Atari Karts, Atari Jaguar

Atari Karts is a blatantly obvious attempt to copy the classic Super Nintendo game, Super Mario Kart, on the Atari Jaguar, and frankly it falls way short of Nintendo‘s brilliant racing game.

Atari Karts was developed by Belgian company Miracle Designs and first published by Atari Corporation in 1994 and is another Jaguar game that seems unfinished, since it just seems really empty. It’s lacking features (where’s the speedometer?), and the tracks themselves are as dull as dishwater. You can choose between ‘hilly’ and flat tracks, but to be honest even the tracks that are supposed to have undulations feel flat. The karts might move up and down to simulate the feeling of hills and bumps, but it doesn’t look convincing at all.

There are occasional booster pads on the tracks, and power-ups to pick up and use, but none of them really do anything interesting. There are oil slicks that spin you out if you drive over them, but on the winter levels there are holes in the ice that don’t do anything to you if you drive over them… Maybe the developers intended to have you fall into them but ran out of time to add the code? I dunno, but it just adds to the inconsistency that permeates this game.

Graphically, Atari Karts is mixed. While the cartoon racers are not too badly designed and the backgrounds are quite nice (although it’s a shame the furthest background doesn’t scroll, which is a mistake), the courses themselves seriously lack imagination, or any of the clever flourishes that you see in Super Mario Kart. The font on the menu screens is also difficult to read because it’s so badly designed. Overall, I think that the presentation of this game is somewhat amateurish.

Sound-wise, the music ranges from fairly bog-standard ‘muzak’, to some of the most tuneless abominations I’ve ever heard in a video game. The music on the title screen is so absolutely terrible that the person who wrote it should apologise to my ears for assaulting them…

Gameplay-wise, Atari Karts is also seriously lacking. Bumping into other karts creates a horrible jarring deflection effect that can easily turn the game into pinball if you’re in the midst of a number of opponents, and hitting the side wall also slows you down tremendously. On one occasion I got completely stuck behind a rock on the track, because the features didn’t stand out enough for me to notice them as something to avoid. The feel of the kart itself is not bad, but the collision effects are rubbish and pretty much ruin the game.

On my first playthrough of Atari Karts I sailed through the opposition and lapped all the other karts – rather than being tested – in both of the first two cup challenges. Another thing that really bugged me about this game is that – on the opening menu screen – it says “select a challenge”, but you can’t even do that. You can only play the beginner level, and must unlock the others, which seems both unnecessary, and sloppy. What if you were good at this game and wanted to play a harder skill setting straight away? Well, it doesn’t look like you can do that.

I’ve seen people online saying that Atari Karts is “a great game”, and they are dead wrong about that. Atari fanboys are blind in the face of reality, as far as this game is concerned (and many other poor Jaguar releases). Miracle Designs were either completely lacking in their ability to produce a decent game here, or they were rushed to market by an impatient Atari. Or both. But the fact is: Atari Karts isn’t one tenth of the fun that Super Mario Kart is. Yes, it’s still a small amount of fun – especially multiplayer – but it’s still pretty poor as racing games go.

More: Atari Karts on Wikipedia

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