Sunday 1 November 2020

Atari Karts (Atari Jaguar review)

Developer: Miracle Designs
Publisher: Atari Corporation
Released: 1995

Atari Karts is a kart racer that's exclusive to the Jaguar console.

There's 11 characters, three Cups and ten themed worlds that feature multiple track layouts. Bonuses (such as bursts of speed) and Hazards (including reversed controls) are embedded into the tracks and come into play if you drive over the associated icon. When critiquing the game, it's hard not to compare it against its obvious source of inspiration in Super Mario Kart (1992, SNES). On this basis, Atari Karts fails in a number of areas, notably in its presentation which feels lifeless and unappealing; the characters have zero personality and even the trophy celebration lacks the pomp and pageantry of Nintendo's 16-bit classic by only featuring a boring static screen. Most of the tracks are dull with little in the way of scenic interest or cool features. The worst part are the Castle themed tracks where it's ridiculously easy to find yourself stuck on a barrier thanks to the utterly moronic idea to have parts of the wall stick out into the race area. The controls generally work fine, but a noteworthy issue is that the ability to turn your kart sharply left or right is mapped to buttons 4 & 6 on the keypad; the need to take your thumbs off the d-pad and main buttons makes for some awkward placement and is only remedied if you have the rare Pro Controller where sharp turns are mapped to the shoulder buttons. And then there's the items (e.g. called Bonuses and Hazards here) which are very uninspired and it's sometimes hard to see which one you're about to collect as you drive over it. I also really don't like that certain items are automatically activated when obtained, as this takes away a strategic element.

Atari Karts borrows all the necessary foundations from the Mario Kart series, but forgets one vital component... fun! It also does nothing to set itself apart from Nintendo's franchise, or to advance the genre, and when coupled with sub-standard track and item design you're left with a rather bland kart racer.

Random trivia: Miracle Designs did start work on a sequel, but it never made it past the planning stage.

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