Competitive racing games with friends are amazing experiences that most every video gamer, fans of the genre or not, should have. Racing games by their very nature are competitive and intense. The genre is one that has benefitted, much like fighting games, from robust online networks.
In other words, the racing genre is very much a multiplayer experience, one of the best examples of which being the Mario Kart series. This game was a revelation for many, featuring an all-star lineup of Nintendo’s popular Super Mario Bros. characters, the game was both insanely fun and incredibly addictive, two qualities every developer wants. It also showed that the uses for the Mario franchise were potentially limitless, a truism that continues to this day.
Given the perpetual success of the Nintendo mainstay, Mario Kart clones are some of the most prevalent games out there. And this trend has not stopped since the original Super Famicom classic’s release in 1992. But what distinguishes some from others, aside from what license the game is using, is how good or bad the game is in comparison to the genre mainstay with most releases trending towards the mediocre to bad game spectrum.
What buoys many games is the licensed properties they support – and, in many ways, this can make or break a game regardless of quality of execution. One game that was torched by critics but beloved by fans was Cartoon Network Speedway released during the heyday of Cartoon Network’s properties in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance.
Developed by DC Studios and published by Majesco Entertainment, this generic kart racer featured the Cartoon Network’s popular lineup of characters absent Dexter and the Powerpuff Girls, two huge properties that are puzzingly not included in the game. Geared towards a less hardcore audience, Cartoon Network Speedway is not as fast paced as some racers and instead relies upon charm and some degree of strategy in its gameplay mechanics. The game even warranted a sequel – Cartoon Network Racing in 2006.
The original featured a cast with everyone from The Eds to Johnny Bravo with each racer having different stats for speed, weight, and grip for their kart. There are 18 variants on power ups available to racers throughout the track, adding to the chaotic nature of some of the races with names like Porkbutt and Wiener Missile to throw in a dash of charm to mix. With five trophy races to compete in, the game doesn’t break the mold established by Mario Kart and offers roughly the same variety.
Again, a lot of the game’s strength rests on the Cartoon Network property. For those fans of the CN’s shows back in the early aughts, this game is a must-play and should even be considered by fans of portable kart racers.
While not entirely polished in some areas, everything is done well enough that it warrants a second look as a kart racer emblematic of its time with crude humor and cartoon visuals that almost hearken back to the 1990’s Nickelodeon classics.