Tag Archives: Kart Racing

Reposted Review: Action Girlz Racing

 

(I originally wrote this for the now defunct Retro Retreat in 2012. It’s been updated.)

It’s been suggested that there are certain pieces of pop culture that are so horrible they’ve actually had a hand in creating the angry review shows we’ve come to know, and love.  Action Girlz *shudder* Racing  is the video game equivalent of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.  

PROS: There is nothing positive about this game whatsoever.

CONS: Broken controls. Broken graphics. Broken grammar. Broken everything.

WTF?: The title screen music is eerily similar to Hanson’s Mmm bop song.

AGR is one of the worst console experiences you will ever have should you have the misfortune of playing it. It would be easy to simply point out that one look at the box should send you screaming in the other direction. From the Bratz doll knockoff mascots on the cover, to the fact it beckons Lewis Lovhaug’s “Because poor literacy is kewl” meme be printed on it’s cover as a subtitle. But the biggest thing to do this should be the fact that it was put out by Conspiracy Entertainment, and Data Design Interactive. Back when the Wii was first coming out Nintendo would relax it’s seal of quality restrictions so that more third parties might put out some material on the console. DDI would take full advantage of this, spearheading the shovelware situation that plagued the system in it’s launch year. Not content to simply push out cheaply rushed titles, DDI actually reskinned a handful of games several times over, and sold them as entirely different ones. For example,  Anubis 2 (There was never an Anubis so figure that one out), is pretty much Ninjabread Man.

Anyway, AGR continues this trend of awful. I don’t like to have things compartmentalized to the point of bullet points. But this game pretty much requires it.

Graphics.

Starting with the graphics, (as they’re the first thing you’ll notice right away) the game has a penchant for stretched out low resolution textures. Even the title screen is a mess. The actual graphics of the gameplay don’t fare much better. when selecting a racer you’ll notice the character cards look nothing like the freakish Bratz doll knockoffs presented on the title screen. Once a race begins you will see visuals that are actually worse than a bottom rung N64 or PS1 title. That isn’t hyperbole. The models are insanely blocky, without any of the charm of Minecraft or Cubivore. Games where the intentional low fi visuals fit into a creative tapestry. These models instead reek of assembly line intent. Colored polygons slapped together to make characters with barely any artwork skinned to them. The textures that are there are very grainy, and washed out. Track designs aren’t very well put together either. they’re comprised of dead ends, out of nowhere 90 degree turns, and out of place hairpin turns. Coupled with the game’s other issues races are barely playable let alone winnable. There are also a lot of graphical glitches from inexplicable texture pop in, to geometry you will clip through.

Audio.

Definitely not the worst part of the game, but certainly not very good either. A mild retooling of Hanson’s Mmm bop plays on the title (Changed BARELY enough to avoid infringement apparently) screen, and terrible background tunes accompany the races. Sometimes it’s the title screen music. Sound effects range from horrible to passable. From the car sounds to power up chimes, sound effects are forgettable at best. There are also  quips you’ll hear from your Action Girl of choice. They never reach the level of offensiveness, but they will make you give yourself pause. You’ll find yourself wondering why they would include them, or what audience they were intended for.

Gameplay.

AGR essentially has 3 main modes, with the option to have up to four profiles. There are single races, time trials, and  a championship run. It steals from Mario Kart by making you go through 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc runs. But then it also has the audacity to make three difficulty levels within each. Doing this in turn unlocks other  tracks provided of course you win. Which you won’t. Because EVERYTHING in this thing is broken. Steering is done much like in Excitetruck. Holding the controller horizontally, buttons facing yourself you tilt it left corner up for right turns, and vice versa. 1, and 2 buttons are your gas, and reverse. The A button is supposed to use the weapons you run over. NONE of this works properly at all. All of the characters oversteer to the point of either flipping the car over, and rolling, or leading you to weave back, and forth until the car loses control, and crashes. Crash you will too. Right into geometry that you will likely clip through, and fall under the map before being respawned back into place. And don’t even think about trying to use weapons because most of the time they won’t work. When they do you’ll find they don’t have the place shuffling gravity of Mario Kart, Blur, or even Crash Team Racing.

