Updated: Nov 13
DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing brings the entire family and your animated movie collection to the race track.
DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing
Developer: Bamtang Games
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
Release Date: 11/03/2023
Review Score: 7
It’s really fun to race as Shrek, Puss in Boots, Fiona, Astrid, Hiccup, Boss Baby and others from your favorite DreamWorks Animation movies. But a few minor nuisances make this not quite Mario Kart-quality.
Reviewer played on Xbox Series X. A code was provided by the publisher.
DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S and PC via Steam.
Arcade racing games were a more crowded genre a long time ago with franchises like Burnout, Project Gotham Racing and Need for Speed. Now, players rely on GTA or a sim racing game (Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo) to get their fix.
But kart racing games, thanks to the huge success of the Mario Kart series, are still thriving because they’re easy to play, social (online or in the same room) and accessible to almost any age. Play a game of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in the same room on a TV screen with just about anyone – a child or grandparent – and there’s going to be laughter and smack talk, even if one or both players are either far behind or far ahead from the pack.
The popular kart racing genre now includes Sonic the Hedgehog, Disney, Nickelodeon Nick Toons, Garfield, Smurfs and Paw Patrol, among non-descript original franchises.
Now, DreamWorks Animation has thrown its hat in the large ring with DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing, which pits disparate DreamWorks Animation characters against each other on tracks inspired by DreamWorks Animation settings.
While it isn’t the first time that these characters have appeared together in a kart racing game, seeing the DreamWorks characters together in one place is always pleasant and welcome. We haven’t seen them together since 2011’s DreamWorks Super Star Kartz, and a lot of new faces made it this time around. Now, you can find characters like Po (Kung Fu Panda) and Mr. Wolf (The Bad Guys), among mainstays like Shrek and Hiccup.
In a game all about characters, it feels like there could have been even more.
The franchises are each good on their own but there’s a small taste of each, only two characters maximum (on average) appear as drivable characters. If you like How To Train Your Dragon, like my son, you get Hiccup and Astrid with inspired vehicles and race tracks, but there are no other Vikings or dragons. I would have at least liked to have seen Toothless driving a car.
Shrek is probably the most popular character in DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing, even though it’s been over 12 years since we’ve had one of his films in a theater if you don’t count the Shrek Broadway play about a decade ago. Puss in Boots, the titular character of last year’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and friend of Shrek, also made it into the game.
One of the most current animated film franchises, Trolls, is featured in every race. This is because you have to pick up 15 musical notes along a track, which opens a Trolls special ability which provides a weapon to take down other racers. Otherwise, the only two unlockable Trolls characters are Bridget and King Gristle.
The game plays perfectly well and that’s because developer GameMill knows its way around a kart racer, having developed Nickelodeon Kart Racers 1, 2 and 3.
For a game so focused on picking up musical notes along each track, the in-game and menu music is generic and disappointing. There are no familiar tunes from any of the animated properties. Trolls is all about music so you’d think they would focus on memorable songs.
The game does give you quite a bit to do.
Beating certain racing cups in Cups mode with specific characters opens up new car parts and additional characters. Beating challenges in Challenge mode is another way to unlock items. Those challenges make the game progress to a point where it’s harder and adds replayability.
In addition to multiple racing modes, you can set the bots at four different difficulty levels: Relaxed, Regular, Turbo, and Lightning. Relaxed is for younger players while Lightning amps up the competition.
Before setting off on most races, you get a choice of characters and then pick a kart chassis, engine, wheel type and spoiler to slightly modify your vehicle. These kart modifications adjust speed, turbo, handling, charisma and weight.
In Single Player, the four modes are: Cups, four races to collect points on the circuit to win; Free Race, a single race with setting options; Challenge and Time Trial.
Challenge mode opens a variety of single-race challenges. Complete the challenge to open more races with new challenges. Ascending each tier can be difficult but it adds variety.
Multiplayer allows up to four players being about to race on the same console, letting you to race someone directly next to you.
All 20 race tracks and environments are fantastic. You really feel like you’re driving within the specific DreamWorks Animation world on each track and the courses vary and offer shortcuts. It looks like GameMill may have spent the most time on creating great environments and it pays off.
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Voice acting is where this game really stumbles right from the opening Tutorial level. The Tutorial is the first thing you play and has you driving as Donkey from Shrek to learn the controls and gameplay. Sure, Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers weren’t available to voice Donkey and Shrek, respectively, but the voices for most characters are pretty far off the mark.
Also, during races, characters repeat the same lines over and over to the point of it being a nuisance and distraction from the experience.
The weapon pick-ups feature a DreamWorks logo (the boy fishing in a crescent moon) inside a box frame. It’s odd seeing the logo so much because it’s not as common as the Disney or Warner Bros. logos, but there aren’t really other options.
Picking up music notes throughout each track triggers Trolls attaching to your vehicle and helping you with special moves to go faster. Running over a lyre (the musical instrument) in specific parts of the track opens new ramps called Magic Paths that lead to shortcuts above the track.
There are 20 characters in total with eight available at the start. Shrek, Po (Kung Fu Panda), Mr. Wolf (The Bad Guys), Alex (Madagascar), Tigress (Kung Fu Panda), Fiona (Shrek), Hiccup (How to Train Your Dragon), and Puss in Boots are the starters.
Unfortunately, there are no characters from DreamWorks Animations’ Croods, Ruby Gillman, Captain Underpants, Turbo, Bee Movie or Antz. Turbo, a movie about a racing snail, seems like a no-brainer.
Licensed kids games have received a bad reputation based on the quality of games through the decades. But they can be done well, and DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing is among the higher-quality video games that use animated properties.
Honestly, it's fun for all ages, especially for the kids.
My kids liked the game but both said it’s not nearly as good as the Mario Kart games. They said the Mario Kart games offer more characters and better gameplay. Since the Mario Kart games are the gold standard for kart racing, finishing in second or third place is still admirable. Also, my son wanted to watch How to Train Your Dragon based on being reminded of that franchise from this video game.
A really unfortunate issue/glitch was when I switched profiles in the main menu to another Xbox profile and then switched back – the original game save was no longer available and all racing progress was lost. The save still showed in the Xbox menu but it wasn’t accessible. I wanted to unlock Megamind but it’s not in the cards any longer.
For a kart racing game, DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing can be a lot of fun. There’s enough variety packed in here to play for several hours and the tracks are all diverse and interesting.
The DreamWorks animated characters and tracks through the years are often classics. It’s too bad the voice acting isn’t more on point and that there aren’t more characters to play at the start of the game or can be unlocked via progress.
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