Bamtang Games and GameMill are back with another cartoon crossover kart racer. This time, taking the many characters of DreamWorks around the track for the first time in over a decade with DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing. The likes of Shrek are out driving laps with the likes of the Boss Baby, Mr. Wolf, Megamind, and more across a variety of courses, cups, and challenge modes.
The game is perfectly fine. It holds no candle to the eternally superior Mario Kart in terms of gameplay, mechanics, or charm, but it holds its own as a serviceable vehicle for playing with DreamWorks’ ever-growing roster of classic characters. The worlds of Kung Fu Panda, Trolls, Madagascar, and How to Train Your Dragon join the ranks of the aforementioned, offering some witty, fully-voiced banter between the characters. The opening tutorial, while painfully slow, shocked with its dialogue and voice acting, which largely kept up once the real game began.
The game runs like pretty much any other kart racer. You start with a pre-“go” chance at a starting boost that feels like it never actually lines up correctly with the countdown and then race three laps around a well-constructed course to come in first place among the pack. Some of the tracks are teeming with life and will make you consider going and watching the movies they’re based on—the game’s whole raison d’etre. But a lot of them are quite dull. The ceiling of the gamespace feels so far away that because things are rarely happening in the background, it becomes agoraphobic instantly. The actual raceable part of the tracks works, though. The turns are a bit too broad sometimes so as to make the drifting mechanic too forgiving, but everything else about them, from the boost pads to the jumps and occasional shortcuts, do their jobs.
DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing suffers from tough rubberbanding and double jeopardy issues. Getting hit by an enemy’s items should obviously slow you down and make winning harder, but getting hit while on top of mandatory jump pads and having it cancel out your ability to use them is unfair and unpleasant. You wind up either slowly rolling over a cliff and having to be reset or slowly going off the jump pad but not reaching the destination. Either way, it’s wasting even more time getting back on the track than if you had been hit anywhere else on the track. This double jeopardy wouldn’t feel quite as aggravating, perhaps, if the game’s rubberbanding felt adequate.
When you fall grossly behind, you can usually feel a bit of pull from the other racers, allowing you to catch up with the pack. But because double jeopardy instances are common and useful items are few and far between in DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing, one instance of poor luck can ruin your whole race. Plenty of boost items exist, found in item boxes or obtained by collecting musical notes scattered across the course. But most of the attack items are either close-range or hard to aim. There’s nothing in the arsenal that will come close to the classic game-changing bullet bills and blue shells that make certain other kart racers eternally fair.
Every character has a distinct vehicle with unlockable alternate parts that help you tweak their stats to your liking. You can really feel the difference between a heavier, slower car and a lithe, speedy one. There is some decent balance in that regard. What is painfully unbalanced, however, is the swath of DreamWorks’ history that DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing pulls from for its roster. While the array may seem wide, it only represents a fraction of the iconic, memed, or harder-to-come-by movies in the studio’s cabinet. It’s disappointing that so many of the studio’s older properties aren’t represented—it caters to recent releases and internet-friendly characters. But the variety is fairly wide, and the process of unlocking new characters is better than most games, requiring you to win cups and complete challenges.
It’s tough being a kart racer in a world where you will always be compared to the genre’s standard-bearer, but DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing is perfectly serviceable. The stages have a weird, uncanny valley to them, but they generally evoke some nostalgia for the movie they represent while reminding you that DreamWorks is continuing to produce new movies worth checking out, too. The racing itself is also fine—it could be a bit tighter as far as items and some movement shortcomings, but the tracks are all well-constructed and enjoyable.
DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing is available November 3rd on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4|5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
DreamWorks All-Star Kar Racing
It’s tough being a kart racer in a world where you will always be compared to the genre’s standard-bearer, but DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing is perfectly serviceable.