HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewDreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing Review

DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing Review

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My sincere apologies to DreamWorks, but I’d forgotten just how many successful movie series they had under their belt. My first reaction to hearing about a karting game based on their properties was ‘oh, it’s Shrek Kart then’, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Trolls, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda, Boss Baby, Megamind, Bad Guys – that’s a lot to graze on. 

It needs those recognisable characters because – woo-wee – the past twelve months have been ridiculous for karting games. Even if you ignore the Nintendo-locked Mario Kart 8 booster courses, we’ve had Disney Speedstorm, PAW Patrol Grand Prix, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3: Slime Speedway, KartRider Drift and an absolute myriad of B-listers like Garfield Kart – Furious Racing. That’s a hell of a grid for DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing to work its way through.

dreamworks all-star kart racing review 1
Shrek is front and centre of this kart racer

Our first impressions weren’t all that positive. We played DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing on both Xbox One and Series X|S and the graphical quality on the Xbox One jumps off a cliff. Graphical glitching and poor textures abound, to the degree that we’d probably advise you only pick this up on the latest gen of machines. No one needs to see the low-res grin of Shrek beaming back at them.

Even on Xbox Series X|S the graphics are a little rough. We recently came from a review of Disney Speedstorm, and the difference is night and day. That game’s overblown visual flourishes and dynamism is completely absent here, and DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing ends up looking a little drab and basic as a result.

And the music! What happened? DreamWorks movies are loaded with some of the most recognisable tunes. Who can forget All-Star on the Shrek soundtrack, or We Like to Move It in Madagascar. But the music is non-descript, a series of carnival tunes that don’t feel like they bear relation to the tracks they’re played on. We get natural sounding voice actors, but that’s the limit of it.

It’s also not exactly overrun with modes or ways to play, either. There’s the traditional Cups and Free Races for single player, local multiplayer and online matchmaking, which we’d consider the baseline, but the only cherries on top of that is a Challenge system and Time Trials. That’s not bad, but there’s no Battle Mode or – and we’re going to invoke Disney Speedstorm for probably not the last time – sprawling adventure mode either. 

dreamworks all-star kart racing review 2
Some DreamWorks magic

Luckily, first impressions aren’t everything, and our appreciation graph steadily moved upward as we played. Because while DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing is a little vanilla, it gets the basics right and ends up being a no-nonsense, satisfying racer.

On the sticks, DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing is immediately familiar. The karts have a very Mario Kart-like weight that means they handle like a dream and drift in a satisfying manner around the course. There’s the usual RT mixed with course correction on the analogue stick, followed by a boost as you move out of the powerslide. Kart games seem to be accepting this control system as standard, and DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing pulls off that standard well.

The courses are neatly undulating and make great use of the films they’re based on. Mongo stands astride the city of Far Far Away from Shrek, as you dodge the King and Queen’s stretch limo-carriage. The Cave of Lost Souls from Puss in Boots is stitched together with portals, taking you into a Ghost Train-like experience with Death staring at you from its walls.

Like Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3, the emphasis is on creating varied routes to the finish line through shortcuts. These come in an absolute wealth of flavours. There are the usual alternate routes that just require you to spot or use them (Trolls fans will be thrilled to find the secret troll route out of Bergen Town), but there are another two categories that are more secret. Find a golden lyre collectible and a rainbow ramp will appear in front of you. That ramp will lead to another lyre and another, and before you know it, you’re leaping ahead of the first place player. A similar approach is taken with bouncy castle-style platforms. Hit three in a row and you can bounce onto another tier of the track.

dreamworks all-star kart racing review 3
The route permutations are high

The sheer number of route-permutations is extremely high, and builds a high skill ceiling for DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing. Miss a lyre, which is easy to do considering that they only appear once the previous one is collected, and you’re at a severe disadvantage. Fail to notice that a secret passage lies up that aeroplane chassis in the Madagascar level, and you’re playing catch up. For younger players it might be frustrating to see daddy suddenly appear in the distance, and online multiplayer (plus the later difficulties) demands that you use them well. But it equally adds depth to the racing.

The weapons are a counter-intuitive bunch (have a guess what a fish or a purse does: we bet you won’t get it right), but once you understand what they do and how the system works, it’s got more depth again. Each weapon can be fired forwards or backwards. They’re mostly pilfered from other games, but it’s the good ones from other games, save for a blue shell replacement in the form of robot drones (damn you robot drones). 

And there are two categories of item, which dodges problems that almost all karting games have: namely that coin-like collectibles on the track tend to be useless, and being in first place gives you no good items. What DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing has done is offer you the normal item boxes, but also drops musical notes on the level. Collect enough of these and random trolls appear on your kart. Periodically, those trolls toss you speed-boosting and protective items, which are not in the main item roster. The more boring ‘booster’ items are reserved to trolls, meaning that the main item pool isn’t diluted. It’s a tidy system. We like it.

The character list will delight and disappoint in equal measure. There’s a lot of characters, but over half have to be unlocked through cups and challenges (in single player, at least) which might be a disappointment for those who want to play Donkey straight away. There’s a surplus of Shrek characters and a deficit of some others (How to Train Your Dragon and Madagascar get surprisingly short shrift), while Trolls fans will be the most disappointed of all. While Trolls are on every kart, you don’t truly get to race them, and that’s an odd mix. We understand why, as in proportional terms Trolls are tiny, but we’d have said pooh-pooh to that and included them anyway. There’s a Trolls movie in cinemas at the moment. It’s more important.

dreamworks all-star kart racing review 4
A decent roster of DreamWorks characters

But there’s positives in the list too. Each racer has very different stats, a couple of cars dedicated to them and their own special item move. There are plenty of characters too, and mostly the right ones: we’d have liked Toothless, Poppy and Perrito from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, but we get Lord Farqaad, King Julien and Megamind, so we’re all good.

What this amounts to is a karting game that is less fully featured and gloriously pretty than Disney Speedstorm or Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3. You could almost call DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing plain. But it’s also not mired in monetisation, nor is it overly fiddly, demanding understanding of pit crew or upgrades. It slots in nicely, then: more challenging and deep than PAW Patrol Grand Prix, but without the unnecessary bells and whistles of the free-to-play kart games.

Plus you can’t go wrong with a character roster that includes Shrek and Donkey.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • DreamWorks have some great characters, don’t they?
  • Tight, well constructed karting game
  • Cracking emphasis on shortcuts
Cons:
  • Looks and sounds bland
  • Not a huge amount of depth or modes
  • Trolls get relegated to sidekicks
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, GameMill
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS5, PS4, Switch
  • Release date and price - 3 November 2023 | £34.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>DreamWorks have some great characters, don’t they?</li> <li>Tight, well constructed karting game</li> <li>Cracking emphasis on shortcuts</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Looks and sounds bland</li> <li>Not a huge amount of depth or modes</li> <li>Trolls get relegated to sidekicks</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, GameMill</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS5, PS4, Switch <li>Release date and price - 3 November 2023 | £34.99</li> </ul>DreamWorks All-Star Kart Racing Review
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