Developer: Keen Games
Platform: PS3, PSP, Xbox 360, & Wii
TNT Racers ‘tracks & tricks’ subtitle seems a bit misleading once you play the game. I came in expecting a kart game mixed in with some race tracks and tricks to pull off in these tracks. All I got were race tracks with the occasional ramp to do a small jump off of. I don’t mean to start off in such a negative light, but I just thought that was worth noting to anyone considering to 2 friends I brought over to play it thought it was going to be a Joe Danger-ish kart racer when they saw it. TNT Racers is actually a pretty solid (albeit simple and content lacking) kart racer that hits most things you’d expect in the genre in the right ways.
When you start up the game you’ll be given a tournament mode (regular campaign mode), a time trial mode, and a custom race that lets you tweak a few options to customize a race to your preference. The tournament mode has around a dozen races separated into normal, fast, and turbo difficulties. I did like how each race tries to change up the variety, but most of them are just ‘get the most amount of points in the time limit/lap limit’. You’ll encounter your basic time trial challenges where you need to complete a certain amount of laps before time runs out, a variety of score challenges, knock-out mode, and special unique races. The score challenges task you with reaching the point requirement before your opponents and this is done by collecting coins scattered around the track, doing jumps, hitting a turbo when the race starts, or blowing up your opposition. In knock-outs you have to reach a kill quota by either blowing up the other racers or if they fall behind. I don’t particularly like how all the racers have to stick together and if you fall behind you’re instantly killed. I suppose it works for this game, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The unique challenges throw in objectives like smashing 60 cacti or completing a certain amount of laps in a track full of landmines. They’re nothing amazing, but they do keep things a bit fresh.
A neat thing about the races is that if you’re killed and the other racers are still around you become a ‘shadow’ racer. You can’t be hurt (unless you fall off the track) or targeted by the opponent and you get a special set of power-ups available only to shadow racers. Your job is to fuck with the remaining racers as much as possible and mess with them before they can score anymore points. This way everyone can continue to participate in the race which keeps the pace up. It’s a pretty cool feature that I hope future kart racers take note of.
As any kart racer, you’ll find a slew of wacky weapons to use as you fight for first place. There are whirlwinds that send racers flying into the air, giant hammers, missiles, shields, smoke machines to blind the screen, oil to spill, an over sized gun, anvils you can attach with a plunger to slow down other cars, and a few others. These all work fairly well and it’s nice how you can drop a weapon if you don’t want it. You’ll find close to a dozen different cars you can use and change the color of. The ones you have to work for to unlock are pretty neat like the UFO kart, but there’s nothing much else to mention about them since they all handle the same. There are also 9 tracks that are also reversible, so 18 total tracks. They come in your basic desert, forest, arctic, and mountainous stages with each environment getting 2 or 3 areas. They’re nothing special but the tracks that take place in the same environment are different enough to excuse using the same setting. The game sports local and online multiplayer, but I’ve been checking multiple times each day since release and haven’t been able to get into an online match with more than a single person. This doesn’t really bode well for the long-term online ‘community’ if I can only find a single person to play with in the first week of release.
The graphics (as you can see) aren’t exactly top notch, but the game has an endearing style that fits together well enough. The music has a nice ‘pop’ to it that adds to TNT Racer’s lighthearted tone. I will mention that the over-the-top view of the action is a bit disorienting since it’s a bit too close to the cars. This makes it hard to drive on a track that you’re not used to and you’ll have to rely on where the AI seems to be turning or the camera turning to realize which way you’re supposed to turn. It really would’ve helped if they put in a camera that’s maybe a bit higher up or angled in a way so you could see what was coming in front of you.
The Final Word
TNT Racers really feels like Keen Games are reaching into your pocket and snatching $5 more than it should be worth. Only a few days after release and there is NOBODY online which makes me think barely anyone cared enough to either buy the game or waste their time playing online. It’s really a shame since the game is solid. It’s got your basic kart racing mechanics in it, there are a half dozen decent stages, the weapons are fun to use, and it controls well enough. The issue here is that I can’t really recommend buying this at $10 since the content the game offers doesn’t reach something you’d expect to spend $10 on. I could definitely see this game doing much better at a lower ($5) price range. If you dig kart racing games (there’s a demo by the way) and don’t mind dropping the extra dosh go for it, but if you don’t then I’d turn the other way from this title.
– MonsterVine Rating: 3 out of 5 – Average