Shrek Kart iPhone ReviewSubmitted by JamieO on Sun, 07/04/2010 - 16:14
Gameloft and DreamWorks have infused within the Fairy Godmother's cauldron sprinklings of fairy dust, hair of donkey, tail of Puss In Boots and lashings of ogre bogeys resulting in an explosion of kart racing magic. Tournament racing and vividly colourful course design combine to create a spellbinding kart racer, that will ensnare the senses and fingers of all iPhone racing game fans.
Arena and single race multiplayer for up to 6 participants (Wi-Fi) are the icing on a particularly tasty gingerbread flavoured iPhone gem.
The second of TiG's co-operative First Person Reviews, provided fun and laughs a plenty all backed up with a whimsical soundtrack, awesome graphics and an imaginative use of a high profile license.
JamieO – Sorry to say I am going to start with a negative, simply so that I can get it out of the way and focus on the high points, of which there are plenty. First impressions were slightly disappointing with Far Far Away’s tall buildings eating up the performance, resulting in fogging and frame-rate drops. Mount Grimm’s multiplayer chugged and I already know ipodgamer has another example of a specific course slowdown issues.
iPodgamer – Unlike JamieO I am going to start out on a positive front and just say "wow!". The graphics in Shrek Kart [App Store] are highly demanding on system resources and it does suffer from a modicum of slowdown on my iPod touch 2G. The example that JamieO is referring to presents itself during the Potion Factory, where significant slowdown exists at two points in the level. The first occurs when entering the tunnel and the second is evident on exit. Fortunately, this slowdown does not really effect gameplay as it tends to happen during the pre-scripted jump sequences. I have upgraded to a 3rd Gen iPod recently and can now report that on 3rd gen machines. Shrek Kart has no slowdown :)
JamieO – Enough with the negative, this game is gorgeous looking. Level design is wonderfully crafted around the Shrek universe and packed with character and background details, which Shrek fans will love. The aforementioned Potion Factory’s dark tunnel’s flowing river of green elixir, shoots out into a contrast of lens flared blue sky and red toad stool lined grit roads.
The Swamp is draped in green foliage, fluttering butterflies, and exploding geyser hazards. This is one kart racer which defies criticism to Mario Kart’s level design based upon copycat syndrome, even though it features generic forests, beaches and castle courses. Shrek Kart’s visuals are a distinctive part of Far Far Away’s landscape.
iPodgamer – While Shrek Kart does indeed have it’s own unique identity, I believe that it does actually owe an awful lot to the kart racing king, Mario Kart. This is most likely an accolade that any game designer would love to hear and Shrek Kart’s visuals in my opinion are easily as advanced, if not superior to those in Mario Kart on the Nintendo DS. There is a real feeling of depth and character to the graphics and much like Mario Kart there are plenty of nice touches which make for a highly polished game.
JamieO – Oooh…, controversial! That would open up a debate about course design as well as graphical fidelity. I will end by praising my favourite Shrek Kart course, Gingerbread Village. Not just because of its edible houses, candy pink tunnels and icing snowflakes, dripping down the screen, but because of its sweeping and snaking banked course design. That level is literally sweet!
JamieO - As soon as Shrek Kart is booted up it rocks out with a guitar opener, which is reflected in the actual in-game music. However, the game music is diverse, it switches between funky tropical, steel drum beats (Hook's Hideaway), country twangs (Witches Wasteland) and magical concoction brewing, twinkling tunes (Potion Factory).
Sound effects are crisp and build the story book mood, rattlesnake meets cuckoo burra-esque clicking noises sound like distant fairy tale creatures (The Swamp). Lava bubbles (Mount Grimm) and your kart's wheels emit rumble and rattling sounds, across wooden pirate ship plank decks (Hook's Hideaway).
The audio fits the license so perfectly, that I decided to play it full blast and was not at all tempted to play along to my personal song list. Nevertheless, the actual incorporation of racing to your iPod music collection, alongside Shrek Kart sound effects, is superbly implemented.
iPodgamer - Shrek Kart follows the classic kart racing schema for the most part, starting you off slowly and then ramping up the difficulty progressively as you speed through the Shrek universe. However, make no mistake, this is no ordinary racing game. "The sport is war, total war..." Dotted throughout the various tracks are power-up icons which are utilised to destroy your friends with little or no remorse, but plenty of fun.
JamieO - Exactly, ipodgamer's reflection is relevant to the various game modes, as well as the AI computer controlled karts. Single Player options include single race, tournament, arena and challenges. The tournament is the most accessible, because it works out your average ranking throughout a set number of races. Single races highlight the challenge as coming consistently first is offset by aggressive AI and an explosion of power-up attacks. In this regard Shrek Kart’s gameplay is closer to later Mario Kart game's flamboyant weaponry, than the reined in, focussed Super Mario Kart icons.
