Mario Kart Wii has been on the market for over a year now and is regarded by many as the best racer on the platform. Due to its success it’s no surprise that some developers have tried to make their own clone of the game. While many of those clones have ended up pitifully, Electronic Arts’ recent NASCAR effort has finally managed to avoid breaking down in the pits. By taking a gamble and turning the NASCAR franchise into a kart racing game, EA has succeeded in making a title that comes pretty darn close to the enjoyment of Mario Kart Wii.
The first thing we found apparent was that NASCAR Kart Racing borrows a lot of ideas from the Mario Kart franchise: the rocket starts at the beginning of races seem inspired by Mario Kart, as are most of the items. The red, white, and green rockets are all based off of Koopa shells; yellow flags serve the same purpose as lightning bolts, and the power-up known as “Your Ad Here” displays your kart’s sponsor on the screen similarly to Ink Bloopers in Mario Kart. While we don’t have too much of a problem with developers borrowing ideas that work from other games, the closeness of items NASCAR has to Mario Kart makes it hard to distinguish the game in its own right.
Unlike Mario Kart however, NASCAR Kart Racing puts a huge amount of emphasis on teamwork. You and your partner not only combine stats such as acceleration, handling, boost, etc, but if you drive closely together, you’ll be “In the Zone.” In a nutshell, this condition temporarily allows you to charge your boost faster, which will help you tremendously. And if you want to do the best you can possibly do, you’ll need to take advantage of your boost.
When you and your partner have fully charged your boost, you can use a technique called the Slingshot, where you and your racing cohort can sling one another past each other in an effort to pass the other cars while conserving your boost. The mechanic works well for the most part, but for a game so focused on teamwork, we would’ve like to seen some more techniques based around it.
The spirit of teamwork doesn’t just apply to the moves in the game; if your partner claims the top spot, you’ll get credited for the win, thus allowing you to progress to the next level. However, you will not be able to progress if neither of you finish in first place. Whilst ensuring you race to the upmost of you abilities should be regarded as a positive, this idea to be kind of annoying. For example, say you came first in every race except for one; unless you or your partner gets first, you’ll have to keep playing it over and over again until one of you finally claims the top spot.
There are twelve unique tracks in NASCAR Kart Racing, all of which bring unique ideas to the table. There are tons of jumps, hairpin turns, and plenty of shortcuts just waiting to be discovered. Though twelve tracks may not sound like a lot, their designs are great and should keep players occupied for a long period of time. If the number of tracks doesn’t satisfy, maybe the number of characters will: Including unlockable characters, there are twenty-four actual NASCAR drivers in total.
NASCAR Kart Racing is by no means perfect. One of our biggest faults with the game is the exclusion of an online mode. In this day and age, online play is practically essential for an racing game, especially one as crazy as NASCAR Kart Racing. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to race online against the best players in the world, trying their hardest to claim the top spot? For a game that borrows heavily for Mario Kart at times, we’re surprised they didn’t borrow this particular feature.
Even with this aside, the controls are also an aspect not on par with Mario Kart Wii. Yes, they're easy to get to grips with and work well for the most part, but the game lacks control options such as the Wii Wheel. While nothing big, it would've been nice to see a little more attention put onto the controls so that the experience truly would rival Mario Kart.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, NASCAR Kart Racing isn’t the prettiest game on the market. Though there’s widescreen support, the game looks like a Gamecube title. There really isn’t much detail in the courses, but hey, we’d take the consistent 60 frames per second over details any day.
When everything is said and done, NASCAR Kart Racing is a solid racing title that’ll appeal to any type of gamer. The game supports the same four control schemes as Mario Kart Wii and will provide gamers with an enjoyable racing experience. If you were a fan of Mario Kart Wii’s offline experience, you may find some enjoyment in NASCAR Kart Racing as it borrows a lot from Nintendo’s title. If not, just wait a bit, because there are sure to be more racing games trying to grab their own slice of the Nintendo pie.