Aimed squarely at a younger demographic, Smurfs Kart for the Nintendo Switch is an approachable racing game for children.
It may have been a long time ago for some, especially me, but as a child, there comes a point when you were introduced to racing video games for the very first time.
For me, it was Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge on the original, Game Boy. Primitive by today’s standards, you navigated your car around generic race circuits, sometimes overtaking rivals. There was no liquid cooling, direct drive steering wheel base or load cell pedals. All you needed were two AA batteries. Heck, it wasn’t even colourised.
But I’ve been playing racing games or simulators ever since. It’s why Traxion.GG covers games on the Nintendo Switch and mobile phones – we don’t forget where we came from, and in order to grow the racing game fandom, we must acknowledge that there will also be 10-year-olds.
A new karting game, exclusive for the Switch with an ‘E for Everyone’ age rating is important. Even if it’s not aimed at you, games for a younger audience must exist for the benefit of the entire industry, and more racing games to pull younger gamers away from Roblox or Minecraft, in my eyes, is only a good thing.
Its mere existence shows that there’s an appetitive for it, alongside the likes of PAW Patrol: Grand Prix and Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3: Slime Speedway. Or perhaps the publisher Microids has seen that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still inside the top 10 UK physical games chart each week, five years after it launched. Youngsters clearly love a Switch-based kart racing game.
This particular spin-off from the Belgian comic series will see a line-up of recognisable 12 Smurf characters. Each track is themed around relatable Smurfs locations: The village, the forest, the dam, the swamps and antagonist Gargamel’s house.
If you’ve watched the cartoons or animations, cues from the shows are prominent, in gameplay – we went hands-on recently at the Gamescom show, thanks to Microids’ Alice Claret – that is very reminiscent of existing genre rivals.
Your race small go-karts around vibrant fictional locations, collecting and using power-ups.
Smurfs Kart layers on top an individual Super Power, specific to each playable kart. For example, Papa Smurf can spread a powder that puts rivals briefly to sleep. Picking them up is just like a regular power-up, drive through the on-track gifts, but sometimes the SP will be selected.
Vehicle handling is as easy as it gets, with instantly pliable drifting mechanics. Reactions to your inputs are sedate, making it easy to become competitive from the off, and the track designs are surrounded by artfully disguised walls to keep you facing in the same direction.
There are times when your fly across a room or pull off a large jump, in these instances the game controls your kart for you.
Racing in split-screen multiplayer, with two players in this instance but up to four is possible, the game in docked mode ran smoothly and looks pleasingly characterful.
It does not push the adults playing in any way, however. Mario Kart is simultaneously accessible for children and enjoyable for parents or relatives, whereas Smurfs Kart is a difficulty level even lower. Forget online multiplayer, instead, there are collectable extras to build up a photo album.
Releasing on the 15th November, digitally and physically with a Turbo Edition that includes stickers and a patch, Smurfs Kart doesn’t challenge the status quo, but as something for juniors to have fun and enter a magical Smurfs-filled world, it could just be the ideal my-first-racing game.
Smurfs Kart release date
Smurfs Kart releases on 15th November 2022 for Nintendo Switch.
Smurfs Kart character list and Super Powers
- Papa Smurf: Sends magic powder to put everyone to sleep instantly.
- Jokey: Sends explosive gifts to his opponents to make them lose time.
- Storm: Fires sticky arrows on opponents to change their trajectory.
- Handy: Brings out an army of homemade drones to protect him and stuns opponents.
- Clumsy: Turns on the flashing light of his fire engine kart to overtake its competitors.
- Chef: Offers cakes to opponents to give them the hiccups.
- Smurfette: Bewitches the other Smurfs with her perfume.
- Blossom: Makes her opponents execute frantic jumps, preventing them from advancing.
- Robot: Activates his robotic arms and causes a tornado effect.
- Astro: Activates the reactors of its rocket-kart that allows him to overtake his opponents.
- Hefty: Shows off workout effect to push the others along the track.
- Farmer: Harvests sarsaparilla for a boost.