Gaming’s best kart track editor on a portable device? Damn straight we’ll have some of that. The PS3 game suffered from long load times and some miserably tight (and cheaty) AI, but here’s a chance to really push the game into a contender position.
Diving straight into the now cutscene-bare (yay!) Career mode, I was pleased to see new tracks galore. With the series having such a large focus on its impressive track editor, it would have been a shock if they had just reissued the PS3 ones.
The drifting remains an absolute pleasure. It might not offer the directional changes of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, but there is room for manoeuvrability back and forth on the angle you’re sliding around at. Unfortunately, that’s about the best thing about the racing.
Drifting slowly charges up a metre for boosting, or a shield to defend from incoming enemy fire. The use of either function diminishes the metre at a cripplingly fast rate. Juice can be earned from completing drifts and mind-air spins. If you enable driving aids you’ll only spin the guaranteed safe number of times in the air, meaning you won’t land sideways or backwards. However, this option will also automatically fire boost once the metre is full; not ideal on trickier sections.
Weapon pickups are now handily colour coded so you have a better chance at picking up something that you want. However, grabbing them is still harder than it should be thanks to their small size and them not reappearing quickly enough when the leading pack get there ahead of you. If you save a weapon and pick up another it will upgrade. You’ll need these upgraded ones as stage one attacks are weak sauce. There are some new weapons to be found such as turning into a giant snowball or throwing rocks, but it’s such an effort to pick up weapons it’s hard to care. If you have a bad crash or get hit by an enemy weapon you usually lose whatever you’re carrying too.
The AI racers are still relentlessly bound to you throughout a race too and thanks to their never-ending supply of weapons, you’re never in more danger than when you’re in first place. More so now seeing the backwards-firing capabilities of most weapons has been removed. With all the bad news coming from behind you, it makes Mario Kart’s Blue Shell bullshit seem almost fair.
Embarrassingly, the framerate really nosedives when the action heats up. It’s very unsightly and is a real strain on the eyes. If I wanted retina damage I would have picked up a 3DS. Loading times aren’t great at around 30 seconds a pop, but that’s better than the PS3 version at least. The hellish menu music returns, but thankfully the comedy race announcers have been axed.
The game’s creative modes initially appear to be the same as the impressive PS3 one. You can create racers, karts and tracks and share them online and download new ones. The extensive collection of PS3 mods can be downloaded too, which is great, but you can’t download your own PS3 creations, which is shite.
Unfortunately, the disappointment doesn’t end there. Most of the mod menus force touchscreen controls on you. It’s not something you’ll want to get used to, mainly because they barely work. Half the selectable touchscreen items in the creation suite are so broken you’ll think they’re not actually selectable, then after 10 attempts they finally wake up. It’s constantly infuriating and I’m appalled that anyone thought this was acceptable enough to be released. Since when did the d-pad and analogue become the enemy!
The track editor starts off well by allowing you to draw a track with your finger. In seconds you can create something completely mental like this one I quickly knocked together.
This is definitely an advantageous element over its PS3 brother. I’m less keen on the unclear controls for the rest of the editor though. If you’ve played the PS3 version you’ll l have a head start, but for the rest of you it’s going to be tough. Terrain deformation should have been great as you carve through the landscape or push up mountains from underneath using the two screens, but it just doesn’t seem to work, with it either taking forever, or just not happening. A cursor option has been included for this job, but that is oddly unresponsive too. The ‘?’ icon has a vague shot at explaining the controls for the editing section you’re in, but most of them don’t seem to do anything. The digital manual has absolutely zero information either.
The touchscreen is used to good effect for adjusting the track itself. Widening, narrowing, adding curves and adjusting the heights and angles of any section of track is a breeze and arguably a smoother experience than on PS3. It’s a real shame the rest of the editor isn’t. Thankfully you can auto-populate the environment with trackside buildings, fences, weapons and traps. You can do it manually, but the hellish procedure for deleting unwanted items makes it a task best avoided.
In another facepalm incident, there are no online multiplayer options, unless you count lap time leaderboard ghosts, which we don’t. Even these are screwed, as you have to be online to record a time instead of being able to upload them when you get home. There are local ad-hoc options, although if I’d have to be a real bastard to convince my mates to buy this. Get the PS3 one, just for the ace creation suite.
- Drawing and tweaking a track with the touchscreen is cool
- Access to PS3 user-content
- Love the drifting
- No online multiplayer
- Broken touchscreen controls
- Framerate issues during races
The Short Version: This should have been a lot better. Admittedly, the racing wasn’t great on the PS3, but the lack of care given to the editing suite here is a real shame. The majority of the blame lies with the terribly implemented touchscreen controls in all the menus. Avoid, unless this gets some major patches.