Although its not the next Toy Story or Shrek, Madagascar is certainly a popular franchise. With two movies under its belt as well as a kid’s TV show bearing the Madagascar franchise name, it was only a matter of time before a new game based on the franchise was released. However, instead of going with a story-based platformer (like what was done with the initial Madagascar movie tie-in as well as its sequel) the third Madagascar game has taken the form of a kart racer. And surprisingly, this may be the strongest Madagascar game yet.
The basic format of the game is identical to basically any other kart racer. You race against other characters around themed tracks complete with environmental obstacles, collectible power-ups, and track-based boosts. The game features 7 different playable characters from the Madagascar universe, including Alex, Marty, Melman, and The Penguins. In addition to the Madagascar characters, there are also two unlockable characters from other DreamWorks properties: Shrek and B.O.B. (From Monsters vs. Aliens).
Each character has their own unique kart, racing style, and star attack. The different properties of the karts are definitely a factor in the game, and players will soon find out which character suits their play style the best. For instance, characters Marty and Gloria both have an advantage in the speed department, but their star attack is ridiculously under-powered. The gelatinous B.O.B. on the other hand is much slower than the other racers, but his star attack is powerful enough to turn the tide of the race in a completely new direction.
The differences in speed, handling, and attack strength certainly make for a more strategic-oriented game, and Madagascar Kartz is one kart racer that actually benefits from this in a palpable way. I’ve played many kart racers in my time, from Mario Kart to Konami Kart Racers, and Madagascar Kartz is by far the hardest of the bunch. The 50cc difficulty level in Madagascar felt like the 150cc level from Mario Kart. NPCs zoomed past me as I attempted to powerslide and boost around the courses, and I could never get myself into a “comfortable” lead. NPCs are also constantly attacking you and item boxes are few and far between (and also frequently stolen!) I was pleasantly surprised by the game’s difficulty level, but I can certainly see how younger players might be easily frustrated by the game’s harsh difficulty.
Modes in Madagascar Kartz are nicely varied, and there is a good mix of traditional modes as well as unique Madagascar modes. On the conventional side of things, we have the Quick Race and Championship modes, which allow you to participate in single or tournament style races. The Championship mode is the game’s main mode, and you’ll have to beat the 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and 200cc Championship modes in order to gain access to all of the unlockable tracks and characters.
However, if you just play through the Championship and Quick Play modes, then you are missing half of the game. In addition to these staple modes, there is a Checkpoint, Time Trial, and a uniquely Madagascar Move it! Move it! mode. The Checkpoint mode is fairly interesting, as it works like timed modes in shooters like Resident Evil 5. You have to drive around the track, collecting hourglasses, and each one will add two seconds to your time. These hourglasses are everywhere, so you’ll have to decide which route will take you through the track fastest but also net you enough hourglasses to keep going.
The Time Trial mode is a little bit more conventional. It simply has you racing solo through each track (with no power-ups) with goal times to beat for bronze, silver, and goal medals. The Time Trial mode is another area where this game’s difficulty level really comes out. No matter how many times I boosted, used powerslide, and took shortcuts, I could never attain a gold medal in any of the Time Trials, and I was amazed at how demanding the Time Trial mode was.
The Move It! Move It! Mode is a lot more forgiving, however. This mode works like a reverse game of hot potato. The goal is to pick up a disco ball and drive with it hovering around your head. Once you have the disco ball, you can run through special party gates to rack up points. But you’ll have to drive very defensively when you have the ball, because other racers can steal it from you by knocking into you. The racer with the most points at the end wins. The Move it! Move it! mode is not the most endearing, but it is fun for a little while and helps Madagascar Kartz stand out from all the other Kart Racers out there.
Visuals in Madagascar Kartz aren’t the best, but for what this title aims to be (and its intended audience) the game looks perfectly fine. The tracks feature varied environments that match the look and locales of the Madagascar, Shrek, and Monsters vs. Aliens films, and there are plenty of interactive and animated elements in the tracks. The characters themselves are not incredibly detailed, but they each have fun kart designs that little kids are sure to love.
Sound in the game is not as good, however. One thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that the mixing is way off if you keep the default setting. Character voices are muted and the background music blares at first, so before starting the game you should probably head over to the options section and change the sound mixing options. Other than this initial issue, the sound is good. All the characters are voiced with sound-alike voice actors of varying quality. The voiceovers can be a touch repetitive, but since this is a kart racer, some repeated catchphrases are expected. The background music is a little more annoying, and I found myself simply turning the background music off after awhile and just keeping the sound effects and voiceovers on.
Madagascar Katz is a perfectly solid kart racer, and it is definitely not the “cash-in” that I was expecting it to be. Though parents and young kids will probably pick this title up based on its name alone, they are actually in for a treat, as the game behind the license is actually quite good. Although the game’s difficulty may be a turn-off for some younger or inexperienced players, I found the game as a whole to be very refreshing. With plenty of modes and unlockable content, there is plenty for franchise fans to enjoy with Madagascar Kartz.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Tracks look great, and character models look good. There’s nothing outstanding about the graphics, but for a kid-targeted racer, Madagascar Kartz looks fairly good. 4.0 Control
There are two different control schemes to choose from and they’re easy to learn. Driving mechanics are fairly forgiving, which is just right for this type of game. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Repetitive music is grating, and the sound mixing seems to be a little off if you use the default setting 3.5 Play Value
There are plenty of modes, and the four unlockable characters do provide some decent replay value. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.