When it comes to kart games, you can either try something new in an attempt (and probably fail) to reinvent the genre, or you can play it safe and just take notes from Mario Kart.
Smurfs Kart has absolutely no doubts about the latter option, and there is hardly any originality to be found in its game design. But do you know something? It’s not always bad. In fact, this solution is borrowed from the best – along with the developer Eden Games’ (Test drive without limits) form in the genre of racing – so Smurfs Kart is a worthy little racer.
There is no need to sit while you read this, because nothing we are about to tell you about the structure of Smurfs Kart will overwhelm you. You already know the exercise. This is a go-kart with the characters of everyone’s favorite blue Belgians (I apologize to the fans of the Club Brugge football team or the drowned Tintin).
The list is made up of 12 Marines, ranging from well-established favorites like Papa Smurf, Jocky and Smurfette to others that old farts like us are admittedly not as familiar with, like Blossom, Astro Smurf and the mechanical Clockwork Smurf. . . They each have their own voice acting and their own personality, meaning that each of them feels as unique as a dozen all-blue characters can. Each also has its own unique kart that cannot be customized in any way, but at least matches the personality of the Smurf that controls it.
There are two speed settings to choose from – “Fun” and “Super Speed”, which work exactly like the “cc” rating in Mario Kart, not only increasing the maximum speed of each kart, but also greatly increasing the difficulty level of the AI.
Once you’re on the track, anyone who’s played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (and that’s pretty much everyone, judging by sales data) will immediately feel at home with controls that aren’t an exact facsimile, but close enough for you to adjust. to the first race. That is, unless you accidentally turn on the driving aids, as we did. As with Mario Kart, assists can be enabled for younger players to keep you on track, make you accelerate, and let you steer with the motion controls. They can be accidentally turned on during pause or character selection screens, but they can just as easily be turned off again.
Powersliding is your typical jump-and-slide method you see in a Nintendo game, and you get your typical three-stage sparks when sliding, which determines how quickly you increase your speed when you exit a turn. Here it charges a little faster than in Mario Kart, but otherwise the same.
The same goes for bonuses. Coins have been replaced by Smurfberries, and most of the typical Mario Kart weapons are also found here under a different guise. Green shells are acorns, red shells are bees, bananas are lumps of dirt, and the like. Everything is simple, everything is like in Mario Kart, everything is easy to learn.
All of this would be for nothing if the game worked like the ultimate Smurf, but it’s actually one of the few real surprises we got while playing Smurfs Kart – it’s quite a beautiful game when all is said and done. The frame rate isn’t 60fps like Mario Kart, but while it’s 30fps, it’s at least a very solid 30, unlike some other kart games on the Switch (we’re looking at you, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3). And this reduction to 30 was clearly done to make the game look as detailed as possible.
And to be honest, at times it really looks beautiful. If it doesn’t run at native 1080p in the dock, it should be very close to it, and there are some really nice lighting effects in there, combined with detailed characters and tracks. If you don’t get sick at less than 60fps, you’ll be surprised at how impressive it looks in both docked and handheld mode.
Keep in mind that it does have its downsides, and the most notable one is the number of tracks available. Each track is well designed and a pleasure to race on, and it’s not just lazy flat surfaces: there’s been a clear effort made here to make it fun, and almost every one of them offers some kind of shortcut, and some even have different routes. generally.
They even manage to feel different when the setting is the same. Some of the tracks take place in the Smurfs’ village, and while the initial flyovers for each of them look disturbingly similar, once the races begin there is a distinct difference between, for example, the track that winds between their houses and the track that winds between their houses. planted in their huge cornfields.
The main problem is that there are only 12 dishes to choose from, divided into three cups. While it’s possible to unlock mirror versions of them, it’s still not too much variety for a $40/£45 game to play. The multiplayer is also a local split screen, with no online play to keep you occupied. It really doesn’t take long until you’ve completely played every track inside out, and while this may not be a major issue for younger players, older fans will get a bit smurfed after a while.
However, the game also features a sticker album that rewards players for completing certain achievements, including winning a certain number of races with certain characters. This should add some durability and give players a reason to tackle each track for the hundredth time. Ultimately, this lack of content is the single biggest problem, albeit a pretty serious one, in an amazingly well-made kart game.
On the track, the Smurfs Kart mimics Mario Kart surprisingly well, with satisfying handling and beautiful visuals (albeit at 30fps). On the great leaderboard of Switch karting games, this won’t exactly cause problems with podium places, but it certainly lags behind the leaderboards and is definitely fun, even if it’s as short as its theme. The lack of tracks is what keeps it from being one of the very best karting games on the Switch, but they certainly didn’t make it Smurfed.