Each character also has a couple brief audio samples taken from the shows. It would have been nice to hear some more voice work, but what we have is enough to evoke the feel of the shows, and represents the characters faithfully. The music tracks based on the shows are excellent, but the rest of the music is pretty average; the main menu tune begins to grate after one or two repeats, a common problem I’ve noticed in Game Factory titles.
Every aspect of CN Racing—from the graphics and sound to the license material—is done with polish and quality. What really disappointed me, however, was that this game just isn’t very fun to play. It steals from Mario Kart in conceivably every other way, so why couldn’t it have emulated the tight controls and solid gameplay?
Almost every kart handles like a lead brick. Cornering, backing up, even drifting, are aggravating affairs. The somewhat twisty design of the tracks only punctuates the difficulty the karts have with maneuvering. I got stuck bumping into the same wall multiple times, trying to turn away with little success. Drifting is similar to Mario Kart, but decidedly clumsier to pull off. Item boxes, so crucial to filling that special meter, are few and far between. Playing through the solo mode, I yearned for less sluggish mechanics so that I could enjoy a game that cried out to be enjoyed. So much of the potential was lost through poor gameplay.
The other half of the game, multiplayer, feels stripped to the bone in comparison to Mario Kart’s. Download play allows for any unlocked character to be used, but that’s about where the advantages over Nintendo’s kart racer end. Only one track, Dexter’s Lab, is playable, and there are no options to configure bots or items. Over multi-card play any of the four cups are available, but it isn’t possible to select individual tracks. There is no Wifi support to speak of.
I really wanted to like Cartoon Network Racing. The game is positively bursting at the seams with nostalgia, charm and high production values. It just doesn’t play very well. If some more of my favorite characters handled better, especially on their own courses (Johnny Bravo, Dexter) I might have okayed this as a purchase. As it is, however, I must regretfully suggest passing CN Racing over for Mario Kart. This game has so much going for it, but without the tight gameplay and a good multiplayer, it can’t compare to Nintendo’s masterpiece. But if you’ve never played Mario Kart and don’t intend to, or if you’re a big fan of the old school CN shows, then give it a try.
Cartoon Network Racing does a lot of things really well, just not the gameplay. It’s packed with extras, decent graphics and the personality of all the CN shows, but it doesn’t play as smoothly or comfortably as Mario Kart DS. The multiplayer is also incredibly light on content. Give it a spin if you’re in the mood for a trip down memory lane and average, but not great racing.
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