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Smurfs Kart

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microïds
Developer: Eden Games
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2022


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Switch Review - 'Smurfs Kart'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 14, 2022 @ 7:00 a.m. PST

It's time to heat up your engines! Choose your Smurf – each one having their own kart and unique ability – and take part in wild races!

Buy Smurfs Kart

Blame Garfield Kart.

To be more specific, blame the legions of players who bought the game on Steam en masse and made it a cheap, long-running joke. The success of that game has brought out a horde of developers trying to make kart racing games based on every license possible, no matter how old or obscure. At first glance, Smurfs Kart seems like another cash grab that would be just as pathetic as the majority of the kart racing games on the Nintendo Switch. Give it a few rounds, and you may find it to be smurfier than expected.

For those wondering, the game culls from a selection of smurfs from the latest animated series rather than the comics, movies, or original 1981 series. Some of the classic characters like Handy Smurf, Papa Smurf, and Jokey Smurf are here, but there are also new ones like Astro Smurf, Farmer Smurf, and Clockwork Smurf. Going with the 2021 series also means that there are more female smurfs in addition to Smurfette, like Blossom Smurf and Storm Smurf. There are 12 racers overall, and while none of them have any differences in performance, they each have a different special weapon if they pick up the correct icon.

On the track, the racing goes by at a good clip. There are only two speeds to choose from, and while the fastest does feel fast, the slowest still feels pretty speedy. The good news is that the game borrows heavily from the driving mechanics of Mario Kart but does so in a way that feels right. The turning is responsive, and the power-sliding and bunny-hopping are easy to perform. That responsiveness, combined with the sense of speed, creates a kart racing game that feels just right. The addition of modifiers, like assisted steering and automatic acceleration, makes it accessible for all ages and skill levels.

There is a problem with the weapons, both the common ones and each smurf's special weapon. For the most part, there's no proper explainer about what everything does, and the loading videos by Brainy Smurf feel rather vague thanks to a lack of words to explain what you're seeing. You get an idea for some of the common items, like bees acting like red shells from Mario Kart or leaves acting like boost mushrooms, but you really need to figure things out on your own. The approach doesn't help with the special smurf powers, as some are non-descript enough that you can't tell what you're doing no matter how many times your smurf pulls it off.

The game has three different single-player modes. Grand Prix has you going after three championship cups with four tracks apiece. This can be done in two different speed levels, both of which have their own medal counts, and completing a cup opens up an alternate version of that with the tracks mirrored. What's smurfy is how well designed each track is. Every single one has a number of shortcuts to use and features a good mix of wide and narrow stretches to play in. The turns are particularly great for power-sliding, and there are some ingenious moments, such as the unfinished dam track having lots of holes that you can snake through or fall through to reach a lower level. Considering how you'll rarely see this kind of thing in other licensed kart racers, this is certainly the high point of the package.

Free Race is exactly like Grand Prix but gives you more options to manipulate, including AI difficulty, number of races, and whether the track selection is randomized. It could stand to be more customizable, as your item selection only goes between everything, nothing, and speed boosts only. It's fun for a bit, but the fact that you can only have a minimum of four races means you might only use it as a makeshift way to practice your moves on tracks. In other words, you aren't going to smurf through this more than once.

Time Challenge is more compelling than it initially sounds. The goal is to get the fastest overall time on the course, so you can beat the records set by your fellow smurfs. There are three medal times you can go for, but what makes this more interesting is the fact that all of those times are fed into a global leaderboard. You only get to see your place overall in addition to the top three people per track. Considering that most kart racers on the platform don't bother with online functionality, this is a smurfy surprise.

The final mode is multiplayer for up to four players. As alluded to earlier, Smurfs Kart lacks online play, so it's all local smurfs from here. You're also restricted to cup play, so there's no mixing and matching of tracks like Free Race, so you have few options to work with. There's not much else to say, other than the fact that it performs quite well; with four smurfs in tow, the frame rate only dropped a tiny bit.

The gameplay mechanics are solid because the studio behind the title has a history of making some pretty good racing games. That said, there isn't too much to incentivize people to stick with the title for more than a few hours. There are no smurfs to unlock beyond the initial 12. While the tracks are well designed, there are only 12 of them, which is rather low compared to other games, even if you factor in mirrored tracks, which doubles it to 24. The only thing you can work on unlocking is stickers through completing various tasks, like getting badges for performing certain actions and completing races. While the count of 110 sounds generous, the fact that there's nothing else to do with the stickers means that they aren't that great of a prize after all.

The presentation is better than expected. Graphically, Smurfs Kart packs in quite a bit of detail to the environments. There are no signs of low-resolution textures, and the various lighting effects and hints of bloom make it look better, despite the game only running at 30fps at best. The karts look nice, with some little bits of detail that are fun to see, like little candles acting as engines. The smurfs themselves don't look very animated, at least as far as facial reactions go. The only time they animate is when you're at the podium, and they only stand out because the crowd of spectator smurfs barely feature any animation at all.

Like the graphics, the audio is surprising. The soundtrack is a mix of genres instead of the generic bouncy tracks expected from a low-budget kart racer. Some of the tunes sound very good thanks to a mix of electronica and no hints of the Smurfs theme. The effects are decent enough, but it is surprising that the kart engine noises never smurf over a light buzz. The lack of voices is perhaps the most disappointing part of the audio, since the smurfs do nothing more than grunt. One can argue that going after the voice actors from the recent series means hearing the same lines get repeated, but if you're a fan, the grunting is also disappointing.

Smurfs Kart is pretty smurfy, at least in some parts. It nails the mechanics of Mario Kart quite well, the presentation is quite nice despite the low frame rate, and it has a good sense of speed. That said, the small number of tracks, vagueness on weapons, and basic modes mean that most Smurfs fans will knock out everything in an afternoon and struggle to return. It's not that bad of a kart racer for the Switch, but only die-hard fans of the recent cartoon will want to make this their main kart racer.

Score: 6.5/10

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