The only thing that helps a little, (but still not enough to make things playable) is the fact that you can press the D pad to go to a car bumper camera. Thus, making wobbling back, and forth ever so slightly more manageable. Other characters are unlocked by collecting a ton of flower icons by driving over them. None of the extra characters are fun to use or very interesting. They all have the same soulless look to them, and spout off similar insufferable quips. Time Trials, and Single Race are pretty much useless modes unless you can find someone masochistic enough to play this drivel with you. Like most racers you can time trial to beat your own times but you really, really won’t want to waste your time on it when there are so many better games you could be playing. Again, the problems will impede any ability you have at doing so. Yes this horribly broken title includes split screen multiplayer. You, and up to 3 victims can convulse your terrifying dolls through a glitch filled wonderland if you’re out of forks to jam in each other’s eyes.  If by some miracle you can get past the initial cup in championship mode by coming in first my hats off to you. That said, it probably means Action Girlz Racing is the only game you own, and for that you also have my condolences.

Fun Factor.

Normally glitch filled, rushed games at least give the guilty pleasure feeling of  “This game is so horrible, and yet it is so much fun to mock it for all of it’s stupendously grand failures.”. This game’s only reward is pain. Any success you do find in it, is quickly replaced with more anguish. Take the worst film you’ve ever seen. Granted it’s a subjective question, as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. (Although I’d have to question the sanity of any man, woman, or child who found enjoyment upon playing this travesty, and I don’t say that lightly.) Ask yourself to remember how many minutes it took you to walk out of the theatre. If you didn’t walk out of the theatre try to remember how you felt not only emotionally, but physically. Action Girlz Racing will double those feelings without breaking a sweat.

AGR is one of the worst titles I’ve ever played if not THE worst game I’ve ever suffered through. It is THAT BAD. “But Deviot!” You may exclaim. “You reviewed Scene It?: Twilight Edition! Surely, it can’t be worse than that game!” Oh but it can. Quite simply it is. Granted, S.I.T.E. was a poorly executed trivia game, but it still had SOMETHING for fans of it’s license. AGR is a train wreck in every sense of the euphemism. Avoid this like the plague, and if you see someone contemplating it as a gift for their child or grandchild you slap them on the wrist, and exclaim “NO!”. Avoid Action Girlz Racing at all costs.

Final Score: 0 out of 10 (Perish the thought!)

Mario Kart 8 Review

The 8th mainline Mario Kart is here for the Wii U. Is it worthy of all of the praise, and accolades the press has handed it?

PROS: New innovations, improvements, and features.

CONS: The roster could have been a little better.

DON’T PISS HIM OFF: Luigi’s death stare is a meme now.

What can I say about Mario Kart 8 that hasn’t been said already? It has even the biggest Nintendo detractors talking it up. It has a lot of 9 out of 10’s in the professional reviews department. It has also given the world the funniest meme since I was frozen today.

Mario Kart 8 at its core is still the long running game we’ve enjoyed since Super Mario Kart came out on the Super NES. The game features an 8 cup campaign, half of which are retro tracks. The retro tracks this time around are a pretty nice selection, and have some alterations to fit in with the rest of the game. As with every Super Mario Kart, there are three engine speed difficulty levels. 50cc is the slowest, with the easiest computer controlled racers. 100cc is the medium difficulty, and of course 150cc is the highest difficulty coupled with the fastest speed.

As in previous games, playing through the campaign, and shooting for gold trophies will unlock cups, tracks, and other secrets. Mario Kart 8 differs in that playing on a higher difficulty setting will grant the rewards of winning on a lower setting. So those who jump right into 150cc racing, and win trophies will also have the trophies in 50cc, and 100cc races.

