About the game
Cartoon Network racing is a kart based racing game for the Nintendo DS.
Published in 2006 by Game Factory the racing game is based around characters that feature in popular cartoons on the TV Channel Cartoon Network such as The Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo and Cow and Chicken. The game features a series of Championships and Time trials where the sole objective is to win the challenges and unlock further race courses.
There are 3 modes of play available; championship, time trial and versus mode.
In championship mode you compete in a rally against that consists of several races spread across a range of challenging domains, such as sand dunes, deserts, inside building corridors and good old fashioned racetracks. There are four rallies available with the Cowardly rally being the only available rally to play instantly with a further three becoming available and unlocked after winning a previous rally. Each rally stage has 3 laps and on completion of the stage you are awarded points depending on the your finishing position in the race, points are assigned in the same way as in formula one races (i.e. 10 points for the winner, 8 points for second place etc.).
Time trial mode is a simple dash across rally tracks with the challenge of completing the stage before time on the clock counts down to zero.
The final mode is versus and in this mode up to 4 players can compete in a dash race with only 1 cartridge required to host the wireless challenge which I think is far more fun than challenging the computer controlled racers.
I'll review a typical championship rally as the controls and tracks are similar regardless of the mode chosen.
The upper screen of the Nintendo DS displays the race in progress, lap information and details of your currently held power up (I'll explain this later). The lower screen displays an overhead map view of the race course and has small icons to show where each racer currently is placed on the racetrack which is really handy as there are no rear view mirrors available to identify your current position.
Before a race starts you need to select your character. Each character has there own strengths and weaknesses (such as weight, acceleration etc) so careful choice is recommended. There are several characters that are locked on the first play (such as the wonderful Mojo Jojo) that are unlocked on successful completion of each rally.
Once you have selected your character race starts with a 3, 2, 1 countdown and then your off!
Catching up with your opponents or retaining your lead can be achieved through a few methods.
Firstly there are orange speed-up arrows at various points on the racetrack that give you a momentary boost when driven across. Whilst these are handy as they give you increased speed they can also hinder you on the more winding tracks as controlling your kart under speed can prove difficult. The track also has blue corner slide arrows that when driven over can help you get around sharp corners with ease.
Secondly there are power-up cubes that when driven through give you access to a random power-ups that have several different effects; laying oil slicks, speeding up, firing missiles at your competitors and much more. The power up can be deployed by a single press of the NDS shoulder button and can be held on board until required. If you drive over a second power-up cube whilst still holding an unused weapon then the held weapon is replaced with a new random power-up.
The final way to catch up with an opponent is to drive closely behind them. Doing this causes a slipstream effect to build and after a few seconds you are given a power boost. This is a difficult technique to master as the power boost can often lead you to rear end crash into the opponent that pushes them further ahead and slows you down!
The stages of the rally become increasingly difficult as the terrain changes and the courses become more winding and difficult to navigate. It is quite easy to go from leader to last place by inadvertently crashing into an alcove and struggling to reverse your way back onto the main race track. Also if an opponent behind you fires a weapon at you, such as a missile, then a caution symbol is briefly displayed and you have a split second to manoeuvre out of its path, which is usually a fruitless exercise!
The racetracks are also littered with obstacles, such as cactus plants, boulders and hazards that your competitors have laid for you such as oil slicks. Colliding with these obstacles will slow you down and inevitably drop your position in the race leader board.
After 3 laps you cross the chequered finish line and a list of the current stage race positions and assigned scores are displayed. Following this is the main leader board where you previous scores are added to give your current overall position in the rally.
Once the series of rally stages are over then the final positions are revealed and dependent on the result might unlock a new rally or one of the non rally based mini-game extras on the cartridge.
Sound, control and graphics
The music is computer generated loops of Cartoon Network style music such as the Cow and Chicken theme. Unfortunately the music repeats too frequently for my liking and does start to become annoying. Thankfully the music volume can be adjusted in the options settings. The sound effects in game are good though and whirring speed ups and missile explosions are well executed.
Control of the game is straightforward. The menus are navigated by clicks of the stylus and the control of the vehicle is a simple matter of using the D-Pad for steering and the A and B buttons for forward or reverse gear selection. The steering is responsive and works well. Power Up use is controlled by a tap of the left shoulder button.
The graphics are cartoon styled and have bold and vibrant colours. The movement and feeling of speed isn't bad though some of the scenery does appear rather blocky and vector ridden in parts.
As hard as you try I can't shake the comparison with Mario Kart from my mind.
The race track, power ups and general structure of the game is almost identical to Mario Kart with the obvious exception of the cartoon characters. The game plays well and is great fun in multiplayer mode. That said there is a polish and finesse to Mario Kart that in my opinion Cartoon Network racing fails to emulate. With so little difference between the two then it all comes down to personal cartoon character preference.
I'll stick with Mario and Yoshi!
© M Jones (Otalgia) 2008