Rendercode Games was kind enough to give me a code so that I could play and review Avatar Karting. I wanted to like this game. I want to like ALL games. But after my play time, I left with a bitter taste in my mouth. There are certainly some high points, but the overall flavor was sour.
You’re given the opportunity at the start menu to play a single race, a time trial, a Short Championship (8 races) or a Long Championship (24 races). There are also global and local rankings so you can see how well you have done against the rest of the world. Immediately, with so many options I’m thinking that what this game has to offer is a steal for XBLA Indie games.
Upon entering into a “single race” you are taken to the race setup. This menu gives the options: Start Race – which throws you in the driver seat, Garage – which lets you customize your Kart’s color and country flag that appears on the front, Track – which track you play, Reverse, and Laps – the number of laps you drive.
I selected track #1, which one would assume is the easiest track for a beginner, modified my kart to be green with an American Flag Logo, and set the lap to 1, just to get an idea of how it plays. Upon starting the race the load screen gives some rather helpful tips on play style and options.
The race started and immediately I noticed my “boost” filling up. So, once I had enough to be useful, I pushed my “A” button and zoomed up to the lead, just in time for the first corner. Avatar Karting has a useful “auto brake” feature which will do the breaking for you at each corner. I don’t generally use this during racing games because my own skills often trump the computers auto-system. As I hit the first corner, the AI players take the outside angle, while I cut down inside and take the corner masterfully – I’m now in 1st place, but only for a split second. Out of nowhere an AI racer slams into my side, making me unable to do ANYTHING. He proceeds to drive me straight into a wall and then drives off, leaving me in 8th place and nearly ½ a track back. After getting myself straightened out and back on the track I start my near-impossible battle back to the front of the pack.
I ended my first race in 7th place – not too bad for any racing game.
My second race started similarly to my first – being driven into by the AI and dropping back in the pack. This time, however, I had a grasp on the controls and quickly got back to the front of the pack. The turning seemed crisp, the track recognition was there, and I battled my way back into a nice third place finish.
Upon finishing the race with a decent track time, I decided to check the leader boards. After seeing the 1st place player with a time of 00:00:00, I felt a twinge of compassion for Rendercode Games. Leader boards are often hacked and modified, but to have it done so soon (and so blatantly) not only upset me as a player, but it made me realize the battle these obviously talented developers will have to undertake – cleansing a leader board of cheaters is no simple task. With a lump in my throat, I pushed on in an attempt to find my track time and, hopefully, some pride in my driving skills.
Unfortunately, I hit an obstacle that even I couldn’t overcome: A crash. Around page 4 or 5 of the top track times I was hit with an inexcusable error that shut down my game.
I think Rendercode Games certainly has talent that they will put to use. Unfortunately, it wasn’t done so in this game. The graphics are lovely; from the landscape to the track layout, and it appealed to my senses. Nothing was too bright or dark, and your eyes easily followed the track. The audio is simple, but elegant. Tires screeched and when drifting from the track the sound of the pavement switching to gravel was seamless and realistic. The controls seemed a bit “loose”, to use a racing term. You cannot simply hold down the accelerator and win a game – which is fantastic. But when reading the track and breaking or accelerating at times that would seem ideal, it wasn’t. The fact that Avatar Karting crashed on me also brought down my view of the game.
Overall, some race fans may like it, but the idea is generic and empty. I think the game is close to being fun, but for now it has not quite reached the winner’s circle, and is only dreaming of capturing the checkered flag. Try the demo before you purchase.