IGN Review of Cartoon Network Racing
Since Super Mario Kart first peeled wheels on the Super Nintendo, numerous take-offs on the formula have hit consoles over the past 14+ years. The latest is Cartoon Network Racing, a nearly direct rip-off in just about every way imaginable of Mario Kart: Double-Dash!! Other racers have nicely mimicked the formula in the past, so given Cartoon Network's plethora of great characters and settings to utilize, it's unfortunate that the game is a rather abhorrent attempt at the genre.
The biggest problem is the controls. The center of gravity is way off, and the steering just feels wrong because of it. Not only do the karts seem off-centered, but they steer like boats. One of the great things about kart racers is the sense of spot-on control. Sure, the karts slide around the track quite a bit, and that's part of the challenge, but you also feel like you're total control. That isn't really the case here.
The karts also steer very sluggishly, reacting slowly to most commands which makes turns even harder to properly maneuver. What makes this even worse is that the so-called physics system in the game is very whacky. You'll sometimes get spun around at odd angels when you hit a wall, which in some cases will actually leave you driving backwards. If the track is too tight, you'll have a problem quickly correcting yourself without hitting yet another wall and making things worse.
The physics problems don't end with the walls. You can easily get stuck on other karts, and the AI drivers will sometimes drift your way and essentially attach themselves to you, preventing you from taking turns correctly or even getting yourself unstuck. It's annoying to say the least.
There isn't a great sense of speed, either. While other games have multiple engine classes to push the speed faster and faster as you progress, this doesn't happen in Cartoon Network Racing. Thinking about it though, we realize it's probably a good thing as the cars control so poorly at low speeds that the game would probably wind up unplayable at anything above 15mph.
Cartoon Network Racing's track design is rather poor. Not only are many sections and ideas directly ripped out of Nintendo's Mario Kart titles (like hedgehogs that pop up out of the ground on the farm track), the courses just aren't fun. Some sections are even downright annoying, like one particular u-turn you must flip in a castle-derived track that's so tight that you'll often end up falling off the ledge and going the wrong way. It's not challenging in a fun way - it's just annoying and poorly designed.
The majority of the game's shortcuts are extremely obvious, to the point that some don't even seem like they should be shortcuts. On some tracks you'll see a fork in the road with one side winding around much longer than the other. There's absolutely no point in designing something like this other than to force the player to try both sides once and see which is better. When there's no skill in either finding or navigating a shortcut, you've really only then created a "long" cut out of the normal section of the track.
Shortcuts don't matter at all though as the catch-up assistance is so powerful that you can almost come back from a one lap deficit on a three lap race. Regardless of how well or poorly you race, the computer will be right there with you at the end of a race, usually finishing less than tenths of a second of each other. In fact, we had one race where all five AI racers finished within 0.1 seconds of us each other and just behind us. There's absolutely no point in using boosts or anything of that sort until the very last section of a race as the computer will force all of the racers together again anyway.
The only good thing about the package is that you can unlock two full episodes of each of the game's six featured shows (Courage the Cowardly Dog, Cow and Chicken, I am Weasel, Johnny Bravo, The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter's Laboratory). Other than that, the game is total trash.
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