Outright Games and 3DClouds are clearly doubling down on PAW Patrol: Grand Prix, their accessible karter for pre-teens. We’ve had a side-order of tracks in the form of the Race in Barkingburg DLC, and now we’re getting an entirely new game mode in Pup Treat Arena.
There are no prizes for guessing what’s happening here. Battle Modes in kart games are as traditional as circular teabags. Mario Kart had them, Diddy Kong Racing had them, the Nickelodeon Kart Racers and Sonic Team Racing games still have them, and now PAW Patrol is plugging that gap. The Pup Treat Arenas are a chance to do more than simply race each other: now you get to wallop each other with snowballs.
If we’re going to get more PAW Patrol: Grand Prix DLC, then we like this direction. The Race in Barkinburg DLC was fine, but it added relatively lukewarm tracks that not only repeated tricks that were in the main game, but repeated itself within the DLC too. A whole new way to play feels like a positive approach.
Rather than adopt the all-out aggression of Mario Kart’s battle mode, Pup Treat Arenas are actually a kind of hybrid. You can play them offensively, knocking out your opponent, or you can play them as a pacifist, snatching the win away from your opponent.
The aim of an arena is to be the one with the most pup treats at the end of a time limit. That time limit is defined by you: there is the option of a 3, 5 or 7-minute match. The pup treats are scattered to the wind. After a 3-2-1, you’re accelerating to where they’re clustered and building up your score. A league table updates in real-time in the bottom-left corner.
Pup treats aren’t the only collectibles in an arena, as there are weapons too. PAW Patrol: Grand Prix – Pup Treat Arena strips the roster down to the weapons that make sense – a snowball-like weapon, Tracker’s grabby arm-thing, a shield, a booster – and allows you to equip them and then use them against your opponents. If a pup is hit, they spin about a bit but can carry on. It’s just a minor stun. But the important element is that you will grab some of their pup treats for yourself, as well as strew a few more around the arena. Now they’re fair game for anyone else.
That last addition is clever. It means that hit players don’t feel like they’re being bullied; if they’re fast enough, they can reclaim what they’ve lost. And it also means that pacifist players have a chance. They can hover on the fringes of a melee like vultures, picking off the carrion. It’s a compromise for the less-good players, and that makes a lot of sense in a PAW Patrol game.
Golden pup treats appear on occasion, lit up like the Hammer of Dawn is firing at them. You can follow their light beams to stockpile the motherlode of points that they offer, but you know that other people will be going for it too. Additionally, a crown appears above the head of whomever is winning, which is a nice way of painting a target on their back. It’s all rather well thought out, and works swimmingly.
There are three arenas here, and they do a good job of feeling rather different. Chickadee Roundabout is a giant, uh, roundabout; Winter Playground is a free-for-all arena with ramps elevated on the edges; while Hidden Temples is the complicated one. It’s a network of ramps, quarter-pipes and tunnels that are so labyrinthine that you can spend the whole match wondering where everyone else is.
You can probably sense that we have some issues with Hidden Temples. It doesn’t feel as accessible – or exciting – as the others. It’s also because it doesn’t work quite as it should. The quarter-pipes on the edges of the arena made us feel like we should be able to pull off some natty tricks, but mostly we bumped into their raised base, and then lamely drove up before reversing. It’s not exactly Tony Hawk.
The important bit is that you can play these arenas four-player. That’s purely local, or with CPU bots, but that’s no different from the main game. Online multiplayer isn’t going to suddenly arrive overnight with some DLC. The arenas are curiously hosted on the menu, though: if you want to play multiplayer, you don’t choose Pup Treat Arenas from the menu – you have to choose Multiplayer and access it that way. It’s a fiddle, but you get used to it.
The arenas feel good to play, too. There’s an argument that they’re lacking the accessibility and rubber-banding that was a linchpin of the main game: it’s very easy for winners to be runaway victors, and there are precious few methods of clawing them back. But if you have everyone working together to make things fair (competitive parents, reign yourself in please), then it should be fine.
The weapons are wisely chosen – boosts and shields have been amended to be aggressive – and they all work as you’d hope. You don’t have to be particularly skillful to hit another player, either, as pretty much everything homes in like a missile. Your little ’un can participate and feel like they’re winning.
PAW Patrol: Grand Prix – Pup Treat Arena is all rather good, if we’re honest. Whether it’s £7.99 of ‘rather good’ is another matter (breaking three battle-mode arenas down to eight-quid is quite the ask). But jump over that hurdle and 3DClouds’ approach to DLC is something that we’d like more games to emulate. It acknowledges that there’s plenty to do with the main game, so doesn’t bother giving more of the same. Instead, it spins up a battle-mode that gets your kids playing differently, and executes on it with aplomb. Good work pups.
You can buy PAW Patrol: Grand Prix – Pup Treat Arena from the Xbox Store
- Completely new battle-mode to embrace
- Carefully designed to be accessible
- Anarchic fun
- Costly for what you get
- No achievements! The scandal!
- One of the three arenas has major-ish issues
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Outright Games
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 10 March 2023
- Launch price from - £7.99