If you're lucky enough to have a cd-rom drive and have bought the cd-rom version of this magazine then you will probably already know how utterly brilliant SuperKarts is having played it on our exclusive demo (if you haven't, go and play it now and then finish reading this a bit later). If, on the other hand, you haven't got a cd-rom drive, your best friend who has got one has gone on holiday and hasn't asked you to water the plants or look after the cat and you can't "borrow" their machine, then Bummer!
To put it mildly it is quite the best hands-on driving game I have ever come across. Not only does it look good, but the handling is absolutely spot on thanks to a new, sophisticated games engine. Although the chaps have only been working on SuperKarts for a little over four months, they've spent a lot of time getting the handling of the car just right and it's definitely paid off. You can throw your kart into bends, power out of corners, skid through chicanes and generally do anything you can in a real kart and it actually feels as though you are doing it. The graphics are bright and smooth, and the animation is very fluid indeed. You can view or drive your kart from any angle, zoom in and out, tilt the angle of view, adjust the frame speed and steering sensitivity, set the number of laps in a race and generally set things up to be as comfortable as you like.
The shape of things to come
The game has been designed to take the best elements of arcade-style driving games, namely fast and furious action, and combine it with a management race option for lasting playability. As a result, you can either enter a single race or opt to enter the SuperKart Championships. Either way, you race against seven other drivers from around the world, and can choose which country you wish to represent. In the world championship you get to race in a total of eight different circuits in eight different countries, each with their own particular surfaces and conditions. In Russia, for example, you'll be sliding around on an ice-covered track, whilst in Oz you'll be haring round the outback, no doubt avoiding the odd roo. Players must begin the tournament with a bottom of the range 50cc kart and must finish in the top three in every race in order to progress to the next level.
During the race there are various power-ups, fuel, supergrip tyres, etc. to pick up and the better you do in each race, the more you can add to your kart in terms of fuel capacity, turbos and so on.
In the final version you will also be required to make pitstops during a race to re-fuel or to repair damage to your kart sustained during the race and you will get points for number of karts passed and lapped. There will also be bonus tracks to complete if you do particularly well where you will be able to pick up extra bonuses to boost the capacity of your kart.
Although the game works well with keyboard controls, the final version will also be joystick, joypad and even Thrustmaster compatible for a true white-knuckle experience and there will also be an eight-player network facility so you can race with your mates.
SuperKarts looks like being a sure fire winner when the final version is released ("any day now" we are assured). Although the version on show at the moment is unfinished it still looks great and plays quite brilliantly. Miss it at your peril.
Super Mario Kart is the SNES' finest racing game, and if you're not familiar with its cutesy, psychedelic, cartoon graphics, bizarre short cuts and good, fast racing, then I'll enlighten you. Quite simply, Mario, his brother Luigi, Donkey Kong and other "stars" of Mario games (eight drivers in all), hack round a small circuit while firing bananas and tortoise shells at one another. The other main feature of this game is the superb two-player option, featuring split-screen action, and, of course, the chance to beat your mates. Sounds good? It is. But back to SuperKarts.
Instead of Mario Kart's cartoon-style graphics, SuperKarts' programmers have opted for quality graphics which give the game a more serious look. These graphics have the RT3D system to thank for their smooth movement. RT3D is similar to the SNES' Mode 7, which is extensively used in Mario Kart, and enables graphics to be moved fluidly in a detailed 3D environment. Despite the high detail, SuperKarts still runs quickly on a 386.
SuperKarts has been designed as a cross between Mario Kart and Formula One Grand Prix, and in both these games the best part isn't the podium finish, but beating your mates in the multi-player modes. All in all, this is a great fun game. It has all the thrills and spills of Mario Kart while retaining that PC feel about it. A benchmark for arcade driving games.
Download Super Karts
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Karts mean different things to different people. To Damon Hill they probably mean some flash speed toy with which he cut his motor racing teeth. To me they mean this really hopeless thing my Dad made, all balsa wood and green paint, which the wheels fell off the first time I used it. Which probably goes some way to explaining why Damon Hill went on to narrowly miss out on winning the Formula I World Championship while I went on to trying to flog a knackered mini with no rear bumper and a dodgy handbrake. Parents, they really screw you up.
Super Karts bears little relation to the world of wobbly wheels and not-quite-dry paint that was my karting youth. However, it's not quite the world of future millionaires that Damon Hill grew up in either. There are eight drivers on display here, each representing a different nationality. The UK contestant looks like a cross between Big Vern and George Cole. We are in the world of the arcade... in fact, we are in the world of the console.
Kart for karts sake
The set up of Super Karts is basically very simple. In fact. Super Karts as a whole is very simple. Whether that's a good thing or not is down to you. (Write your answers on one side of the paper only, additional marks will be given for the use of diagrams or formulae.) At the start of the game you select your character from a range of racial stereotypes. If you are playing the arcade option you then have to finish in the top three to qualify for the next race. If you elect to play a season (or half season) you race on all the courses, gaining points and money for fast laps. plus, of course, any bonuses you pick up along the way.
