specific parts that we’ll talk in detail later. Like I said, transformation. Seems like an awesome feature but honestly never liked that on Sonic and never will on NKR. Transformation itself is simple in which wheels get replaced by jet skis when in a gooey sea of slime or adds wings when taking huge jumps to which you can glide up or down. While the gliding is bearable, out-maneuvering an enemy racer in a sea of slime isn’t. What makes racing game fun to me is the ability to drift and get rewarded with a brief boost however that is not possible while in Jet Ski mode. Much more so when there are maps made exclusively in an endless sea of green slime.
Slimes are usually bad in eyes coming from someone who watched quite a lot of fantasy-based anime or at least until I’ve watch the recent “That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime” which was from a light novel written by Fuse and illustrated by Mitz Vah. But going back to the topic on hand, slimes are generally your friend here, a sea of slime itself holds great power as your kart takes in slime power and turns it into a powerful boost based on your slime meter. It’s not bad but to be honest, I don’t see it good either. You get a boost no matter what happens and the only thing keeping you from taking first place is how well you maneuver the sea and take advantage of speed rings. While on the solid terrain, there’s still slimes! However they need to be activated by running over a ball of slime in certain parts of the map.
Other quirks include start boost in which racers are required to press on the acceleration on tune with the countdown timer, it’s rewarding and easy enough to initiate a perfect boost which is equivalent to a full slime meter boost.
Moving on, if there really is such a word as move on. Karts have their own customizations… from the default wheels, engine, gliders, jet skis and paint job, you can buy or unlock new items from the in-game shop of up to a total of nine sets or 45 customization options. That’s a total of 59,049 possible combinations for one character alone and 708,588 combinations for all twelve racers. If my math is right! Each of those parts has their own stats be it a +2 on speed or acceleration or maybe better handling with a +4 on slime. Paint jobs however are just that… a splash of paint!
Graphics… for a game over 500 megabytes on my PS4’s hard drive, it’s not surprising that it doesn’t have the quality I expect. Some characters have flimsy arms or simply doesn’t look good with their 3D models however the maps does provide a bit of quality except the slime! I simply hate looking at a sea of green gooey slime for some reason. Some of the animations like Spongebob and Patrick just doesn’t sit well with me when their victory poses in their karts have their asses floating. And speaking of victory poses, races awards you experience points in order to level up. While leveling up your account doesn’t get you any better, it does however award you with a victory lap in which you can drive and get up to four chests. These chests when opened can unlock customization options or award you with currency to buy such customization options.
Though I guess the most dreaded thing I hate in the game other than the mediocre amount of characters is the lack of character voices. Getting hit with a pizza on the face doesn’t amount to any reaction other than a text bubble that you’d barely even check. But despite its flaws, I can find even the littlest of enjoyment playing the game thanks to its three levels of game speeds and another three levels of AI difficulty which honestly even at the max, I find myself on top.
Overall, it’s a game that borrows heavily on nostalgia and caters to kids and their parents who’ve watched the show or just want to play with their kids. Considering there is no online mode, they have no choice but to invite friends over or play with the family. It’s a clone of a game that i’ll hide in the name of Kario Mart but falls short and failed to introduce new mechanics that could improve the genre. Motion controls is a bit of a hit or miss like auto-accelerate. It’s probably there for kids but not advisable for drifting as it’s clunky and at times hard to initiate.