Publisher: The Game Factory
Release Date: December 5, 2006
You remember all of those beloved original 'toons Cartoon Network used to show day in and day out? Well, after being all but forgotten about, they're all back in their own belated kart racing game, Cartoon Network Racing. The whole gang is here: Cow and Chicken, Johnny Bravo, The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and I am Weasel.
Whenever a kart racing game is released, it will always be compared in some way to Mario Kart, and in the case of Cartoon Network Racing, the two titles are so similar that it's difficult to not make such a comparison. This game is modeled mainly after Double Dash, as it borrows many elements from the dual-riding concept.
First of all, you start off by choosing a driver from any of the six different cartoons. Each character has different speed, acceleration, and handling, but in the end, these stats won't matter because the game controls so badly. After you choose your driver, you select a partner who has different abilities like boosting, flying, invulnerability, or some offensive move. You can even mix and match across different cartoons!
The single-player mode offers you a quick race, tournament mode, or cartoon eliminator. The quick race simply consists of playing through a track for fun, while in tournament mode, you race through three tracks, and the driver with the most points at the end is rewarded with the corresponding trophy. Cartoon eliminator is an interesting idea that is simply in the wrong game to be fun. You do a race, and at the end of each lap, the driver in last place is eliminated. Stay in first place to avoid being eliminated throughout the race, and you win.
You can also do all three of these modes in co-op mode – if you have a friend you want to torture. It is exactly like Double Dash where one player is the driver, and the other player uses the items. It fact, it is even alike to the point where the first player powerslides and the second player uses the boost (sound familiar)?
In Versus mode, you have a mash-up of options that seem ripped straight from Mario Kart. There's a battle mode, where you earn a point for each hit you get an opponent; a collection mode, where the person who collects the most trophies wins; and a king of the kill mode, where you try to hold a gold anvil for the longest amount of time. There is also a hot potato-like game where you have a bomb, and you try to pass it off to your opponent before it blows up. Of course, you can also play the quick race and cartoon eliminator modes from single-player with a friend.
These all seem like good ideas for multiplayer games, if it weren't for the horrible gameplay. The driving is extremely slow, and when you get hit with rockets or something else, it seems like you just bounce around and swerve everywhere. It doesn't matter what your characters' handling stat is because it's going to be difficult enough to control with this game's engine.
In fact, Cartoon Network Racing purposely makes it difficult to get in first place. No matter how much you boost and use items, the other drivers are always within milliseconds of you. Every race ends with all of the drivers finishing at nearly the same time.
Graphically, the title is not completely terrible, but there is immense room for improvement. The cel-shaded style was the right direction to go, if they could have pulled it off smoothly, but it ends up sloppy and definitely unpleasing to the eye.
Cartoon Network Racing is unsurprisingly plagued with cartoon sound effects like the "boink," "bonk," and "boom" we've come to expect in those loveable animations. We also get the full theme song from each cartoon on each respective stage. The voice-acting is mediocre, as many of the characters don't sound like they are supposed to in the cartoons; it gets particularly annoying during races, when they spout out certain catch phrases every two seconds.
If you are even able to bear this game, there are plenty of unlockables for you to discover, which aren't very surprising, as they are all outlined in the instruction booklet, from new characters to new tracks to unlockable episodes. There are unlockable two episodes for each of the six cartoons featured in this title, and it's the most redeeming feature of Cartoon Network Racing. Unfortunately, when they are finally unlocked, some of the video and audio are out of sync, and the video quality is not even up to par, so it's not even worth it to go through the gameplay experience and unlock these shoddy treats.
If you need a kart racing fix, go play Mario Kart or any other racing game, but do not lay a finger (or thumb) on this piece of work. The game engine in Cartoon Network Racing is too flawed to make any aspect of the game fun, and even the unlockable cartoons aren't quality material. Why The Cartoon Network green-lighted a title with the older characters is beyond me, when they have newer cartoons like "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends," "Camp Lazlo," and "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy" dominating the network.