Cartoon Network Racing PlayStation 2
Published by The Game Factory
Developed by Eutechnyx
Release Date: 9th February 2007
The moment you begin playing Cartoon Network Racing you’ll have a strong feeling of déjà vu, at least you will if you’ve played Mario Kart Double Dash. The game borrows heavily from Nintendo’s GameCube racing game supplanting Nintendo’s cute characters with some of Cartoon Network’s finest from cartoons such as The Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken and Dexter’s Laboratory. If you think about it there’s a lot of potential for this to be a great arcade racing experience given the personalities that have been included. However, it doesn’t quite work out that way thanks to certain elements of the game being disappointing.
Cartoon Network Racing offers Single Player, Co-Op and Versus modes. The Single Player modes are Quick Race, Tournament Mode and Cartoon Eliminator. Quick Race is a one-off race. Tournament Mode allows you to take on a series of races earning points for your position in each race. Naturally the winner is the one with the most accumulated points after all of the races have been completed. Cartoon Eliminator is a race where the last placed competitor is eliminated after each lap with the winner being the one that remains. In Co-Op mode one player can drive whilst the other fires the weapons. The Versus mode, which contains a variety of split-screen multiplayer events, is only for two players which is disappointing although given that most PlayStation 2 owners probably don’t own a Multitap it makes sense.
As we suggested earlier, if you’ve played Mario Kart Double Dash then Cartoon Network Racing is going to seem familiar. Essentially you’ll pick a driver and a co-driver to race with. Each driver is rated out of five for acceleration, speed and handling. Each character also has a special Toon Power. During a race you’ll drive into crates to collect a weapon that can be used against your opponents. These weapons include rockets, bombs, dummy crates and oil that can be used to give your opponents a slippery ride. As in the Mario Kart games the circuits have shortcuts and hazards that can halt your progress. Of course here you have the characters unique Toon Powers to add to the equation but on the whole it’s definitely not a unique experience.
Of course all of this would be great if the races played out just like they do in Mario Kart Double Dash. Unfortunately that’s not the case. The biggest problem is the ludicrous catch-up mechanic that the game employs. It’s possible to be in last position almost the entire race and then suddenly rocket from behind to win the race. Of course it’s also possible to be in the winning position on the home straight and suddenly end in last place due to this catch-up mechanic. This can make the whole thing frustrating. Hitting the side of track can sometimes cause you to get stuck and you’ll have reverse in order to free yourself which is irritating although as we’ve just mentioned it’s hardly a problem as it’s possible to win a race even when coming from a seemingly hopeless position. Any contact with your opponents usually causes you to spin wildly out of control and whilst this doesn’t prevent you from winning the race it can add to the frustration. It’s also fair to say that the karts don’t handle as well as they should.
Graphically Cartoon Network Racing looks OK. The developers went for a simplistic cel-shaded kind of style and it certainly gives the game a cartoon kind of appearance. All of the characters are instantly recognisable although there’s not much in the way of animations. The game certainly has a low detail look to it for the most part so it’s a little surprising that the frame rate is not as smooth as it should be. At times it can plummet quite significantly and this can make handling a little tricky. Thankfully frame rate dips don’t occur that often and not on every circuit.
Cartoon Network Racing isn’t subtitled which is disappointing although it doesn’t prevent deaf gamers from enjoying the main game. Sure you’re going to miss out on the repetitious comments and taunts the characters can make but that’s not really much of a problem. What’s rather more disappointing is that it means you’ll not be able to fully enjoy the unlockable cartoon episodes the game contains which is disappointing.
For fans of the Cartoon Network characters there is no denying that Cartoon Network Racing will offer some amount of enjoyment. As an arcade racing game it’s simply mediocre. Thanks to the crazy catch-up mechanic that the AI employs races can, and often do, feel like a lottery. The lack of subtitles also means that the unlockable cartoon episodes can feel like a waste for the deaf gamer which is a shame. Unless you don’t have access to a copy of Mario Kart or are itching to play a game with the Cartoon Network characters then you’d be wise to at least think twice before giving Cartoon Network Racing a go.
You can't help but feel that Cartoon Network Racing could have been so much better than a poor Mario Kart Double Dash clone. Still it wasn't and it's tough to recommend.