Many game developers have tried to enter the kart racing genre, but all with the exception of Crash Bandicoot have failed to score a podium place next to Super Mario. Efecto Studios is the latest outfit to have a pop with El Chavo Kart – a title based upon the apparently popular Mexican cartoon, El Chavo: The Animated Series. As you’d expect, this colourful racer includes many of the best characters from this much loved show – including El Chavo, Quico, Mr Raymond, Junior, Phoebe, Mrs Worthmore, and others – and pits them against each other in wacky races.
The hot pursuits are organised into three main modes: Cups, Challenges, and Exhibition. The cups follow a familiar racing format, where you compete in a tournament against the computer. Each contest consists of five races, with your finishes determining your overall performance. Earning a medal –Bronze, Silver, or Gold – will unlock the next cup, culminating in a barebones campaign of kinds.
Meanwhile, the Challenge mode offers a variety of difficult tasks for you to overcome, such as racing in heavy traffic and more. These challenges are fun and provide a nice alternative to the core ‘finish ahead of your rivals’ format. Unfortunately, one or two of the objectives are a little frustrating, and don’t appear to have been properly thought out. An example of one of these is a Capture the Flag-style battle where you’ll fail if your opponents steal the pennant once. The big problem here is that you can’t progress until you beat the previous mission, leading to plenty of cursing as a consequence.
Finally, there’s the Exhibition mode, which allows you to choose a mode, track, number of players, and more. There’s a wide variety of options to select from, ranging from the aforementioned Capture the Flag all the way through to a coins game type, where the first person to gather 100 pennies takes a podium place. There are also tons of circuits to choose from, many of which are based upon popular public attractions, like a museum, castle, football stadium, haunted house, and more. The variety keeps the game interesting, and means that it has tons of replay value.
Of course, the gameplay itself will be very familiar to anyone who’s played Mario Kart, but that’s no bad thing. One difference is that you can ram your opponent with the right stick, or even attempt to jump on top of them. The handling model is very satisfying, with the L2 button allowing you to drift around corners, and earn a boost in the process. Of course, you’ll have to deal with many various obstacles as you race around the fantasy courses, from footballs to other cars and much, much more.
Not everything is out to slow you down, though, as booster pads on the track give you a little injection of acceleration, while item boxes augment your vehicle with weapons. These are themed around general household items, with the most entertaining of which being a newspaper that, for some reason, inverts the controls of your adversary. Hey, it makes just as much sense as a blue turtle shell that hones in on the leader of the race.
As this game is based upon a cartoon series, its visuals stay loyal to the source material. Everything has a bold look to it, which is aided by strong black outlines that help to identify key elements in the game. It’s crisp and sharp, and while it’s not going to steal the PlayStation 3’s visuals ground, this is definitely a decent looking game.
However, the experience is not all vroom vroom, as there are a few shortcomings. For starters, the absence of a competitive online component is a glaring omission, while there are no leaderboards to track your best times. The item balance doesn’t feel quite right either, as the person in last place will get such powerful weapons that they’ll be able to rocket to the front of the pack with very little effort at all. Lastly, the interface lacks that final layer of spit and polish that separates solid games from stellar ones.
El Chavo Kart is a fun fantasy racer that really excels when you’re sat with friends on the sofa. The game’s clearly been massively inspired by Nintendo’s moustachioed mascot’s racing games, but the execution is a furlong ahead of fellow copy cats. It’s just a shame that the release is missing out on key components, such as online multiplayer and leaderboards, as this could have been a real surprise package with the aforementioned features in place.