Sunday, April 22, 2012

KartRider DASH - CBT Impressions

Back in 2007, Nexon US released an online racing game called Kart Rider, which featured an addictive mix between the wackiness of Mario Kart and the drift mechanics of Ridge Racer. Despite a fair amount of support, Nexon US closed down Kart Rider before it had a chance to launch in 2008. Even with several cries by fans for a full release, Nexon wasn’t willing to give anyone a straight answer.

Finally, after four years of silence, Nexon US is bringing Kart Rider back in the form of a free-to-play Facebook game. While it sounds like a smart move to ensure a large and active community, many of the features and charm that made Kart Rider such an amazing game were stripped away in the process.

Kart Rider DASH starts players off with a quick tutorial that teaches players the basics of driving and using items, but fails to teach players the fine art of the drift, which is necessary for many of the game’s hairpin filled courses. There is a course available for drifting practice, but this is tucked away in the options menu.

The main menu is completely simplified compared to its original: Everything from the customization garage to item shop can be toggled on one screen, and besides from a few glitches with item selection, it gets the job done. Customization has also made some changes: Instead of buying different cars that are excel in different categories such as straight line speed or uphill climb, players can now buy kart bodies of their choosing and fit them with kart engines of their choosing. While this allows for some moderate customization, kart engines have a set amount of usage per race, which means players will have to re-purchase their engines after those races.

Kart Rider DASH contains a handful of tracks ranging from simple to twisty, all ported over from the original game. Unfortunately, players won’t be able to pick which courses to race on, as the game is automated to select courses at random. In fact, players won’t be able to pick which players they would like to race with, as there is no option for player-created rooms. There IS an option to play with other Facebook friends, but it’s still very limited in options.

Gameplay wise: It plays just like the same Kart Rider that fans know and love. Item mode races are frantic and chaotic, while speed mode races require drifting with some finesse when making those tight turns. Boosting after a drift opens up many different techniques such as link drifting and multi-boosting.

While speed mode hasn’t changed, item mode races have taken a turn for the worse: Item mode races now include a new feature called the Slot Swapper which allows players to swap their current item with their reserve item, and can be purchased from the item shop. While it sounds harmless, being able to swap items is a feature that simply has to go and here’s why: Grabbing items and deciding when to use what you have in your current slot is a staple function of a kart racing game that provides a risk/reward element. Being able to swap out items you have stored lowers the risk element, making item races more predictable.

To make matters worse: They’ve also added “auto-block” items, and they’re exactly as they sound: Items that can be used to automatically block an incoming item from enemy players. While these items can only be used twice per race, this also messes with the game’s risk/reward element.

Now here’s the biggest kicker: The game has a “fuel system” where players have five tanks of fuel, and one tank gets used up before starting a race. Once you’ve depleted all your fuel tanks, you either have to wait up to eight minutes for one tank to refill, or use your in-game credits to refill all your tanks. I already have an idea of what they plan to do with this system when the game goes live, and I can safely say that I don’t like it. Chances are that players will have to pay real money in order to refill their tanks, which simply isn’t fair, even to those that wish to play casually.

I, for one, am rather disappointed that Nexon decided to structure Kart Rider DASH like every other game on Facebook, with players having to pay to play more, giving players access to “easy mode” items and generally making the game another Pay-2-Win festival.

Overall, Nexon’s plans to bring such an excellent kart racing game to Facebook is commendable, but as it stands, many changes need to be made, otherwise Kart Rider DASH will be doomed to fall into obscurity with the many other Facebook titles that don’t have a –Ville suffix stuck in the title.


Post a Comment