This is quite a nice feature since in previous games players found that they had to re-beat the game on lower settings after winning to get certain characters or karts or bikes unlocked. This brings up another change. Coins make a return in Mario Kart 8, and collecting them will not only increase your Kart’s top speed, but work toward the unlockable items. This also carries over to multiplayer so even players who skip the Grand Prix can still find some of them. Collecting 50 coins will begin the treasure hunt. After a certain point the number doubles.

Nevertheless, you should play through the game’s Grand Prix mode to get the trophies, and unlock the tracks the game has to offer. In addition to the aforementioned retro tracks the new tracks in Mario Kart 8 are nothing short of amazing.  Nearly all of them take advantage of the new gravity mechanics as well as underwater sections. Tracks have certain blue striped bars that when driven on lead to alternate paths. Many of these paths will bring back memories of F-Zero GX, as they corkscrew over other sections of track. Sometimes you will be driving on walls or ceilings. Other times this will be blended with underwater sections, or combined with the glider system which has been carried over from Mario Kart 7.

Cart  customization has been completely overhauled too. In the past you would pick your character who would decide what vehicles you could use. Some characters were too heavy to use some vehicles, and some were too light to use others. With Mario Kart Wii, the series would also throw bikes into the mix.

In Mario Kart 8 any character can use any vehicle. The stats will change depending on the combination, but nothing stops you from using what you want. On top of this, you can mix up tires, and different gliders or parachutes for your vehicle. All of which change stats from not only speed or acceleration, but weight, and cornering too. Mario Kart Wii gave us bikes. Mario Kart 8 retains them, and also gives us A.T.V.s to boot. These can be tweaked as well as the karts.

You’ll really want to experiment to get the right feel for your particular play style too. Because Mario Kart 8 is pretty cut throat. While the rubber band A.I. has been reduced it is still prominent. You may very well hold a lap long lead on Rainbow Road. But don’t be fooled. It is very likely the computer will pull off a last second victory, putting you in fourth place. You will rage after barely losing your opportunity to be champion.

Nintendo has also thrown in a few new equalizer items to try to balance things from being so casual things become purely luck, and so skill based newcomers ought not bother. The biggest, and best is the new horn power up. The horn can help in a number of ways, the sound can cause nearby racers to crash. But more importantly it can destroy weapons. So really good players who want to keep their lead can use it to get rid of the blue shells. The #8 is another new one. It will give players a random eight items orbiting around their vehicle. There is also a boomerang that can hit on the way out or the way back.

The actual racing mechanics will also feel a little bit different to lapsed players. You will still be drifting around corners no doubt, but the feel will change with every vehicle combination made. Stunt jumping makes its return too. Pressing the drift button just after going off a ramp results in a trick jump, granting a boost. The drift boost is back as well. Moreover, the speed on some of these tracks approach the level of F-Zero, where one minor misjudgment can have you going off of the track.

In the gravity themed sections players also have to worry about how they bump into one another. Swapping paint gives both players a boost, but the player who hits the other in the correct area will go farther. This also causes both players to spin out AS they boost. So once again, doing it incorrectly could lead to falling off the track.

Fortunately, Lakitu no longer takes his sweet time to get you if you do fall off. He swoops in immediately, costing you only a few seconds. He does however take coins away from you which reduces your top speed until you replace them with more.

The new features, along with the established tropes make Mario Kart 8 one of the best Mario Kart games in years. It may even be the best one in the series depending on who you ask. But there’s still more.

Online multiplayer has carried over from Mario Kart Wii but with a lot of improvements. For starters it now uses the simplified Nintendo ID system. So you don’t have to go sharing or posting friend codes anymore. It also allows you to easily befriend anyone you race with. So if there is someone you enjoyed racing with online you can add them. Setting up a game with friends also lets you choose what stipulations you want. You can even turn off items, so those who always decry the amount of luck in Mario Kart can make it about pure racing.

It also has a really cool tournament feature. With tournament feature you can create your own room, name it, set it’s time schedule, stipulations, and then give the code out to whoever you want.

