When it comes to ATV racing, there have been a few good console games. Whether it's the ATV Offroad Fury series or the MX vs. ATV series, console fans of all-terrain vehicles have a game that they can enjoy. On portables, the story is very different, with the PSP getting the lion's share of good ATV racing games and the DS getting versions that are below average at best. For a while, it seemed like no one would try to change that fact, but another game is attempting to become a standout title for DS-owning ATV fans. ATV Quad Kings does stand out among both ATV racing games and racing games in general on the DS. Too bad it doesn't stand out in a good way.
ATV Quad Kings is split up into three modes, all of which are fairly similar. World Tour mode is the main gameplay mode. After creating your player (you give the rider a color scheme, name and number), you embark on a quest to win the ATV championships. In order to get that illustrious prize, though, you'll need to win the previous tournaments, starting with the beginner circuit, which is comprised of six different races. Each race takes place in one of 18 different tracks around the world, with six racers per track and turbo boost power-ups available to help competitors either catch up from behind or ensure they stay ahead of everyone else. Circuits are point-based, so while coming in first in every race is always going to be ideal (especially since higher placement gives you more cash), you can come in second or third in a race and still win the tournament as long as you have more points than everyone else. Winning this circuit will unlock subsequent circuits, each two races longer than the last. Once you win all four circuits, you win the grand championship.
Arcade and Time Trial modes are pretty self-explanatory. Arcade is simply a quick race mode where you pick the track you want to race in and how many laps you want to race. The rules are the same as in World Tour mode, except for the presence of money icons, which give you bonus cash once a race is over. Time Trial mode has you take on the same tracks as before, but your aim is to get the fastest possible lap.
There are a plethora of things wrong with ATV Quad Kings. For starters, there are no stats on each vehicle. One can presume that the more expensive vehicles or vehicles that are available later are more powerful, but without any visible bars or graphs used to document ATV performance, no one will know for sure. None of this will really matter, though, since there is no sense of speed in the game. Even if you have the most expensive ATV in the game, driving it at top speed will be no faster than a 50cc kart in Mario Kart DS. There are barely any ramps that give you enough time to pull off a trick and even if you did, you'd discover that there is no benefit to doing so in the first place. The opponent AI will strictly stay within the programmed lines, so no amount of crashing or pushing will ever get it to deviate from its given course.
The track design is decent but feels uninspired. There are a few jumps, but considering the problem they have with giving riders some air, no one will really note them as jumps anyway. ATV vehicles are called all-terrain for a reason, but driving on any area outside of the designated dirt path will cause your vehicle to slow down enough so that the competition can catch up. The biggest gaffe in the whole package would have to be the lack of multiplayer. There's no online Wi-Fi play, no local play with multiple carts, nothing. Yes, there are multiple difficulty levels for World Tour to contend with, but without anyone to compete against, opening up everything for a racing game seems pointless at best. For those who are barely interested with the title, this oversight will cause them to look away altogether.
Racing games demand a control scheme that is close to perfect. Unfortunately, the controls are very middle of the road in ATV Quad Kings. This is strictly a touch-screen-less affair; the d-pad handles steering; the face buttons handle acceleration, braking and trick execution; and the shoulder buttons activate the turbo boost and powerslides. What kills the controls is just how loose they are. Tapping left or right on a straightaway is fine, but anytime you take a turn, using the d-pad will ensure that you'll oversteer and hit the closest wall on the turn, resulting in a dead stop since collision with anything other than a fellow ATV rider always results in dead stops. The only way to stop the oversteering from occurring is to always hold the powerslide button while turning, giving you just enough control to make the turns without hitting anything. It's only one flaw, but considering the penalties caused by this, it ends up being a very big problem.
The graphics do a decent job on the DS. The tracks look fine, and even though there doesn't seem to be a difference between riding on a dirt track and hitting a log that's meant to be a speed bump, at least the log looks like a log. Everything else around the track looks pretty flat. The tire barriers and advertisement walls, for example, have no depth once you get close, and the same goes for the tree walls and bleachers. All of the ATVs look the same, so you really can't tell if you have the vehicle you want unless you look at the name first. The riders also look the same and don't have much animation even when they have the rare opportunity to do a trick. At least the frame rate stays steady, though at the slow speed the game travels, it would have been disastrous to see it take more of a hit.
The sound is passable at best. The music is your generic mix of rock and metal beats, all instrumental material and none of it licensed from bands. It's not exactly a memorable score, but it works out just fine for a racing game. There are no voices, so expecting to hear cheers of excitement, groans of disappointment, or even final placement in a race is out of the question. The sound effects are pretty bad. Hearing collisions between ATVs is fine, but hearing them run is atrocious. No matter which one of the 14 available vehicles is chosen, they all provide a low droning hum that doesn't vary whether you're starting from the line or going at top speed. Since the low hum is actually quite loud, turning down the sound effects volume or the overall volume would be the best way to stop yourself from suffering through a noise that tries to emulate an ATV engine.
About the only good thing going for ATV Quad Kings is the looks, and even that is stretching it. Beyond that, the game feels lackluster at best. The sound is generic, the controls are pretty sloppy, the sense of speed isn't there, the trick system seems useless, and there's no multiplayer to drive people to unlock things in the first place. There are certainly other, better racing titles that the system has to offer, and unless you feel a deep burning desire to play a new ATV-based game or you have to play every racing game that hits the Nintendo DS, there should be no reason ATV Quad Kings should ever touch your system.
More articles about ATV Quad Kings