Nickelodeon-flavoured kart racing is back, and this time it’s had a facelift and a load of extra content pumped into it.
Released back in 2018, we rather enjoyed Nickelodeon Kart Racers. Perhaps rather generously, we scored it a 7/10. Despite lacking in content – it only had 12 characters from four Nickelodeon franchises – the actual kart racing was fun. This more fleshed-out sequel, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix, has set out with the aim to improve in every area where the first failed. And, for the most part, it’s done so with flying colours.
This time around, there are 30 racers from a wealth of popular cartoons. Rugrats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spongebob and Hey Arnold! all make a return, but this time they’re joined by Ren and Stimpy, CatDog, Rocko’s Modern Life, Avatar, JoJo Siwa and more. Along with the characters you can race as, there are another 70 to choose from who can be part of your ‘crew’. Two mechanics and a manager bolster your racing abilities, giving you extra perks to use on the track – like extra items, boosts or a shield.
You won’t have access to all of the characters from the outset, though. You’ll unlock new racers and crew members by playing through Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2‘s main single-player modes, namely Grand Prix events and Challenges. There are several Grand Prix cups to win, all playable in one of three difficulty levels, and they span multiple of the game’s varied and colourful tracks. The challenges are perhaps the most interesting single-player offering though; they’re short events that task you with a single objective, such as winning a race filled only with Squidwards, or making it to 1st position before a short timer runs out. They’re varied and fun, and add a welcome mix of content outside of straightforward races.
You can, of course, take the action online if you wish – though when we tried on Xbox One, there was nobody else playing, so getting a race might not be so easy. If you have friends or family at home to play with though, you can make the action split-screen, letting you race on any of the tracks and using any of the characters you’ve unlocked so far.
The environments of Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix have certainly been improved over those found in its predecessor. They look nicer thanks to more detailed textures, and they’re more varied and fun to race around. One problem still persists from the first game though; outside of the character models, there’s a lack of any real personality from any of the franchises it features. Tracks aren’t instantly familiar – you won’t find yourself racing around Tommy Pickles’ living room, for example, or the Krusty Krab.
There’s still no voice work or music included from any of the licensed properties, either. It’s a shame that so much work has gone into improving almost every other aspect but the game still lacks much personality. A few choice lines of dialogue from its much-loved cast of characters would have gone a long way.
It seems slightly more forgivable this time though, as Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is a much fuller package. With all the included modes, there’s tens of hours of fun to be had here making your way through each Grand Prix event on each difficulty level and besting all of the challenges. Even the mechanics have had a bit of a overhaul; rather than your left trigger just being drift, it’s also a jump button, allowing for some tricks to be performed when driving through slime. It’s not wholly necessary, but it does add a bit more flair to the proceedings. The downside is that drifting feels a bit more laborious as a result; pressing the button will always jump first, so you really have to pull into a corner before your kart starts drifting.
It’s hardly a major issue – getting to grips with the controls just takes a little longer, but you’ll be drifting around corners like a boss in no time. Well, providing one of your opponents doesn’t whack you with an item in the process, of course. Like all karting games, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is utterly unforgivable at times; you might be the most skilled racer in the world, but get hit by an incoming item at an inopportune moment and you’ll find yourself plummeting to the back of the pack. You get plenty of opportunity to dish them out too, but whether you’re in first position or last, you’re never safe.
As far as karting games go, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is one of the better entries in the genre. If you’ve played the first, you’ll appreciate the extra work that’s gone into making this a bigger and better sequel. Extra characters, improved visuals and a whole host of extra content are all very welcome. It’s just a shame that there’s still no real personality coming through from any of its included franchises. Still, if you want to play a fun racing game, solo or with friends, you can do a lot worse.