With go-karting being such a popular activity, it makes sense that action-packed kart racing video games have also become a fun way to let off stress in explosive ways. Back in the nineties, this racing game sub-genre became an instant classic with the iconic release of Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Since then, we’ve seen quite a few different developers try their hand at creating wildfire popularity through the release of licensed kart racing experiences. The latest title to enter its hat into the asphalt ring is Ben 10: Galactic Racing from D3Publisher of America and Monkey Bar Games. Based on the popular Cartoon Network kids show, it aims to captivate the minds of young gamers, with the hope that their parents will be enticed to jump into the virtual driver’s seat as well.
Like a lot of its peers, Ben 10: Galactic Racing seems to have taken some notes while enrolled in Mario’s Driving School. Though, that is to be expected, considering how much of an influence Nintendo‘s iconic plumber has had on this genre, as well as others.
What’s impressive is that the development team behind this release have put their notes to pretty good use, in creating a competent, decent and relatively enjoyable title. Compared to a lot of other budget racers released throughout the last several years, Ben 10: Galactic Racing could be considered near the cream of the crop. However, it still doesn’t compare to the best the genre has to offer. Of course, that wasn’t an expected outcome, especially when you consider that this is a forty dollar budget release.
Jumping into the driver’s seat, fans of the show can expect an arcade racing experience which relies on interesting tracks as its best selling point. The core gameplay experience is pretty average, feeling a tad slow and unremarkable, but it does the job. There is only one vehicle speed on offer, which isn’t exactly the fastest one we’ve ever seen before.
Perhaps this was a decision made in the board room, based on the fact that Monkey Bar Games‘ target audience is decidedly young. Despite its junior circuit speed limit, Ben 10: Galactic Racing isn’t devoid of control issues, which is one major problem with the game. Its turning mechanics and drifting controls tend to be touchy and imprecise, with too much sensitivity added in. This makes it hard to drive perfectly, though you’ll get used to the way things work after a while.
Ben 10: Galactic Racing has a decent amount of content to offer its pint-sized audience, containing a full-fledged circuit tour, weapons battle mode and custom races. The latter two can be played with up to three friends, though the circuit itself is understandably single player focused. You’re looking at a few hours of content on that front, with replay value added in depending on individual play styles. Kids who love to go back into games to unlock everything or compete against friends will get a good amount of value out of this one at sleepovers or friend visits, as it’s somewhat accessible. For a kart racer, the available content is pretty standard here, although one thing is missing: online play. At least local multiplayer is available.
Inserting a disc containing a kart racing title into their console of choice, one doesn’t normally expect to find much of a back story or grand premise. Due to this reason, I was surprised to see that the development team took things a step further by trying to craft a reason behind the game’s single player circuit championship tour.
An opening cutscene with two stereotypically redneck announcers, tells a story about the most intelligent race in the universe and their very unique celebration style. When a specific planet’s moons align together, it rejuvenates itself through some sort of extra-terrestrial catalyst system. This step towards a brighter and more colourful future is always celebrated by the creation of an inter-galactic racing championship, which pits the galaxy’s best against one another. You’re not alone in thinking that this fictional premise is a bit out there, but it isn’t like the younger crowd will notice.
All of the action takes place on twenty-five different magically-crafted race tracks, which are spread out amongst several of that particular galaxy’s most unique planetary bodies. Each planet has its own unique look, containing different types of flora, fauna and lighting. The list of various tracks found within Ben 10: Galactic Racing is certainly its best asset.
Although its gameplay isn’t exactly stellar, being somewhat generic and in need of a handling tune-up, its tracks are unique enough to make those issues easier to overlook. There are quite a few core tracks available, utilizing themed environments such as cold winter freeze, alien jungle panic and black asphalt chaos. Variations upon each one are opened up as you progress, which is par for the course.
The task at hand is to come in at least third place in every one of the circuit’s several different championship events. Each one has an average of three races, with a points-based leaderboard system determining the victor. One of the final events requires a first place finish to unlock your next challenge, though that is limited to just that one series. Otherwise, you can get by with any sort of podium placement, which is a good thing.
Ben 10: Galactic Racing is a surprisingly challenging game, which is strange considering its youthful target base. This unexpected challenge effectively alienates non-seasoned gamers, as some previous racing experience is a must in order to get far within this galactic super series. This lack of accessibility is a key issue to take into consideration, which is unfortunate. One would expect this type of game to be easier to pick-up and play for the much younger crowd, even if it does get a bit more difficult near its finale.
