The Xbox clearly doesn’t have a Super Mario Kart, and there’s no one who knows this more than developers 3DClouds. They’ve been raining kart games onto the Xbox for the past five years or so, giving us – deep breath – Race with Ryan, PAW Patrol: Grand Prix, Fast & the Furious: Spy Racers Rise of Sh1ft3r, Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers and All-Star Fruit Racing.
3DClouds clearly have their little corner of the market, and they’re doing wheelspins in it. If there’s a kart-racer on the Xbox that hasn’t got Spongebob Squarepants in it, then they probably made it.
Grokking kart racers in this way is both a good and a bad thing. It means that you have a studio who are slowly, incrementally mastering their art. Buy a 3DClouds kart game, and you know you’re getting something sturdy. But it also means that the games start conforming to a formula. Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart is the first 3DCloud racer to feel like it might have toppled off a conveyor belt.
It certainly ticks all the right boxes. If you’re looking for a karting game for a Gigantosaurus fan, you have everything on your shopping list. This represents up to four-player racing on a single console, resplendent in glorious split-screen. Sure, there’s no online multiplayer, but that’s to be expected when your audience is probably too young to spell ‘online multiplayer’. What’s important is that, if you have four pads, four players can come along for the ride.
Everything you would want to do is represented on the game menus. Well, maybe minus a battle mode, but we’ve been treated by Mario Kart on that count. You get three grand prix-style Adventures; the ability to play single races (including a quick race that doesn’t waste time with choosing characters and tracks); and the aforementioned multiplayer. There’s no time trials or minigames, but the basics are present and correct.
From what little Gigantosaurus knowledge we have, the eight characters cover the full cast, and there are fifteen tracks which represents pretty decent value. You can flick them to a night version (a mirror mode would have been welcome, but wouldn’t have been practical knowing the downhill course layouts), but there’s plenty of tracks to stop your tykes getting bored.
As was the case with PAW Patrol: Grand Prix, an auto-drive mode has been included, and we want to pick it up and hug it to our chests. It allows a younger player to auto-accelerate, so they don’t need to be holding down any buttons, while the computer will gently nudge them away from walls and pitfalls. Our four-year old can keep up with our eight-year old on Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart, and that is utterly priceless. Watching them compete for first place is a joy to behold.
The tracks themselves are more of a mixed bag. More so than any other Outright Games and 3DCloud racer, Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart likes to tinker with track height. We’ve often criticised their games for feeling flat as a pancake, more like the SNES Mario Kart than a modern day one. But Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart takes that feedback to heart and undulates everywhere. Tracks start from high vantage points and circle down, while others intertwine and fire characters out of cannons, gliding down to the track like the Diddy Kong Racings of old.
There’s an asterisk here, as a bit of smoke and mirrors is going on. While it might sound exciting that you can glide about the track, you really can’t. We quickly found out that we didn’t have control over the flying, and all of the swoops and near-misses were forced on us by an unseen director. It felt a bit of a ruse, to be honest. It fooled our kids though, so maybe we’re expecting too much.
There’s some puckish fun happening with the shortcuts, too. Vines and waterfalls tend to obscure alternate routes that are, quite simply, much flipping faster than the main course. If you want to win, you’d best be using these, and they’re so poorly and theatrically concealed that even our youngest one was spotting and using them. It made them feel clever, and we’re all for that.
But the mixed bag comes in with the differentiation and the obstacles. The tracks have a saminess that no amount of drops and bumps can hide. The three biomes here sound different on paper – a jungle, desert and mountain – but they’re mostly differing amounts of green and brown, and we found them merging together in the wash. That’s not helped by the same library of four obstacles getting borrowed from on every track. Rolling rocks, dropping rocks, geysers and the admittedly cool Giganto, stomping about the track, are the only hazards you will find, and they get repeated ad nauseam.
There’s a similar feeling around the weapons. They each have their Mario Kart parallel (spot the red shell, green shell, banana and mushroom), and you can only get your hands on a few of them when you’re at the front of the pack. Considering the difficulty is dialled down so low, we only really shuffled between the same three items. Our girls saw more of the roster, but a few were still rare.
Something that would have helped resolve this would have been character-specific weapons or powers. Bizarrely, Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart dodges including them. We say ‘bizarre’ because, at least to our memory, every last one of 3DCloud’s other racing games has featured them. The different karts are identical outside of looks, so picking Rocky over Ayati doesn’t lead to any gameplay difference at all. It feels rushed and a tad lazy, as if Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart was pushed out of the Jurassic Park gates before it could find its identity.
As a family, we enjoyed Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart, just as we enjoyed 3DCloud’s other recent racers. Their approach to accessibility is ahead of the pack, and we feel a proven formula hardening over the course of their games. But this is also the first of their games where we felt like motions had been gone through, and corners had been cut. Tracks bleed into one another, and none of the karts and characters are given anything to make them stand out.
If you don’t have many other kart games on the Xbox, and your kids love the charms of Gigantosaurus, then don’t hesitate: this is a no-brainer. If that doesn’t describe you, however, then you might want to be more wary. Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart is a fine racer, but not a great one.
You can buy Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart from the Xbox Store