Bonus of contention
The structure of the races is so familiar it makes Rocky 5 look like a stunningly original piece of post-minimalist theatre. As you race around the track you can pick up cash bonuses with which to tart up your car - sorry, kart - between races, plus additional oil skid tyres and turbos. All three of these (which, if you failed to collect them en route, are amon the things that can be bought between rounds) can be activated during races. Two out of three are barely worth the effort. The oil is for you to do your famous squid impression (always goes down a storm at the office party) where you spray a slick in front of oncoming cars causing them to... well causing them to do the square root of bugger all as far as I could tell. As for the skid tyres, well, they presumably improve your grip on those oh-so-tricky parts of the course. In my first race I bought loads of them, and, with a grin of triumph, activated about three as I approached a sharp hairpin corner. "I think they're working", cried, accelerating - straight into the wall at the first bend. The only worthwhile bonus is the turbo charge. Activate that and you can flick the v's at your opponents as, with engines blazing, you fly past them - straight into the wall at the first bend.
Not even a special commendation for pulling over to let faster karts pass. I'll never get the hang of these driving games. A quick chat with my more competitive comrades and I began to get a grip on things (except the track, on which I seemed to have no grip whatsoever). The races are over between one and 40 laps and pretty much anything goes. You know those great starts in formula one where everyone crashes into everyone else and the race gets called off (or rather Eddy Irvine crashes into everyone else and then spends the rest of the week-end getting beaten up by the other drivers)? Well the whole race is a bit like that. You crash.
There is a degree of strategy to it. You can choose from a range of enhancements between races (improved engine, better tyres etc.,) but the choice isn't great. It's not like a pre-match session in a race sim, nor is it as fun as the tooling-up shops in games like Super Cars. Borrowing from the world-racing sims it incorporates pit stops, which are quite important if you don't want to find your car spluttering to a halt just before the finishing line. At the end of the day though, (when all's said and done, Brian) it's just a hack around a track.
Super Karts reminds me of a console game or games like Power Drift, which came out on the Amiga about eight squillion years ago. (That's the thing with being old - all you've got left are memories.) To be honest, though, in terms of gameplay Super Karts hasn't really moved on much from these such games. Yes. it's brighter, faster, slicker, but still basically the same at heart. Then again, for a CD game, it's simply dripping with playability. It's great because it's simple and instantly playable, but then again, it's a bit weak because it's simple and instantly playable but then again, it's a bit weak because it's simple and instantly playable.
Oh dear, this reviewing lark really doesn't get any easier. (Reviewer casts nervous eye towards score box. Right. It may have limitations in terms of longevity but it's still great fun. especially in multi-player mode.)
At last, here's a game fo those who were too embarrassed to be seen playing Super MarioKart.
Tracks of my Tears
There are eight countries in the Super Karts tour (one for each nationality of driver). You visit each at least a couple of times (depending on whether you play a half or full season), though I could never quite make my mind up whether the courses were different on each visit It's a clear, driving mind like that which makes me such a natural at games like this. The countries and their course characteristics are...
Russia - Moscow
No ten-mite bread queues to plough into, unfortunately for me. Just lots and lots of slippery, slidy, dangerous ice. This is one course where the old adage "More haste less speed" definately comes into play. Another adage that sprang hastily to mind just moments before I crashed was "These super-grip tyres were a waste of chuffing money."
All very Kraftwerky, this is. Lots of steel, corrugated iron and signs saying uAch-tung". One of the easiest in which to crash and so throw away the lead that you've been hanging onto for about three million laps. It's also the easiest in which to lapse into suicidal depression, start listening to mid 70's Bowie albums and start muttering about post-industrial dehumanisation.
You Know those times when you've had far, far too much beer and you stagger into the tackiest Indian restaurant in town? It's full of wall coverings and more furniture than Is strictly necessary and the colour scheme begins to make you feel dangerously queasy? Well this is that restaurant Very sick making indeedy. Not for the weak stomached (Yes, I think we've got the message now. Ed.)
This is the easiest of the courses (it's the first "level" if you play the arcade version). Lots of sand and a bit of water. Hang on a bit - I think these courses do change with each visit 'coz there was more water the second time around. Anyway, there's not much danger of crashing here so simply turbo your way to the front and hang on in there. You'd have to be a complete mongoose not to win this one.
If this is Sao Paulo then it's about time someone got onto the council to do something abut the streets. When they say it's a jungle out there, they mean it. It's all very green and lush and. therefore, in the true spirit of environmental awareness, this is the one on which everyone chooses to use their oil spray. Another course where it's easy to get disorientated. (Well, if you're as crap as me, it is.)
The last, so presumably the toughest, of the courses. This one's actually my fave. All modern and neo and very, very fast. The Japanese driver recommends hanging back a bit on this one - which is what he does. On the first race I laughed in the face of such caution and did it all at break-neck speed, finishing a glorious seven places behind the Japanese.
Rather like the real thing it's a complete nightmare to navigate your way around. There's a hairpin from hell, which nine times out of ten I'd smash into. (On the one time, I'd over do it, get disorientated and find myself going the wrong way round the track.) Not a great advert for Oocklands life.