We may already have more karting games than we can throw a banana peel at, but now there’s a new one to add to the mix. Following its launch on Switch last year, Smurfs Kart has released on PlayStation, Xbox and PC this week, putting the cute blue creatures behind their own wheels. And while it’s rather barebones in content, we’ve had a pretty nice time razzing around as Smurfette and Papa Smurf.
Yes, the most popular members of the Smurfs family are all here, and you can choose from any of the 12 playable characters right from the off. Your choice is mostly aesthetic, though: each character has their own vehicle, but they all sport the same stats. The only difference you’ll find between characters is in their unique power-up: each character has one power-up – collected randomly from pick-ups on the track – that can only be used by them.
It’s clear from the on-track action that Smurfs Kart has been developed with younger players in mind. By default, auto-accelerate is turned on, and you can also enable steering assist. With the X button (or A, if you’re on an Xbox controller) used to accelerate and no way to change it if you turn the auto feature off, you might find it awkward if you’re used to playing racing games. It feels very unnatural not using the right trigger, and so we ended up leaving the auto acceleration on.
Instead of putting your foot down, the right trigger is used for drifting. The left is used to fire your pick-ups at your opponents – but we’ll get to those in a moment. Drifting is just about the only area in Smurfs Kart that allows you to hone your skills, and you’ll need to make use of it if you want to ace each track. After each successful drift, you’ll get a short boost of speed, which can make or break how a race turns out.
Related: The Best Kart Racing Games on Switch
Because while Smurfs Kart isn’t at all difficult, it is a typical karting game which means you can go from first place to last in the blink of an eye depending on how things go on the track. There are various pick-ups available, allowing you to gain an advantage in numerous ways: homing bees that aim for the person ahead of you, leaves that shoot out in front, hitting anyone in their path, and some sort of siren that disorientates anyone within its range, to name but a few. The pick-ups you’re offered will vary depending on where you are in the race: if you’re near the front, you’ll get more spiky cones, which get laid on the track behind you. But if you’re near the back you’ll be given more powerful boosts, giving you opportunity to catch up.
And so, out of nowhere you can be hit with a barrage of attacks from your opponents, rendering your lead well and truly lost. Even if you feel like you’re well ahead of the pack, you can never feel truly safe: such is the joy of the karting game.
Perhaps the biggest let-down with Smurfs Kart is its lack of content. You can jump into a race in local multiplayer, or play alone against bots. There are no online modes, which isn’t surprising for a game aimed at a family audience, but the single player modes are barebones as well. You can jump into a single race, a time trial, or a grand prix and… that’s it.
With only 12 tracks it doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve experienced everything the game has to offer, and it’s a shame there’s no single player campaign, or the sense of something to work towards. The closest thing is making your way through the six Grand Prix events – three in two difficulty modes – with each one being made up of four races. There’s not a great deal to it, then, but it’s at least a budget-priced release, costing £24.99 or thereabouts. It’s hard to grumble too much for that price point.
Keep your expectations in check, and there’s a decent karting game to be found in Smurfs Kart. It’s rather light on content, but the on-track action is enjoyable, with controls aimed towards younger players. It’s a great game for the whole family to enjoy, then – particularly if there are Smurfs fans in your ranks.