KartRider is a name you might be unfamiliar with, but in other parts of the world it’s a bonafide phenomenon. A Korean free-to-play titan (also referred to as Crazyracing Kartrider) with more than fifteen years of history and a booming esports scene.
In 2020, western gamers are being treated to not one but two new instalments in the KartRider franchise with Rush+ out now for mobiles and Drift targeting Xbox One and PC later this year.
So what does KartRider Rush+ do that sets it apart from Mario Kart and other genre stalwarts such as Crash Team Racing? In truth, not a lot, or at least not on the surface. Those games are inarguably more robust and teeming with character, yet there’s a simplicity to KartRider that many racing fans will come to appreciate.
Although Rush+ features Arcade races with item boxes, the main focus here is on the pure no-frills speed racing. Going head to head with up to seven other opponents out on the track, you’ll be looking to weave together perfect drifts, build up turbo, and decide when best to use it.
KartRider has its racing controls down to a tee on mobile. You’ll auto-accelerate, using the drift and directional buttons in tandem to navigate tight bends and corners, tapping the three small slots where items and turbo boosts are housed. Touch controls are never ideal yet KartRider manages to find a sweet spot, the on screen buttons being perfectly sized without obscuring the action.
Combining these accessible controls with the short amount of time it takes to find races is where you’ll find KartRider’s hook. Mobile games continue to surprise us in terms of their depth and complexity, though the ones that work best have often been those carefully crafted for short five to ten minute bursts.
Being a free-to-play game is a sword that typically cuts both ways. On one hand, all modes and tracks in Rush+ are accessible to every player, but on the other the game is heavily cluttered with various currencies, tokens, and other microtransactions.
Booting up KartRider, that first minute or so can easily be lost checking myriad notifications, claiming daily bonuses, and crossing off challenge objectives. Sure, it’s all harmless and mostly optional, though the home menu can prove too busy even for the more tolerant gamer.
At least Nexon have avoided the pay to win pitfall here. Throwing down some real money will mean quicker access to vehicles and upgrades, but there’s a steady enough stream of in-game currency which can be used to rent or buy many of the same items.
Your progress is charted in several different ways. Whatever you do in Rush+, you’ll constantly be earning experience points and completing challenges which unlock new game features and other bonuses. You’ve also got your ranked play rating as well as a license.
Each license requires that you pass a series of increasingly challenging tests, unlocking new matchmaking tiers for those in search of a real challenge. It’s worth noting that while KartRider’s track designs can seem fairly basic in those lower tiers, they become increasingly more complex.
Nexon, like many game publishers, have also introduced their version of a battle pass. As you play during each in-game season you’ll fill a progress bar loaded with various rewards, all of which is enhanced if you purchase a premium pass.