Mario Kart is still the champion of kart racing, but MySims Racing is not that far behind.
Thanks to Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, the racing genre gained a new sub-genre: the kart racer. It allowed the genre to become wacky without sacrificing the basics of racing, and resulted in it becoming a very accessible genre for many fans. Many developers have presented their own take on the Mario Kart formula, with some coming close to greatness and others falling far behind. EA’s MySims Racing, a spin-off of the Sims-inspired Wii title MySims, falls somewhere in between; it’s not an astounding re-invention of the genre, but it adds enough of its own charm to make it a solid title worth trying at least once.
Surprisingly, MySims Racing features a storyline and a reason for the cute characters to race around its wacky tracks. The story is about a small town named Speedville, obsessed with all things racing. When Ace, the leader of the town, suddenly disappears, the town loses all hope and businesses begin to close their doors. Worst of all, the town is being threatened by a bad guy named Morcubus who hopes to buy the town and turn it into a landfill. Its Pixar’s Cars meets Animal Crossing, in a way.
Story mode is where the basics of racing are explained and where the bulk of the content lies, similar to the adventure mode in Rare’s Diddy Kong Racing (N64). When you start a new game file you create a MySims character using the available options. Once you are done you’re taken to one of the game’s winning features: car customization. The MySims series is known for being a title all about customizing your experience, and MySims Racing is no exception. Both the mechanics of the car and the look can be customized to suit your tastes. Want a heavy kart with excellent handling that looks like a shark, but has a bunny for a hood ornament? Knock yourself out.
In order to gain access to more parts and features, you go to the main hub of the town where popular Sims characters are waiting with challenges to offer. Each character has a series of missions that vary from collecting as much items as possible before a timer runs out, to beating a rival’s best time. When these challenges are completed successfully, each character gives you things like blueprints for car models, additional tools, and car enhancements. However, before you can modify your car you need to collect essences, little colored diamonds littered on each track. Once you collect enough essences you can go to the garage and complete your blue prints.
In terms of gameplay, MySims Racing follows the tried and true path established by Super Mario Kart. There are three basic kart categories: compact, mid-size and large. Compact karts have excellent handling but are weak against crashes, large karts have a lot of defensive strength but lack good acceleration, and mid-size karts are a balance of these qualities. You can either select from one of the pre-existing characters or choose your character and custom kart from the story mode.
In order to gain an advantage over your opponents there are presents scattered throughout the tracks that offers defensive and offensive weapons. Some of these are similar to the items found in Mario Kart, such as the soccer ball and the watermelon. But some are unique to the MySims universe, such as the tornado that flips the screen upside down and reverses your controls. Single-player offers time trials and quick races, while Championship mode works like the circuit races in Mario Kart. Multiplayer allows up to four players via splitscreen.
MySims Racing features multiple control options, including Gamecube and Classic Controller support. Playing with the Wii Wheel adds both the most fun and challenge, even if there’s a learning curve to overcome. Players are sure to find a control scheme they feel comfortable with. The only control issues are the fact that the player doesn’t have total control over drifting, and that jumping requires overly precise timing for best effect. Aside from these minor concerns, the controls are solid.
The MySims series is know for its simplistic but colorful look that follows the cute style seen in many Japanese series, and MySims Racing is no exception. It may lack the detail seen in other games, but what it lacks in high-resolution textures is made up for by vivid colors and quirky designs. The tracks are also vividly designed, without being too complicated or confusing. The only blemish in an otherwise beautiful game is that the framerate tends to dip during some of the more hectic races.
MySims Racing does a pretty good job of inserting its own charm into the Mario Kart formula, but its reliance on it ends up being its Achilles’ heel. This feeling of familiarity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since the gameplay found in the Mario Kart series is some of the best ever, but it might not offer enough to persuade those looking for an alternative to Mario Kart Wii. It also lacks an online multiplayer mode, something that Mario Kart Wii offers in spectacular fashion. Finally, despite being lengthy, most missions found in Story mode tend to be redundant with very little variety amongst them.
MySims fans and players in general will find something to enjoy in MySims Racing. Features such as charming humor, likable characters, a soft, clean look and car customization options give the experience a personal touch. It might not last you very long, but if players that give MySims Racing a chance will find a solid, enjoyable, but perhaps too familiar racing experience.