Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix Review (PS4)
Developed/Published: GameMill Enteratinment
Genre: Kart Racer
Release Date: Oct 6th, 2020
*Key provided for this review by publisher
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is a arcade racing simulator developed and published by GameMill Entertainment. On its surface to many people it may just look like your typical run of the mill low budget cash grab title for all the kiddies to enjoy, but I have to say, is it? is it really? I'm not so sure. So join me and let's take a look at why this isn't just some generic Mario Kart knock off and why it could have a possible future impact on the inevitable release of a Mario Kart 9. So let's go!
I can already tell that, just by its name alone, Nick Kart Racers 2 is going to have a bad reputation. This is in large part due to the dominance and stranglehold Mario Kart has had over the industry since the 1990s really. Sure there have been games like Diddy Kong Racing, Crash Team Racing, and Sonic Racing... no, not the Sonic R game you just had popping in your head, the good one, Sonic Racing Transformed. But the one thing they have in common, is that no one has been able to take down ''the king''. And spoil alert, things don't change here with this game. However, it does lay the groundwork for Nintendo to do some brainstorming and possibly borrow/and or steal, an idea or two from the developers at GameMill.
Nick Kart Racing 2: Grand Prix is set up for some quick pick up and play action and right from the start is very inviting to anyone, both hardcore fans of the genre of racing or casual fans who may just be getting into it for the very first time. Upon starting your game you will be greeted with a list of 5 game modes to choose from. These game modes consist of Slime Grand Prix, Challenges, Time Trial, Free Race, and Arena mode. In order to get the most of out of your time in the game to make the other modes more worthwhile, it's always best to start with the main campaign mode, this mode being, Grand Prix.
In Grand Prix you are tasked with playing through eight separate cups and each cup offering you four maps to race through. Each one of these stages is related to a character or cartoon that is represented in the game itself. For example, you have a level called Reptar Ruins, which is a map based off the old nick cartoon, Rugrats and a stage named Ba Sing Se, also after another popular Nick cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender. This means you have representatives from their respective franchises with characters like Tommy Pickles and Aang being playable or unlockable characters the further you get into the cup races of the main Slime Grand Pix.
If you're worried about the possible character selection, don't be, because here in NKR2 you have a total of 30 playable characters, with half those being available right at the start of the game. whereas the remaining characters will have to be unlocked by pushing your way through the main grand prix races and winning first place. The character selection seems pretty big and diverse right? well that's because it is, and it also does something that puts it ahead of Mario Kart, at least in this one specific instance -- and that is the utilization of character based stats. Each individual character, yes, each one, they all have their own individual stats that consist of Speed, Turbo, Drift, and Steering. No one racer has the same stat as another and no character feels the same as another due to these stats. It feels like whoever you play as is actually their own separate entity and not just a character skin replacement.
Oh boy, now is the time we get into the true meat and potatoes of this game. As you unlock characters in the game, you also unlock side characters that you're able to recruit to be apart of your crew team and each member of your crew team will offer you a new stat or special ability for you to use during your races. The three main crew members you're able to get are Crew Manager, Crew Chief and Crew Mechanic with each one providing you a useful skill that range from being able to block any enemy projectile that comes your way by using Triangle to activate the special move, gaining an extra weapon upon picking up a balloon, and offering you a quick boost immediately after recovering from damage. Just like the drivable character themselves, the members of the crew are also able to be unlocked the further you move through the grand prix, so push on through and unlock every single crew member that you can to give yourself the competitive edge.
Along with crew member upgrades, the customization does not stop there. All karts in the game with each character are also able to upgrade their exhaust pipes, engines and their wheels for a stat boost in speed, turbo, steering and drift. Depending on which part of a kart you have selected will determine which stats go up and which stats go down, mix and match to find the best way to balance your kart. For the best possible mix and match, make sure to keep track of the brand of engine or wheels or kart you have, because this plays a key role in how your stats will balance for specific characters. For example a character like Arnold from Hey Arnold can be equipped with an engine piece that relates to the show he's from, thus giving him a bigger and better balanced racing kart and the same holds true for everyone else in the same way.
Phew, that was a lot of talking just to explain the core aspect of the game, so let's say we get into the actual racing itself, shall we?. Once you hop into the race you'll immediately know that the controls are as bare basic as any other kart racers currently out on the market. To move your kart, press R2, to drift and slide, you must jump using L2 and then rock your left thumb stick in the direction you wish to move. Now let me be honest, at first the drifting feels really awkward and not as smooth and fluid as a game like Mario Kart, but after playing three to four races, I got really used to how drifting felt in this game, so overall its a small gripe, but you should get used to it very fast before it impacts your enjoyment. So I'm sure you're wondering, ok all that sounds great and all, but where are the weapons in this game that you can use to defend against or attack another opponent with? don't worry, were getting to it.
