It seems every brand needs its own kart racing game these days, and so here we are with DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing.
This is no Mario Kart, but if you’re a fan of Shrek, Trolls, Kung Fu Panda or any of DreamWorks’ other major (or even not-so-major) franchises, you’re likely going to get a kick out of seeing ’em race around in a little kart. DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing looks nice enough, it performs fine, and the on-track action is about as infuriating as any other kart game I’ve played. What more could you want?
There’s a solid variety of tracks to race around here, which you can jump into either in a single race or as part of a Grand Prix cup. Solo play against CPU racers is of course supported, as is split screen competition with up to four players. There’s an online mode too, but unless you’ve got friends to play with, you’re likely to struggle to find anyone to play with. I’ve tried matchmaking several times, and simply found myself sitting in an empty lobby. It’s disappointing, but unsurprising.
It’s not the end of the world, thankfully, as the offline offerings in DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing are more than sufficient. There are six cups to play through, each presenting four different tracks. In single player, you’ll also find time trial events and challenges, which are my favourite: spread across six different tiers, they task you with performing a specific action while racing that’s not simply just “win”. For example, you might need to perform a number of air tricks, or find a hidden ‘Lucky Token’. With over 30 challenges to complete, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
You’ll find characters and locations from a number of DreamWorks’ most popular properties here. Shrek is front and centre, and he’s joined by characters from Boss Baby, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Megamind and even the more recent The Bad Guys. To begin with, only 11 characters are unlocked, with another 11 who’ll become available as you complete various feats while playing – i.e. winning cups or completing challenges.
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Each character has their own stats for things like speed and handling, which – theoretically – should change how they perform on the track. Their karts can be tinkered with too, with new parts becoming unlocked as you play. I can’t say I’ve noticed a vast difference from one character to the next, but being able to customise your racer somewhat is a nice touch. What isn’t so nice, however, is the awful, awful voice acting for most of the characters. Unsurprisingly, none of the actual voice actors have been used here and their counterparts leave a lot to be desired. The tutorial, delivered by Shrek and Donkey had me cringing into my controller. As for voices while racing, I muted those in the settings and strongly recommend you do the same.
But onto the on-track action. As I’ve said, this is a decent-looking game, and the 20 available tracks are nicely designed and suitably varied. Of course, you’ll find power-ups littered around each track – this is a karting game, after all – which allow you to thwart your opponents. In reality, it means you’re likely to get endlessly assaulted from CPU players. You can change the difficulty of the bots you’re playing against, and you can also alter the race speed, but whichever you’re playing on, things do at times feel rather unbalanced. If you find yourself at the back of the pack, it seems difficult to recover. But on the flip side, I’ve found that once you make it to first position, it’s pretty easy to maintain (as long as you don’t mess up yourself, of course).
There are some original ideas in DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing, at least. You can perform tricks after launching off a jump pad, which will give you a little boost of speed. And collecting a series of Lyres dotted on a specific place in the track will open up a unique shortcut, giving you the edge over other players. There are also hidden collectibles to be found on each course. And pick-ups seem to be unique to each character. It means that it’s harder to know what each one is going to do, but they’re at least thematically relevant, which is nice.
Unfortunately, those original ideas aren’t quite enough to elevate DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing out of mundanity. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad game, but it doesn’t really stand out in any way from other branded kart racing games we’ve had in recent years. Nickelodeon Kart Racers, Smurfs Kart, Gigantosaurus Dino Kart and now DreamWorks – they’re all much of a muchness. And like the rest of them, there’s nothing here that makes this really stand out. Not unless you really love Shrek and co.
If you’re hankering for a new kart racing game, DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing will do the job. It’s a solid enough game, offering a good selection of unique tracks and some much-loved characters. There’s plenty of single-player content to keep you busy too, and split screen play is always entertaining if you have a couple of friends to hand. But like any karting game, the on-track action is often too frustrating to be fun, and I’m not getting over the criminally bad voice acting any time soon.