I honestly wasn’t expecting much when I fired up Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix for the first time. After all, its 2018 predecessor was widely panned as a game with not much going for it. So, it is a pleasant surprise to say that Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is a decent kart racer that has some depth to it, though it is missing some character.
The game follows the traditional form of the kart racer, giving you series of eight cups to take on, each with four races and tracks inspired by Nickelodeon shows. They range from Avatar’s Ba Sing Se through to the Rugrats inspired Reptar Ruins. Outside of the Grand Prix you can take on 42 challenges that are divided between hitting targets, beating times, avoiding obstacles, and boss races. There is also the time trial mode to set new records on tracks by beating ghost racers, and an Arena mode which features a free for all deathmatch inspired mode as well as a capture the spatula mode.
Whatever you decide to do, there’s a wide range of 30 racers for you to choose from, though some can only be unlocked by completing game modes. They’re joined by 70 support characters, and it’s these that add a real tactical element to Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix.
First you will choose a Chief character who has a slime ability that can be activated in races, be it Plankton’s rain of chum to slow your rivals or Zuko’s fire boost that shoots out flames to attack with. Then you have the Crew Engineer and Crew Mechanic. These support characters have abilities that work passively or activate automatically, including Spongebob’s Gary giving you more slime, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Splinter granting invisibility after you attack an opponent. Bundle all of that with picking different engines, exhausts, and tyres, and you’ve actually got to put a little thought into choosing your loadout before you go racing.
There’s three difficulty settings, but you’ll want to go for the highest difficulty if you want a meaningful challenge. The Slow difficulty will have you outpacing opponents with ease, and this is only slightly upped at the Middle tier. The challenge events have their own difficulty settings with some being very easy, while a few will take quite a few attempts to beat. Some of them focus on drifting, specifically getting your drift up to the blue sparks level. They are the highest spark level with yellow and purple preceding them, similar to the drift progression found in Mario Kart 8. While there are crew members who can mitigate these challenges a little, like Mrs Puff and her instant purple sparks ability, it feels like it takes ages to get to blue sparks with some drift areas feeling like they are a bit too short to manage it in time.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix is also just lacking a certain charm. While it looks good and the tracks are entertaining, it feels a bit flat. You have all of these characters from Nickelodeon shows, but outside of some character specific animations there is no real soul to them. The game features no voice acting whatsoever, so all you hear in races is the music and the drone of the karts. Weapons definitely take inspiration from Mario Kart with a Purple Squid filling in for the Blue Shell, rocket footballs in for red shells, a hand mimicking the inkspots to reduce visibility, and so on.
Unfortunately, at time of writing I was unable to try out the online portion of Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix as there seemed to be no one playing in either the Grand Prix mode or Free Race mode in the first five days after released. There is promise of a decent experience here, but the community will need to really pick up if there’s going to be much longevity for online play.