Though common among playful console offerings, the go-kart racing style of video game gets a more realistic treatment as it speeds to Windows-based PC's in Microids' Open Kart. Players guide their racers around believable 3D-rendered tracks, hoping for a qualifying finish and the attention of a deep-pocket sponsor. As careers progress, racers can improve their karts with new parts and customize the look with color selections and logos. The game's three levels of competition -- 100cc, 125cc, and 250cc -- are each designed to provide authentic handling and realistic challenges. Races take place across 20 different tracks set in ten different countries.
Graphics & Sound:
Microids has really reached into their bag o' tricks with Open Kart and pulled out a little winner. Rare is the racing game that doesn't have zippy little F1 cars, or sponsor-laden NASCAR cars. Thus, a game that represents the Pro Go-Kart scene has to look good initially to catch the eye. Open Kart does just that. Heck, even the install screens have never looked this good. The opening intro looks exquisitely realistic, and is as smooth as a river-worn pebble. The in-game graphics were looked after as well, much like your tummy is for Thanksgiving at Grandma's. I really like how Microids paid attention to all the small things. Sparks jump off of metal as bolts kiss asphalt. Smoke makes itself apparent on sharp turns, or when your tires peel out. Your tires will leave obvious statements as you gas it at the line, or cut sharply to avoid a collision. When choosing a driver, you can pick what clothes he gets to wear, which are very sharp and extreme. Hey, that's what racing should look like. Your car will correspond to whatever uniform you choose. Color coordination will not only win you points in a racing game, but will also gain fashion designers' eyes everywhere. The backgrounds are absolutely tropical in some places, while the mountains look as rocky as anyone named 'Balboa.' My favorite thing is when you get angry, you can shake your fist on the game. Open Kart is very visually appealing, and I ain't complaining. The development team did an impressive job.
The sound falls short of ultimate glory, but is good nonetheless. All of your basic sounds are here, from crowd shouts to those 4 squealing rubber things on each side of your kart. Still though, nothing really stood out. The crowd was rowdy, but it sounded like 20 people were the whole makeup of the spectatorship. The engines were very generic sounding, getting louder as you went up in engine classes. The 100cc engines sound like two whirring weedeaters willing to worry warthogs. That last sentence was a good case of 'alliteration.' While, the 250cc engines sound like three whirring weedeaters. The weedeaters are still there, its just louder. The music is fair enough, with nothing too blood-rushing, but also nothing that would win a Country Music Award (thank goodness). The sound should compliment the graphics, and all your staple sounds are here, but goodness, what's a hot dog without the condiments?
This is one section where OK gets plenty of credit. Oh my goodness is the game deep! You have your normal Arcade Mode which branches off to Practice, Exhibition and Championship. This is good for the budding kartist that doesn't have time for all the Simulation Mode anchovies. Of course, if you are a super-racing buff like I am, you want customization. What's a car if it isn't yours? Simulation Mode is just that. With everything purchasable and ultimately customizable under the sun, chances are you'll find just the part you need. Free installation too. Championship Mode under Simulation is definitely where I spent most of my time. Your goal is to win the season's point championship for each class of karts. There are 3 classes (100, 150 and 250cc) which by winning each one allows you to move up to the next one. Your goal is to be champion of all three classes. You are reading a review by one such tri-champ. As you customize higher end parts, you will need money to keep repairs up. That's where sponsors come in. There are entrance fees to every race, some of which are semi-steep. They will also give you the much-needed green to keep your car up to speed. Trust me, you'll need it as repairs start taking up more checkbook than anything. Sadly, I was unable to find 'Tabasco,' or 'Star Wars Episode II' sponsorships anywhere, but kart life had to go on. There is a great Practice Mode too, so you can get to know the track and its respective nuances, but don't practice too much or your engine will be worn out for the big race. Open Kart comes loaded with options, and that's really good for a frontrunner of this genre. Heck, the only thing I really missed were some leather bucket seats, and a 6-disc changer. The physics are way off, which will totally put hardcore fans on Rolaid alert. Going 120 mph in a little go-kart, and smashing into a wall will pretty much give you a free ride to your local hospital. Not in OK though. You will bounce off the wall (after a severe case of whiplash), and continue on your merry little way. I know I wasn't driving a state of the art titanium performance kart. I'm not a physics major, but I was a little disappointed.
Here's where I was a little let down as well. Don't get me wrong, the game is wonderful to look at and wonderful to play. What it is not, however, is challenging. I won my first championship race just by buying a new engine. Granted, the controls aren't inadequate at all, and when you push the left arrow, you're going left. It's just that the competition is a little soft. I totally blew away the first two classes. The last class gave me some issues, but nothing that I couldn't handle. It could've been a little more challenging, considering that the learning curve for me was one lap. Trust me, I'm not that good at games, so a learning curve like that for me would really give no difficulty to a hardcore racing fan. I had trouble enough learning my multiplication tables in second grade. Again, the controls make the game less frustrating, while the AI makes blowing the other racers away inevitable. I don't want a game that makes me smash things, but I want to feel like I earned a reward. As I hoisted my third championship trophy, my only thought was: 'What's for dinner,' and 'I hope its not chicken again...'
Much credit to the documentation department of Microids for probably the best manual I've seen. It explains everything, even all the customizable parts. Hey, you gotta' love that. It also wasn't a bad read, and I think it was more informative to me than initially speculated. No questions remained after reading it. The control scheme is your average racing keyboard configuration. The controls only help things as they are very fluid and nice. Making a left hand turn feels like a rich, moist cookie over and over again.
Overall, Open Kart is impressive. The lack of difficulty will cause interest to decline rapidly, but it is initially fun, and probably worth it to all the racing fans. If you're a strictly Sim fan, then this little diddy will also be an early Christmas present. Probably the most fun I've had is in the Multiplayer Mode where my friend whips me again and again. To this day, he swears he's never driven a performance Go-Kart. I beg to differ. The idea for a different type of game was carried out well, and Open Kart makes a great predecessor; I was just a little let down at its apparent ease. Ultimately, I believe the ability to blow through the game makes any replayability very tough.
People who downloaded Open Kart have also downloaded:
OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, Off-Road Redneck Racing, Operation Overlord, Pacific Fighters, R/C Helicopter: Indoor Flight Simulation, NHRA Drag Racing 2, Rallisport Challenge, Out of the Sun
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