The good old days might look better on paper than reality (have you tried playing
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
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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.