Sunday, January 31, 2010

Video game number twenty nine: Mad Karts of Madagascar

Game review number twenty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mad Karts of Madagascar".

After "grinding" for several hours on a game I wasn't enjoying (Tony Hawk's Proving Ground), I thought it might be nice to play a casual game that wasn't going to make me want to smash my controller. Something fun, easy and mindless. I chose Madagascar Karts.

It's a shame that all go-kart racing games must be compared to Mario Kart, but it's just the best of the breed. Ever since the Super Nintendo, Mario Kart has defined what kart racing (and for me, multiplayer racing games) should be. There have been dozens of imitations, and I've tried many of them, but none of them have ever really been able to meet the bar set by Mario Kart.

Madagascar Karts is no different.

The game borrows heavily from the great Mario Kart series (there are 4 cups, starting at 50cc and progressing in difficulty from there). You race in cartoonish locations including a beach that closely resembles Koopa Troopa Beach from Mario Kart 64, a ship that resembles the Princesses's cruise ship from the Gamecube version, and so-on. There are item boxes with question marks, speed arrows that send you flying and instead of coins, they have "mangoes" to pick up. The mangoes don't speed you up, but they are added to your points total at the end of the race and can help you win that way.

I knew it didn't stack up in the middle of the first race, but I still wanted to give the game a fair try. First, I raced through one race in the championship with each character, looking for my favorite. I started with the Penguins (because the Penguins are awesome) and beat the first 3 levels of the 50cc championship with them. I switched to Alex the lion, then chose the Zebra, the Giraffe and so on. I'm not sure if the actual actors from the movie do their voices. Some of them sound close....others, I'm not so sure. There were also characters from Monsters vs. Aliens and Shrek, but I think they're unlockable, and I wasn't interested in grinding to get them.

The controls leave a lot to be desired. They've tried to copy the "blue sparks" from Mario, by forcing you to power slide to build your turbo up. Unfortunately, this doesn't work as well as the Mario Kart version does...and it sometimes makes you crash. There is definitely a lot of rubber-banding, the computer will slow down for you if you're behind and gets 1000 items to throw at you when you're ahead.

I had no trouble beating the entire 50CC cup before I moved on to another game. This might be a good bargain bin game for kids, but only if they don't own a Nintendo console and don't already have every Mario Kart game ever made. It's fun...but it just doesn't compare.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 10. Simply average.

The achievements in this game are cake...and I was able to unlock nearly 25% of them in less than an hour or so with this game. So many in fact, that I had to shrink my browser window in order to copy the list. Gamerscore whores, Enjoy.

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