The power up list is imaginative and fun, dropping a Moo Surprise cow on an enemy head or freaking out their screen with a tripped out Big Onion is superb during races and particularly in the arena battles (the equivalent of Mario Kart’s balloon attack, confined areas).
iPodgamer - Along with the single player experience, Shrek Kart also comes fully equipped for multi-player carnage via Local Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, depending on your preference. The omission of WAN Wi-Fi is a bit of a disappointment and we would dearly like to see its inclusion in further updates.
Multiplayer in all honesty appears to have been a slight afterthought. It is only possible to play either a single race or a single arena, plus you are stuck with playing at the default difficulty level. There are no options to change this as far as we can see; hence it hampers any competitive enjoyment. Yet, with the Wi-Fi functionality to include up to 6 players it has the potential to become even more fun, but how many iPhone friends do you have locally? Another slightly frustrating component is the inability to replay in multiplayer, without having to manually reset the ad-hoc Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth connection each time.
JamieO - Shrek Kart has three difficult levels broken into easy, medium and hard. Single player difficulty is well balanced and a sizeable update could enhance the Shrek Kart multiplayer experience, by including tournaments, a choice of difficulties and full online play. The core gameplay mechanics are sound. Speed bands are brilliantly implemented and a skilled player will know the course layout and maximise their boost placement, in the same regard as a WipEout or F-Zero game.
Lengthy drifting rewards the practised player with further speed boosts, as long as wheel halting trackside grass and gravel are avoided. Kart stopping, brick shattering walls will also render the player immobile, without expert navigation. Racing aficionados will particularly enjoy drift boost sliding around hair pin bends.
JamieO - The default steering method is via the accelerometer, however after 30 minutes of practise with this option, I was not able to adjust to its inconsistent handling. I quickly switched to the touchscreen mode and I would recommend this method as being far superior, it is a brilliant implementation of multi-touch technology.
With practise, dexterous braking and double touch drifts become second nature. The steering does not get in the way of power-up and special ability screen icon presses and perfectly timed taps of the centre of the screen avoid enemy attacks, when prompted by on-screen text.
JamieO - Shrek Kart is jam packed full of content. Tournaments are epic compared to other kart racers and the game has a number of gameplay options. The challenges option breaks the game into set tasks, based upon time attack and gathering or avoiding icons. Whilst gathering icons is instantly accessible, avoiding gunpowder barrels requires skilled touchscreen steering fidelity.
Single races are more challenging than tournaments and multiplayer does increase its difficulty slightly, in later more complex courses. Multiplayer extends the game's lifespan, especially with the arena battles and it is worth noting that Gameloft have not cut any corners in the graphical content for extra arena courses. An arena mode sets up each kart racer with a 3 minute time limit to pulverise their competitors into dust, to a varied backdrop of a Witches Wasteland, Giant’s Garden and Palace Court. All of which are brand new designs, not recycled from the tournament tracks.
JamieO - The huge content, production values and superb use of a license make this a fair £2.99 price. This is one to compare prices to full DS or PSP releases, do not dismiss it because it costs more than the lower 59p App store price range.
JamieO - The presentation throughout is lavish from the moment that Shrek Kart is launched; the animated introduction is lush, with a movie style voice over explaining the charity racing event organised to raise funds for Humpty Dumpty's recovery. The game premise is a dash for the title of the kingdom's fastest racer.
The menus depict single and multiplayer choices, as well as sound, language and contols options. An interactive help tutorial is provided to teach the importance of speed bands and the significance of drifting. Whilst in the middle of the in-game action a musical note icon opens up your iPod's custom music player, to race along to you favourite tunes.
The game has at least 10 selectable characters in total, but only four are available at the start (Shrek, Donkey, Puss in Boots, Gingy). Shrek handles well and is a well rounded character, but speedier characters are preferable, such as Gingy who has a nippy turn of speed and awesome acceleration. Despite his perceived poor handling, he controls like a gingerbread dream. Further character selections are unlocked through game progression (e.g. Pinocchio, Ogre Triplets, Fiona, Big Bad Wolf, 3 Little Pigs and Ghost of Lord Farquaad).
The game seamlessly incorporates fine details and embraces helpful little touches. For example, if you connect a power-up with a rival kart the avatar of the victim flashes in the top right of the screen, to indicate a successful hit. The presentation throughout, particularly in the course design, makes superb use of the license.