Steer into the Skid

Kart racers are great, aren’t they? Though the genre has seen a significant reduction in quantity over the years enough get made to keep the passionate item-tossers and chain-drifters happy. We’re long-time kart vets here, so when Humble offered a bundle full of kart games we (mostly) hadn’t played we went all in and played all of ’em. Some more than others, granted, but you’ll see our tiered rankings by the end. Prepare to qualify!

Demetri: I already had just shy of 15 hours in Zeepkist on my own time before this bundle hit. It’s a banger, if a bit of an odd inclusion for this bundle. You don’t drive karts here, you hurtle downhill in a soapbox car that has no gas pedal. Levels are challenging and require careful management of your momentum, turning technique, etc. Satisfying handling combined with tons of customizability and a workshop-supported track builder mean you can play a ton of this and never get bored.

Kyle: Low-Poly Soapbox Racing was not expected on a “Kart Bundle,” but with how it plays I’m not pressed at its inclusion.  I played a bit of the campaign and enjoyed what it had to offer (plus 1 secret level that I clearly am not ready for), but that Workshop support will be this title’s bread and butter.  We had a ton of fun playing random levels on the internet and will probably go back to it randomly for quick runs of fun.

Demetri: Any game that lets players create a Takeshi’s Castle-inspired circuit and post it for others to play is a good one.

Kyle: This was our litmus test in regards to grading our pulls from this bundle.  Garf Kart is not too hot, not too cold, but if you’re eating porridge that is lukewarm you’re disgusting.  Solid C Tier to push above and below.

Demetri: Why do you think gifting people Garfield Kart became a meme? Did you think it was a secret hidden gem or something? No! It’s not good! Do not spend money on Garf Kart!

Kyle: Fuck that, I’ll forever burn money in the name of Garf.

Demetri: SIK includes reps from heaps of games, many of which I like. The courses pay tribute to those games and look fantastic. It also has an excellent sense of speed that’s almost too much sometimes. Unfortunately I can’t really praise the game itself much. Every racer handles like they’re coated in vaseline and the courses are so visually busy that you can’t see the heaps of hazards and items littered everywhere, all of which send you careening around like a rubberized pinball. Playing this was just frustrating.

Kyle: See, I don’t think it is that bad.  This game has the highest sense of speed, even it if that doesn’t constitute as the best sense of speed, but there’s something inherently enjoyable about going fucking balls-to-the-wall fast and learning the curves to hit turns not thought possible.  Even if some of the courses have some dogshit design to them, I’d absolutely go for a second helping of this game.

Demetri: A decent, if unremarkable kart racer. By far its best ideas are selecting your crew and managing slime as a resource, which gives the customizability a big boost. Unfortunately the racing itself is weirdly stiff, making the drifting in particular unsatisfying. Not bad, not great, at least it’s better than Garf Kart.

Kyle: No other notes here.  This holds its own but is ultimately undermined by its sequel included within the same bundle.

Demetri: This game has Big Scholastic Book Fair energy. Cars are surprisingly heavy here, with a drift you actually have to steer out of before you get your speed boost. Lots of gameplay variety, a lengthy adventure mode with a ton of unlocks, a range of well-considered refinements around the item system, and a surprising amount of challenge make this a fairly by the numbers, but satisfying ride. If I had this as a kid I’d have adored it and I bet in 10 years there’ll be a nostalgic video essay about it. Still gonna enjoy it now though.

Kyle: Considering this is by the same cats that put together Riptide GP, which you should absolutely fucking play, I had high hopes with this one.  I can see the allure of this in its fun, simplistic driving but also for its sneaky ability to be really difficult.  The game weirdly demands perfection that most kart games don’t and you kinda gotta respect that.  Worth the runs for sure.

Demetri: Riptide is so damn good it’s unreal. Vector Unit has a track record of making really good games about going really fast. Did you know the devs cut their teeth on Blood Wake and then went on to make fucking Hydro Thunder Hurricane?

Kyle: *chef’s kiss*

Demetri: I should have known better than to doubt them, even when their game looks extra mobile-y.

Kyle: I’m so torn on this.  Because it’s not bad per se but it’s kind of hard to care when playing this game.  It has some decent ideas buried around a production timeline that could’ve used another year.  You don’t feel particularly fast, even if the only fruit you really should be grabbing are the “boost” ones.  I like where it’s head is at but it doesn’t feel done enough.  Shame really.  I kept trying to get Demetri to pick a favorite Fruitsona and I don’t believe I got an answer.

Demetri: After further review I have selected whichever Fruitsona has the completely busted magnet trap as my favorite. Maybe that was avocado?

Kyle: Maybe?  I honestly have forgotten half the starting lineup.

Demetri: My point exactly, because playing ASFR felt like I was experiencing signs of a stroke. This kart racer has a tutorial and 80% of it is explaining the ridiculously convoluted item system, wherein you essentially craft your items out of fruit you run over during races and then quickly realize that only the boost is worth using. It proudly proclaims “Let’s Fruit!” before the GP starts and chastises you for closing the “beautiful game” when you inevitably get bored. The audio is largely stock and has several particularly odd choices – why does this have the Kill Bill siren as a danger indicator? How did this get made as-is? The world may never know.

Demetri: I’m not sure why an abandoned early access game eternally stuck in version 0.6 made the cut. Apparently the devs are available enough to add their game to the bundle despite not updating their game since 2019. It controls horribly, sounds worse, and plays like a nightmare. More like early abscess.

Kyle: This was put in the bundle to pad stats, but I don’t believe turnovers are stats you want.  Don’t do this to yourself.

Demetri: I did not expect to like this so much. It made a pretty rough first impression, and I’m a bit too old for most of the cast at this point. Despite these barriers Nick Kart 3 managed to win me over to the point where I’ve now done all the challenges because its driving really is that good. Every element is massively improved over Nick Kart 2, most notably the drifting being much closer to Crash Team Racing than Mario Kart. There’s also a ridiculous amount of content, with something like 40 characters on top of tons of crew and vehicle customization. Apparently it had a rough launch, but this is legitimately an excellent kart racer now and I’m excited to keep playing it.

Kyle: When Demetri says there’s a ridiculous amount of content, I wager it has the most content of any kart game in existence.  It’s insane.  Doesn’t hurt either that the game is really really fun to play, especially because that customization provides you an endless amount of ways to tackle courses and characters.  Online is buttery smooth, the items and passives and boosting all come correct, and the lineup is tremendous.  The bundle is worth this game alone.

Demetri: Oh man, that’s a really good point. Most kart racers don’t even offer online play and the ones that do typically have awful netcode. Nick Kart 2 was notably bad in this regard, seemingly de-syncing us multiple times, and anyone who’s played Mario Kart (or any Nintendo game) online knows how that tends to go. Nick Kart 3, by contrast, had the best online karting experience I’ve played possibly ever. It just worked! Felt good, even! I’d love to see people actually compete in this game, it really feels like it could support it.

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