Inside Pulse 12

Review: TNT Racers (Xbox 360)

TNT Racers
Developer: Keen Games
Publisher: DTP Entertainment
Genre: Isometric Kart Racer
Release Date: 02/09/2011

I can’t speak for anyone else, but there’s a major nostalgia vibe going on with TNT Racers, and I like it. I like it a lot. The first time I sat down and played it, I was instantly reminded of sitting in my room tearing up the track on R.C. Pro-AM for NES, or racing against a friend in Super Off-Road on the Genesis. It feels like an 8/16 bit racer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know a lot of non-Nintendo fans out there who would instantly turn their nose up at a racing game like this; perhaps for its cartoony graphics, or maybe because of its isometric view as opposed to third/first person, perhaps even for its arcade gameplay and lack of vehicle customization.

Well those people suck. This game is a must buy as far as I’m concerned and is JUUUST shy of being a classic in its own right.

Essentially, TNT Racers is a modern take on the best racing games Nintendo had to offer during the 8 and 16 bit eras, the most obvious being R.C. Pro-Am. Its isometric camera and R.C. style controls both look and feel like the original Nintendo classic, and that’s about the best compliment I could possibly give it. Next to Super-off Road, there was no racer during that generation that I played more than R.C. Pro-Am, and this game does it justice in more ways than one.

But it’s more than just an R.C. Pro-Am clone. It also pulls from the Mario Kart series with its bright, cartoony graphics and wild weapon system. Everything from oil slicks to to rockets to land mines to even plungers are on hand here, all done with a bright, colorful very Nintendo feel. There’s nothing really on display here that couldn’t be done on the Wii to similar effect (and their version is on the way), but it’s just so fun you don’t really care.

The only thing that’s missing that would make this game the Mario Kart of isometric kart racing is Mario himself (and friends of course.) The cars you can choose from are unique, bright, and appealing, but with no racer characters attached to them, there’s a noticeable lack of personality. Had they simply gone that one extra mile and given each car its own racer, maybe with a stat sheet that included their backstory, even a unique cut scene or two for each racer, this game would be just about as perfect as it could possibly get. Even a create-a-racer option similar to that in Mod Nation Racers would have added a lot to the package. Alas, they didn’t do that, so it while it doesn’t detract at all from the overall fun of the title, it keeps it from being on par with the classics its trying to emulate.

The music is fun, but nothing you’ll still be whistling later on. The sound effects are great, and also have a kind of cartoony, almost Hanna Barbara vibe going on. I would have liked there to be MORE music to listen to, considering how long the single player “campaign” is, but hey, this is a DLC title after all. You can’t always expect a retail level of content for a DLC price.

Then again, there’s a heck of a lot of game to be had here. There are eighteen core tracks, each with various race types. You have straight forward lap races, races where you have to place first, races where you have to earn the highest score, races where you have to destroy all your opponents to stay in the race, and so on.

There are several single player game modes, including time trials, custom built races, and the like. there are unlockable cars and unlockable tracks. There’s a fully featured online multiplayer mode, but you may find yourself calling some friends over and taking advantage of the four player local co-op mode instead. Why? Well for one, it’s incredibly fun. Rather than plsitting the screen up like the Mario Kart series. Local multiplayer is all done on one screen. The camera stays focused on the lead car. So if you can’t keep up, and you fall off the screen, you’re done. It’s fast, frantic, and a great game for trashtalking, if you and your friends enjoy that sort of thing. Secondly, it would seem that hardly anyone has bought this game. I went online with it several times over the course of two weeks, and at varying times throughout the day and evening, and was never able to find a race. It just seems like the 360 audience is going to ignore this one, which doesn’t surprise me. I imagine it would possibly find a more welcoming audience on the Wii or even the PS3, what with the fanbases of Mario Kart, Mod Nation Racers, the Pixel Junk Racer series obviously open towards this play style. So far, the PS3 version has only been released in the UK, but I hear that is changing soon. I know a version for Wiiware is planned as well, but I couldn’t find a confirmed release date for it.

The Scores
Game Modes: Great
Graphics: Great
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Great
Balance: Great
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary

If you were ever a fan of R.C. Pro-AM, Mario Kart, Diddy Kong Racing, or even Wacky Racers on the Dreamcast, this is the game for you. Yeah, it could have stood for a little story/character, but R.C. Pro AM didn’t have any of that either and it’s a classic (which is why I omitted Story from the review score this go around.) It’s a phenomenal little title that deserves a lot more sales than its getting, if for no other reason that it would be a surefire hit for online multiplayer. It’s more than a fair price for everything that you get. Even if you’re only into the Forzas and Gran Turismos of the gaming scene, you should still pick this one up, just for a change of pace. Its fun, pick-up-and-play races are a good, quick breather from your more intense gaming endeavors.

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