In order to be the one who crosses the line in first place at the end of the race, you must be diligent with your use of weapons and drifting. Sliding around corners gives players a noticeable advantage through speed bursts, which are never manually controlled. Instead, the nitrous boost occurs right at the tail end of every drift. Computer-controlled racers are smart enough to try to do this around every corner, so it’s important to try to do it the best and for the longest amount of time possible. Despite the aforementioned control issues, polished drifts can eventually be completed, though it takes time to get used to how the slide system works. Practice makes perfect, or as close to that as possible.
A kart racer without weapons wouldn’t be that. As a result, it’s no surprise that Ben 10: Galactic Racing features quite a few different forms of weaponry pick-ups. Its attack roster includes heat-seeking attacks, slowing slime puddles, decoy pick-up icons and a rainbow vision-blocker. They’re all pretty much run of the mill genre staples, though I was quite impressed with how the rainbow effect worked here. When utilized in other racers, that effect tends to be easy to look past or through, by keeping an eye on the side of the track. Here, it blends around your vision, making it nearly impossible to see what is ahead. This adds difficulty which may annoy younger children, but it’s well-implemented for the older crowd who may check this one out after the kids have gone to bed.
Every one of the available racers (which are comprised of three different groups: humans, Ben’s aliens and villains,) is somewhat unique. This is true in both a statistical and abilities sense. There are quite a few on offer, with two different karts to choose from: One light kart and one heavier class. As you can surely imagine, the lighter vehicles are a bit faster and don’t weigh as much, whereas the heavier ones are bit more helpful when it comes to bumping opponents off of the track. Regardless of which one you choose, each character’s two unique abilities will be available for unlock through the use of flips and tricks. There’s a defensive option and an offensive power attack, which can be quite helpful in turning the tide of a race. Examples include defensive bubbles, several homing rockets, a rock-based avalanche and things like that.
Your weapons are put to good use in the game’s battle arenas, which can be entered by your lonesome or with a teammate. The player (and pal) are dropped into a small area of track, which tends to be rounded and closed off. The goal is to take out the competition, in order to earn points. At the end of the round’s time limit, a victor is named based on accumulated scores. Admittedly, this option doesn’t compete with better battle scenarios in other kart racers. However, it’s something that kids might enjoy playing in multiplayer. Though, the game’s control issues tend to make quick turns more difficult than they should, affecting this competition.
Aesthetically speaking, Ben 10: Galactic Racing is a decent effort. While it certainly won’t win any best of awards, it looks pretty good, albeit a tad dated. The art team at Monkey Bar Games did a good job of keeping things fresh by using the planet-hopping idea. With each race taking place in a different location (circuit cups take on related themes of course), it allows for some visual variety. You’re rarely going to get sick of looking at the same track type, unless a favourite is replayed over and over again. Even then, the designs implement some interesting short cuts to find, which can make winning a bit easier if they’re used correctly. Icons can be hit to open these up, though they close rather quickly and are easy to miss, much like the placed speed boost arrows.
The show’s presentation is brought forth into video game land, with three-dimensional racing models of your child’s favourite animated cast members. They all look okay, though their animations are somewhat stiff, which is easy to notice during special move animations and celebration cut-scenes. Voice acting is limited when it comes to the competing characters, but not the announcers, who spew out a few (somewhat comical) quips before each race. Usually, they’re talking about the planet itself, or the selected track’s design elements. Nothing here is Oscar-worthy, but the acting is okay. It’s cheesy, but kids like that.
After playing through Ben 10: Galactic Racing, I must admit that it became a bit of a surprise. There are quite a few deficiencies which have been noted, but the game isn’t half-bad. That fact is especially true when you take its price and target audience into consideration. In comparing this digital experience to other racers aimed towards kids, it certainly inserts itself into the head of the pack. Compared to other, bigger-budget kart racers, it doesn’t fare as well. However, those ones are usually targeted towards a more seasoned crowd, with higher price tags than what is found here.
For its entry fee, Ben 10: Galactic Racing is a decent purchase. Though, this is only true if you’re willing to look past its noted deficiencies and challenging difficulty. Its review score may seem a bit generous, but I don’t feel that way after taking a look back at some of the failed licensed kart racers which have come out in recent years. Plus, it’s a kids game, and we all know what that usually means. It’s not hard to notice that this effort is better than a lot of its predecessors in the digital kiddie pool.
This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.
Ben 10: Galactic Racing is a half-decent kart racer, which contains a surprising amount of content for a budget price.