It seems in this day and age that every IP has it’s own Mario Kart style racing game, from Garfield to the cast of Dreamwork’s Motion pictures. So when a kart game comes out where it’s not based on a previous IP it has to be good before anyone pays any attention to it, but more often then not it’s slipped on a banana and forgotten about in months after release (Rip Modnation Racers and Blur). Anyway we’re going really retro today with Retro Kart Rush which has just dropped on Switch, a year after it’s PC release.
Retro Kart Rush lives somewhere between the 16bit era and N64 era of racing games, as they were still finding their feet, the presentation reflects this. Upon launch of the game you’re met with a chequered flag and logo with some karts driving around a basic course. Following this you’re given 3 options for the game, Race, Time Trial and Settings. So only 2 types of gameplay mode here, as basic as you get for a game like this, which is fine as this release costs literal peanuts.
Once you’ve chose a mode you get to choose a racer! Initially we have a choice of 6 racers over 3 classes, then we can unlock 3 additional characters once we have enough points from races. Each character is animal, and they fall into 3 weight classes, these effect how your kart drives, so a preferred style can be matched. These characters look cute, with a very simple pixel art style but when racing they are animated decent enough for the game, which looks similar to how Mario Kart 64 animates them, with only a few frames but you still get a sense of movement with them.
Dipping into the game itself you have an option for a single race or, where the meat and veg is, Cup. Cup is where you’ll be spending the most of your time, with 8 different cups to race for, each cup cycles the games 18 courses, and these each have a theme, these are standard affair, jungle, city, winter/snow. As basic as these are level design is really good, the maps are varied with lots of shortcuts, ramps, and boost pads to make sure you’re able to get the best times, all tracks have bits going on, I say bits because they’re not hugely busy but there’s obstacles to dodge, which can include big pixel monsters, fire barrels and cars, scenery is a bit scarce but you never get truly empty levels.
There’s also 4 difficulty modes from Easy to Insane, and once you venture over the harder modes you’re expected to be fully knowledgeable on the mechanics, power ups and shortcuts of the levels, as you’ll be getting 8th place a lot if not.
With all Kart racers the main draw is mechanics, and how exactly does Rush play? For the most of it mechanically it’s good, like mentioned the levels are well designed, with loads of places to get some good drifts into 3 levels speed boosts, power ups are reskins of classic power ups but all food based, so instead of mushrooms for speed boosts, we now have cups of coffee, which makes sense. All of these work just as other games alternatives and requires you to keep on your toes as you navigate the courses. The only real problem I had with how it played was the Switch did struggle at times, dropping frames when a lot was going on, for a relatively simple kart game this is a bit disappointing, considering how well MK8 Deluxe runs, I’d have expected this to be running at the good steady rate without any drops.
Audio presentations is more than fine, with some variety of music including chip tunes, and some orchestral tracks which play throughout most levels, nothing to hugely write home about but some of this doesn’t really fit the aesthetic of the game. Kart audio effects again, are pretty simple but do the job of any normal racing game.
Overall Retro Kart Rush is a very serviceable Kart game, though sometimes it might feel it needs a bit more too it, but when you’re paying less than £3 for a game you can’t expect the world. The driving mechanics are nice enough, and they work well. It’s probably better than Garfield Kart if I’m honest.
Better than Garfield Kart for a fraction of the price