The good old days might look better on paper than reality (have you tried playing Pong lately?), but some game genres have never really gotten better than their first incarnations. For example, boxing games have never attained the glory that was Super Punch Out and kart racing never really transcended Super Mario Kart for the SNES, although the N64 version was pretty darn close.
Atari's Furious Karting is a great example of a kart racer that stays well within the boundaries of the classics. An admirable attempt at a story, attractive graphics and an easy-to-learn (if somewhat pointless) control scheme make it hard to dislike this game. However, uninspired tracks, 8 identical racers, lame power-ups and a poorly conceived trick system make it hard to like this game. The result is an all-around apathetic time trial.
Furious Karting involves a rivalry between two dorky Kart gangs: The TNT Clan and the Yellow Shark Clan. According to the instruction booklet they're different; one's classy hip and the other is fun hip, but there doesn't appear to be any actual enmity between the two teams. No serious conflict, no fisticuffs, no bloodletting - which makes sense, since this is a kart racer, and kart racers are supposed to be light-hearted and insipid. But perhaps it's this kind of thinking that has prevented kart racers from becoming anything other than Mario Kart for years.
To the game's credit, the story is endearing and affects the nature of the races. For example, if you play as Inga and start winning, Patty's beau will make overtures to you (sadly, the sexual innuendo functions on a fourth-grade, Southern Baptist school level). Beat her in a one-on-one race, and the man of Patty's dreams is yours. Oh, and Patty will now hate you forever.
And so anger and aggression rear their ugly heads yet again. If you gank a rival's boyfriend, watch out during the next race; they'll attempt to wreck your pretty face with the business end of their baseball bat. Fortunately, you have a bat too, as does every racer in the game, begging the question: why bats? Giving each racer a personal weapon would have been a nice way to separate them from one another. Instead, they're all
If you attempt to slow down a racer by whacking them with a bat or any one of five offensive power-ups, they'll hate you until they have a chance to get you back...or until you wave at them enough. Yes, by waving at a racer you can right wrongs done by your baseball bat slamming them in the head. Chuck a grenade at somebody and a friendly wave will make them forget all about the violence and exploding and pain. Retarded. If you're going to make a Barney-meets-the-Teletubbies type game, leave out the hand-grenades - you'll just confuse the kids.
Actually, grenades are pretty big in Furious Karting. You'll find a normal grenade, a smoke grenade that acts like a land mine, a chicken that also acts as a land mine, a rear fire-shooting thing (I call it a Kart Fart) and an oil slick that acts exactly like the Kart Fart. There are essentially three offensively oriented power-ups. Lame. Then you have two different turbo-boosts and a jump. Not exactly par for the karting course.
The racing itself is very straightforward and easy to pick up. You accelerate, you break, you turn. This is all that's required of you to win races. The game gets faster as you move up brackets and the tracks get more complex (albeit no less poorly conceived).
After racing gets old, you can bust some tricks, which involves flying off a ramp and pressing different directions on the right analog stick. That's about it. Yay. In most levels you can take a detour and wind up in an area with a ramp where you can do one of these stupid tricks. However, this effectively takes you out of the race. These detours are never shortcuts, and even though you bust a flip, you wind up in last place. The courses themselves look good, but aren't very interesting otherwise.
Other than the main story/campaign mode, there's a standard multiplayer mode and a Jam Battle mode, where you search for a CD hidden on the course. Once you find it, you drive around with it for as long as you can. Big thrills here.
The graphics are the best part of Furious Karting. Though the animation during the cut-scenes is awful, the in-game appearance is really not bad. The colors are bright, the pedestrians look pretty good and the lighting effects are ambient and impressive.
Furious Karting sounds just like an idiotic kart racer should. The music is upbeat and dopey, the voice acting is goofy and fine and the sound effects are surprisingly specific, with different sounds accompanying different driving surfaces.
Optimistically, this game is easy and friendly; cynically, this game is dumb and tedious. Furious Karting is obviously targeted at boys attending elementary school. If you are one, you'll like this game. If you are not, well, guess.
Furious Karting will make the wee rascals smile. The easy playability, decent graphics and dumb violence are perfect for the young, inexperienced and generally immature gamer. However, the lack of multiple paths, weapon variety and useful shortcuts keep it from satisfying basic kart racing requirements. Having experienced far better kart games as a pre-teen myself, I can't recommend this game to kids except as a rental.