Nickelodeon Kart Racers
GIVEN THE myriad similarities, Project Highrise’s pre-availability hype as a spiritual successor to Sim Tower: The Vertical Empire is well deserved. As with Maxis’ 1994 release, it delves deep into building construction and management, granting you absolute freedom to craft the skyscraper under your tutelage as you see fit and subsequently steering it to progression and sustainable development. And because of the two-decade gap between releases, developer SomaSim is able to take advantage of technological and technical advancements in the industry to present a stunningly immersive experience.
For simulation titles, the devil is in the details, and Project Highrise on the Nintendo Switch delivers in spades, and perhaps too much on occasion. Content wise, it’s the most complete; the Architect’s Edition boasts of all the five downloadable add-ons from the base game’s version on the personal computer, and thusly produces enhanced features perfect for gamers at home or on the go. It makes the work you do — which is exactly what your role as property manager implies — engrossing and fulfilling. There is so much micromanagement required of you over time that the crisp feedback and modern look and feel are what prevent you from deeming it interminable tedium.
Parenthetically, it helps that Project Highrise is aesthetically and aurally pleasing. Colors are vibrant, but from a set that emphasizes the title’s nod to realism. Meanwhile, the background music evokes pleasant, if snappy, rhythms, with the gameplay track providing appropriate action and control cues. The interface adjusts according to how you play. With the Switch docked, menus abound and allow you to direct proceedings with requisite promptness. That said, there is no handicap for you in portable mode; thoughtful changes are made to the setup in cognizance of the smaller screen, enabling magnification without sacrifice to accessibility.
Needless to say, Project Highrise hangs its hat on the way it provides you with a bevy of options from the get-go. Every decision you make has value and consequence. Would you like to build a mall? Are you more into housing? Do you go for a mixed-use structure? You can start big, but you run the risk of biting off more than you can chew. You can go small, albeit doing so likewise tempers the potential of your property. With great power comes great responsibility — and on such seemingly basic concerns as waste disposal, provision of electricity and water, and maintenance of phone lines. Soon enough, you’ll be taking care of tenants’ special and specific requests as well. And how well you do so will determine how much your coffers grow.
Considering the scope of your job, you’d think it easy to be buried underneath a pile of To Dos. And you would be right — but only if you fail to take advantage of the information Project Highrise dutifully provides you. It doesn’t cheat you by hiding it in a ton of submenus that serve to hinder and not help. Rather, it keeps the playing field level by ensuring that you thrive — or subsist, as the case may be — not because of the knowledge you are provided, but because of what you do thereafter.
Needless to say, Project Highrise isn’t for everybody. If you’re into adrenaline-pumping fare, you’re far better off with shoot-‘em-ups and fighting games. If you’re out to be wowed by emotionally charged narratives, you’d do well to chase adventure classics. If you’re a nuts-and-bolts type who gets engaged by sims, however, it’ll be worth your while. At $40, it’s a decided steal that figures to keep you glued to your Switch long before the sun is up and way after everybody else has turned in.
All told, Project Highrise lives up to billing as Sim Tower Junior, but on ‘roids. Once you get hooked, you’ll be hard-pressed to escape its clutches. You’ll find yourself moving to accomplish set goals in order to advance through game scenarios, so much so that, at some point, you’re ready to accept going through its rigors as success in and of itself.
• A technological and technical marvel
• Runs smoothly
• Outstanding interface appropriately adjusted for play at home or on the go
• Pleasing aesthetics and sounds
• Micromanagement is a must
• Detailed goals make the accomplishment of scenarios an exercise in patience
• Random events increase difficulty
FOR THE YOUNGER SET
Before anything else, this needs to be out of the way: Nickelodeon Kart Racers is not Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. And neither does it wish to be. As seemingly alike as it may be to Nintendo’s flagship series, it acknowledges its limited scope and tries to meet far less ostentatious objectives. From the outset, its intentions are clear; it simply wants to appeal to kids — and, needless to say, parents out to spend quality time with their kids — who love Nicktoons characters and would like to see the latter race against each other in recognizable settings.
In this regard, Peru-based developer Bamtang Games succeeds in its efforts for GameMill Entertainment and Maximum Games. Leaning on its experience turning intellectual property from other media into the principal protagonists of its creations, it manages to present Nickelodeon Kart Racers as a fair representation of the Nicktoons world. Twelve playable characters from SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hey Arnold!, and Rugrats are on tap, with locales from the same shows serving as tracks.
In terms of gameplay, Nickelodeon Kart Racers delivers as promised. Controls are easy to master and make for a pleasant driving experience; just about the only aspect that needs improvement is the drifting option, which suffers from inconsistency and thus becomes a risk-reward proposition for those wanting a boost at pain of lost time due to programming quirks. Representative of its source material, slime is a welcome feature and used to positive effect, providing unique twists to the usual kart racing staples.
For all its modest leanings, Nickelodeon Kart Racers likewise exhibits surprising depth. Even as gamers can take advantage of pickups and shortcuts while in races, they profit from their results via earned currency that allows them to change their karts’ parts for the better. In turn, the methods of advancement generate significant replay value. On the flipside, it suffers from a relative lack of fundamental choices. There are no means by which more playable characters from other Nicktoons offerings can be unlocked, a decided lost opportunity given the sheer number of IPs Viacom has on its stable. Who wouldn’t have wanted, say, Fee and Foo from Harvey Beaks or Lincoln Loud from The Loud House to join the roster of racers?
The good news is that Nickelodeon Kart Racers features tracks lifted from the usual haunts in the Nicktoons series, allowing for an immersive experience. Moreover, much thought is given to their in-race layouts. That said, the absence of any chances to add to the total number available stunts its capacity to stay fresh. Additionally, it could have benefited from online play. It does have quite a number of multiplayer modes across three difficulty settings, but collocation is required. Perhaps the interests were in ensuring hassle-free connections and securing safe playing parameters given the age brackets of the gamers.
Technically, Bamtang Games does a yeoman’s job on Nickelodeon Kart Racers given the short three-month turnaround time from announcement to release, but it nonetheless fails to hide its product’s rough-around-the-edges look and feel. Parents — who, it cannot be emphasized enough, hold the purse strings — would have appreciated, for instance, voice and music tracks from the source series. Moreover, it suffers from occasional stutter; its high undocked is at 30 frames per second, but drops to the precarious 20s with increased on-screen activity, and especially when more gamers are in the race.
On the whole, Nickelodeon Kart Racers is a decent release that makes no pretensions on its reach. It’s a niche title that should appeal to the younger set who religiously tune in to their Nicktoons favorites. It could have done better even in light of its targeted simple pleasures, but at $40 and a third less expensive than the gold-standard Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it provides adequate value for money and myriad opportunities for parent-child bonding sessions.
• Familiar characters and landscapes from Nicktoons series
• Easy-to-pick-up gameplay
• Much lower price point than racing-standard Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
• No opportunity to add to the roster of characters or number of tracks
• No voices or music from source material
• No online modes on offer
• Suffers from occasional frame drops