This has already been a big hit on gaming community forums like NeoGAF, and other communities like Reddit. Allowing big groups from one place to meet up at a scheduled time to play. It’s also nice in that not everyone in a specific community may be friends, but they can still participate if they want.

In addition to the tournaments, and friends lists players can play solo or local multiplayer online. One player can go online against strangers or a second player can join online on the same Wii U playing split screen. The one disappointing thing here is that one of the two players cannot have the gamepad screen to themselves while the other player uses the television. Other Wii U games do this, so it’s perplexing Nintendo didn’t do that with this title.

In all of the race modes the vote system from Mario Kart Wii returns, putting up three track choices, and a random option. The one that is voted on most wins, and that is the track that is raced on. A minor nitpick here is that players cannot just go through the map list, and pick the individual one they would like to vote for. But I suppose this is a sacrifice that was implemented to ensure all of the tracks are played instead of just the few most popular ones.

In any event, online play is a lot of fun. In my play tests I never ran into any lag, even playing against worldwide opponents. The game ran as fast, and frantic online as it did playing alone.

Offline Multiplayer is back as well. Players can still invite friends over for the vintage 4 player split screen races we’ve been enjoying since Mario Kart 64. Playing with four players does have a noticeable effect on the game’s frame rate. But it is still very playable, and still has fewer hiccups than previous versions have. It’s the perfect game for local multiplayer nights.

The only thing that brings it down is the battle mode. Battle mode is still fun, but not as much as it used to be. The big reason is because it fails to deliver its own distinctive maps.  Here, instead we see recycled track sections. You still try to do a last man standing by taking out each other’s balloons with red shells, banana peels, and other arsenal. But with the unoriginal tracks the strategic element of it is gone. There’s no camping on a rooftop, or driving into some other zone to throw pursuers off of your trail. Instead it’s the carnage you love, on a section of track meant to be raced on. It isn’t as bad as other people may tell you, because there is some fun to be had. But it is a let down, and you’ll want to focus your time on the racing.

The good news is that the racing is so much fun you’ll come back to it again, and again. In any mode be it online or offline. This could really be considered a killer app that the Wii U really needs. I didn’t even talk about the visuals yet. They will be one of the first things you notice when you start playing.

To be sure, if someone really wants to be a sourpuss they can nitpick on small details like AA being off, or the occasional medium detail texture. But 90% of the time Mario Kart 8 looks amazing. From small details on character models, to NPC’s in the backgrounds to the reflective effects on puddles it is great stuff.  So great in fact that when you begin playing with the Mario Kart TV feature you will really start looking for new things you hadn’t noticed before.

Mario Kart TV is a really cool, if limited editing tool. It allows you to broadcast clips of your races to your YouTube account. It allows you to do minor edits to them, and even lets you keep a small list of your most loved ones on file. It includes a slow motion tool that has also birthed the Luigi Death Stare meme.

As with most Wii U games you can still post screen shots to Miiverse, social networking sites, or your image host to display elsewhere online.

The elephant in the room is the roster. It should have been more varied than it is. That much is certainly true. While the Koopalings are a very welcome addition, and the baby version of Rosalina was expected, Princess Gold Peach does come off as a bit lazy. Bringing back King Boo, Petey Piranha, Birdo, or even a different Mario character like Wart would have made more sense. In the grand scheme of things though the roster change really shouldn’t dissuade you from playing this game.

Mario Kart 8 isn’t perfect, but picking it up is highly recommended. It has very fun, and challenging racing mechanics. It has the party game atmosphere long time fans have come to expect. It has amazing track design, and some of the best online multiplayer gameplay Nintendo has ever put out. It also has some of the best driving tunes in the series. Each track has a musical style that complements its setting beautifully. There is a wide variety of locales in the game, so there is also a wide variety of music. The soundtrack is simply wonderful.

You won’t get flawlessness with Mario Kart 8, but you will get a game that does indeed deserve the accolades. It really is worth a high score, as well as being in any Wii U owner’s collection.

Final Score: 9 out of 10