Kart games are perhaps one of the hardest genres to get right. The controls have to be right, the drifting has to feel tight yet give the player enough room to experiment, the maps have to be top-notch and unique—this is why I believe that one of the best kart racers in gaming has yet to be really topped (Crash Team Racing on the PlayStation One, if you are curious to know!)1 You can find a thousand and two feel-good role-playing games, first-person shooters, puzzle games, you name it; but good luck trying to find a plethora of strong modern-kart racers.
It is not like I dislike what is available on the market today. Mario Kart is loved by millions across the globe, but I was not a fan of the recent iterations (Mario Kart Wii, DS, 7, and 8). There is also Crash Team Racing’s ‘remaster’, Crash Team Racing: Nitro Refueled, released just a little over a year ago and features a mishmash yet fun collection of all the racers, karts, and tracks from the first two Crash-based racing games. It has also been updated with plenty of new content over the years (all for free, mind you!), making it an excellent kart racer that I wholeheartedly recommend to friends and family every chance I get.
But despite that, this re-release is not all too pleasing to me and I have been hunkering for a new kart racer once again, and thankfully back in X019, my calls were answered: KartRider: Drift drifted into the spotlight (I am sorry).
KartRider: Drift is technically a sequel to the original Crazyracing KartRider, which launched in South Korea in 2004 by Nexon, a South Korean game developer and publisher. With its colourful graphics and great gameplay, Crazyracing KartRider was a great success in its home country. The game would arrive in the United States a few years later in 2007, but it was shut down without notice during its closed beta. I was one of those testers at the time and I was heartbroken—the gameplay was really fun, but Nexon was not exactly the best at communicating with its playerbase, at least its US branch.
So when KartRider: Drift was announced on the X019 stream, I was shocked but I was also ecstatic. Even better, the game would feature crossplay with PC and Xbox One players, as well as regional matchmaking, making it one of the best games out there if you want to play with as many players as possible. Since its announcement, a series of closed betas have been issued by the company and I was finally able to get my hands on an invite.
One of the first things you will notice when you boot up the game is that it is very colourful and bright. For its 8 gigabyte installation size, the game looks great. Character animations are top-notch and fit the aesthetic of the worlds you race in. It is a game full of charm and I cannot express how nice it is to play on a 4k QLED—especially considering the game runs at a constant 60 frames per second, it is a joy to play.
Speaking of character animations, at the moment players can choose to play one of four characters available in the beta:
- Dao – A blue-suited dweeb that is more square than SpongeBob.
- Brodi – A factory worker that could pass for Vivi with the right clothes.
- Diz – A sweetheart clad in yellow who likes Dao. A lot.
- Brazzi – A cheeky red Tellytubby.
With more characters on the way, of course. Customization is also pretty decent, giving you the choice between many different types of karts, each with their own flair and stats as well as emoticons, character skins, tires, and emission flair (to let the world know that global warming is coming in style).
But as much as I love pretty graphics, I will be frank, gameplay is king. And I think that KartRider: Drift kicks a whole lotta butt—it is a really fun game!
The game features two modes, each with solo, duo, and squad team types: An item mode where players race while collection items from crates to boost themselves or slowdown other racers, while the speed mode emphasizes fast racing and lots of drifting. If you play in teams, the performance of your teammates matters and you can help out your team by collecting items that apply to everyone when used, so try to help out by giving speed bonuses as much as you can!
Each race has you versing eight players regardless of the mode you play. You should always be aiming for first place in every race! Of course, this being a kart game, you need to learn the maps, the tricks, and master the drifting system to earn your victories. One thing I like about this game, for example, is the recovery system. When hit with the ‘missile’ item, timing the press of the gas pedal with your kart’s landing is crucial, as timing this successfully will boost you back into your kart’s near-top speed.
It is an easy game to learn but a challenging game to master, especially when you get paired with folks with godlike skills. Thankfully, there are offline modes where you can learn the game through a series of tutorials or do your best to beat set times for tracks in the time trial mode.
Do keep in mind of course, this being a kart game, be prepared for a load of rubbish. By rubbish, I mean getting slammed with tens of power-ups at once, knocking you down from first place all the way to last. And sometimes you will stay there! No one ever keeps first place unless they know what they are doing or are very lucky. But learn the game and your wins will be oh-so delicious.
KartRider’s first round of its closed beta will end in less than two days, but you should get yourself signed up if you are interested! Race on over to the official website here and I will see you on the track!
- No, none of the Sonic Racers are particularly good. No, LittleBigKarting sucks too. So far all the kart racers up to this point have yet to best a PSx game.