In NKR2, getting a weapon and just hitting another opponent isn't as cut and dry as it may seem on its surface because some of the weapons to attack or defend yourself with come in the form of your karts special ability that you gain from one of your crew members. This special ability is equipped to your triangle slot, which can be used at any point in the race as long as your slime meter is filled to its limit. The most efficient way to complete this task is to find slime coins hidden all over the main racing track or by driving through big slime puddles to refuel your meter. Once your meter is full, you may press triangle to activate the special ability for a short defensive or offensive move. My go to choice was Filburt from Rocko's Modern Life due to his ability giving you immunity to incoming attacks for around five to six seconds at a time, so you must learn to time it wisely, otherwise, risk using it too early and you won't have enough time to fill the slime meter back up before the race ends, which could cause you to lose the race entirely.
The other weapons at your disposal include weapons like homing footballs, which track down your opponent until it hits them, exploding rockets that destroys anything and anyone that is currently within length of your kart, droppable gnomes that act as road blocks for your opponents and toy balls that can be thrown forward or backwards, which also bounce of the wall. Overall using these weapons is a piece of cake, but that only pertains to the games easy mode speed. You see each cup can be played in a Slow/Medium/Fast paced, much like Mario Kart has 50cc/100cc/150cc, the same principal holds true here. In slow mode, opponents go very easy on you and its relatively easy to hold your own, but oh lord, soon as you move to the medium or fast speed settings, you're in for a whole world of hurt.
If you thought you could come over to NKR2 and get away from the trauma you experienced with blue shells in Mario Kart, then you have another thing coming. Instead of blue shells making your life a living hell, this time its homing footballs that do the trick. Medium speed difficulty shows you just what you're in for with the uptick in the amount of throwable weapons that hit you at every turn of a corner, to the point where you think that they're only programmed to go after you and not at the other players themselves. But once you hit fast mode, all bets are off, this is where your sanity is going to say, hey guys, its been real, but I'm leaving home and running away, yes, that is your brain talking. It seems like every ten to twenty seconds, I was bombarded over and over with projectiles, homing missiles, exploding rockets to the point where I couldn't even get past fifth place most of the time. When you do manage to finally calm down and eek out the W and that first place, you're so out of breath, you start to wonder, ''Why are we still here? just to suffer''. Although hard it is, yes, it's not overly rage inducing if I had to spin it in a more enduring light.
After hustling your way through the main game, your fun and journey still is not over. Besides the Slime Grand Prix mode, you have many many more hours of entertainment to get through with the remaining modes, which each of them all together giving you literal hours of things to do. Free race provides you the means to pick any specific track in the game and race on to practice on it to your hearts content. Modes like Challenge mode offer you objectives to complete that range from hitting all targets on the track, performing slime stunts or a challenge where everyone becomes squidward - yes - everyone. With that nightmarish image out of your head, you may now move on to the tried and true mode of Time Trial, which in all honesty is really self explanatory. Race the NPC opponent to try to get the best time. Finally you have Arena mode, a mode for you to verse your friends or npcs in that consists of an all out free for all battle or a battle to see who can collect the most golden spatulas. This game really does not lack in the content department, that's for sure. There is also online racing, but due to internet troubles on my end, I was not able to play it properly to give it a fair review, so that sucks!
When it's all said and done, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix does a lot more right than it does wrong and adds more to the racing formula that I'd like to see companies like Nintendo borrow from and implement into their own games, such as crew members and character stats. The game also does not lack in overall content, so while you may run through the games main grand prix mode in a matter of two to three hours, you still have a plethora of other modes to play through, as well as work on unlockable characters and kart parts. The only thing I feel though that really needs to be worked on is the difficulty level. While it's not the hardest in the world and it is very manageable, the spike that occurs from slow to medium to fast racing difficulties, feels way out of balance and is way too steep.
At the end of the day, this game is much more than a simple budget cash grab and a game I can truly say that I can't wait to see more of in the coming future. For the $40 price tag, I feel safe in recommending the game to both new comers and old school fans of the racing sim genre. You'll have more than enough here to keep you occupied for many hours on end
And with that verdict. GameNChick says BUY NOW
Nickelodeon Kart Racing 2: Grand Prix is out now on Playstation 4,NSW,Xbox One,Windows.