When it comes to kart games, you can either try something new in an attempt (and likely failure) to reinvent the genre, or you can play it safe and just take Mario Kart notes.
Smurfs Kart has absolutely no qualms about opting for the latter option, with barely a shred of originality in its game design. But you know something? That’s not always a bad thing. In fact, this decision to borrow heavily from the best – coupled with developer Eden Games’ (Test Drive Unlimited) form in the racing genre – means that Smurfs Kart is a decent little racer.
There’s no need to be seated while you read this, because nothing we’re about to tell you about Smurfs Kart’s structure will stun you in your boots. You already know the drill. It’s a go-kart game featuring everyone’s favorite Blue Belgians characters (with apologies to fans of the Club Brugge football team or a drowned Tintin).
The list consists of 12 of the navy numpties, from well-established favorites like Papa Smurf, Jokey, and Smurfette to others that old farts like us admittedly aren’t as familiar with, like Blossom, Astro Smurf, and Clockwork Smurf. . Each has their own voice and personality, which means they all feel as unique as a dozen completely blue characters can. Everyone also has their own unique kart, which cannot be customized in any way, but at least matches the personality of the Smurf driving it.
There are two speed settings to choose from – Fun and Hyperspeed – which work exactly like “cc” ratings in Mario Kart, not only increasing each kart’s top speed, but also dramatically increasing the difficulty level of the kart. AI.
Once you’re on the track, anyone who’s played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (that’s pretty much everyone, according to sales figures) will immediately feel comfortable with the handling, which is not an exact facsimile but is close enough that you have adjusted to the first run. That is, assuming you didn’t accidentally activate the driver aids by mistake like we did. Much like Mario Kart, it’s possible to turn on assists for young players – these keep you from going off the track, allow you to accelerate, and allow you to steer with motion controls. It’s possible to accidentally activate them during pause or character select screens, but they’re just as easily disabled.
Powersliding is your typical hop-and-slide method that you see in Nintendo’s gaming, and you get your typical three-stage sparks when sliding which determines how quickly you increase in speed when coming out of the turn. It loads a bit faster here than in Mario Kart but otherwise it’s the same.
Same thing with power-ups. The parts are replaced by Smurfberries and most of the weapons typical of Mario Kart are here also in a different appearance. Green seashells are acorns, red seashells are bees, bananas are clods, that sort of thing. Everything is simple, everything is Mario Kart, everything is easy to learn.
All of this would be pointless if the game worked like Absolute Smurf, but it’s actually one of the few real surprises we’ve had while playing Smurfs Kart – it’s a really nice game after all. The frame rate isn’t 60fps like Mario Kart, but while it’s 30fps, it’s at least an extremely solid 30, unlike some other karting games on the Switch. (we’re looking at you, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3). And this drop to 30 was clearly done to ensure the game was as detailed as possible.
And to be honest, it’s really beautiful sometimes. If it’s not running at native 1080p resolution when docked, it must be very close to that, and there are some really nice lighting effects coupled with detailed characters and tracks. Unless you’re puking at sub-60fps, you’ll be surprised how impressive it is tethered or handheld.
It’s not without its drawbacks, mind you, and the most notable of these is the number of tracks available. Each track is well-designed and fun to ride, and they’re not just lazily laid out flat surfaces: there’s been a clear effort here to make them fun, with just about every one of them offering some sort of shortcut and some even offering different routes altogether.
They even manage to feel different when the setting is the same. A few of the tracks take place in Smurfs’ Village, and while the initial flyovers for all of them look ominously similar, once the races begin there’s a distinct difference between, say, the course which winds between their houses and the one in their immense fields of corn.
The main problem is that there are only 12 dishes to choose from, divided into three cups. While it’s possible to unlock mirror versions of these, it’s still not a big deal for a $40/£45 game. Multiplayer is also local split-screen only, with no online play to keep you busy. It really won’t be long before you’ve played every track completely backwards, and while this won’t be a major issue for younger players, older fans will be a little stumped after a while.
That said, there’s also an in-game sticker album that rewards players for completing certain achievements, including winning a certain number of races with specific characters. This should add some longevity and give players a reason to play each track for the umpteenth time. Ultimately, though, this lack of content is the single main – albeit quite significant – problem in a surprisingly well-made go-kart game.
On the track, Smurfs Kart pulls off a surprisingly solid Mario Kart imitation, with satisfying handling and great visuals (albeit at 30fps). In the big ranking of Switch kart games, it’s not going to quite cloud the podium places, but it certainly lingers just behind the frontrunners and definitely provides an entertaining time, even if it’s as short as its topic. A lack of courses is what keeps it from being one of the best go-kart games on the Switch, but they certainly didn’t smurf this one.
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