PSN Review: TNT Racers



If you lack a Nintendo console, or just feel like playing Mario Kart on a budget, TNT Racers is a pretty great way to go. Taking heaps of inspiration from cartoony cart racers like Mario Kart, Mashed and Micro Machines, the set-up for TNT Racers is a simple and familiar one: Play alone or grab up to three friends and take to a colourful racetrack, beating your opponents by either speeding ahead of them far enough to drag them off-camera, knocking them off the landscape or destroying their car completely with the help of some creatively destructive power-ups dotted around the track.

Adopting a cartoon-style aesthetic, with simple, colourful but slick and pretty charming graphics, the wacky power-ups are mostly familiar spins on the essential favourites. Mines can be dropped in the path of other racers, rockets (which prove strangely weak and ineffective) home in on the lead car, oil slicks can send rivals skidding around, smoke blowers can prove devastating if enemies lose track of their car in the fog during precarious turns, speed boosts give you the chance to catch up to those in front and a toolbox can repair your car before it’s destroyed. Some of the more cartoonish power-ups are a little more fun and creative: A plunger can be fired out with a weight attached to slow the leading car (or send them plummeting if weighted down during jumps over canyons), a gigantic hammer can erupt from your car to pound the ground and throw other cars off, while one power-up has your car momentarily balloon in size, knocking your rival off the track if timed right.
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So far, so familiar. But in a cool and incredibly welcome twist, being knocked off the track doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the running. In Shadow Racing mode, you’ll return from destruction as a phantom car with the ability to collect coins or snag power-ups and use them to mess with your enemies from beyond the junkyard grave. Collect enough cash or destruction points and you can still win the race even if you’ve been reduced to a pile of axles and sparkplugs. It’s a really great little ‘down, but not out’ option that offers a fun change from the usual post-crash practice of sitting around mopily until everyone else finishes.

Plenty of other game modes are thrown in for variety, from knockout rounds which give you points for each opponent you destroy, score modes which tally the damage you do to other racers and the coins you collect along the way, destruction challenges which see you hitting as many cacti as you can around the racetrack, to Swift Driver challenges that demand precise drifting as you navigate a route of cones in the time limit without knocking them over. Add in time trials, a variety of cars (from hot rods to UFOs) and tracks (including deserts, jungles and arctic terrains) to unlock and the requisite online scoreboards to flaunt your prowess and there’s a surprising amount of value included for the single player, even if some of them are only minor tweaks of other modes.
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While there’s a stack of progressively tougher challenges across three tiered campaigns of varying difficulty, and far more single player value than a lot of racing titles, the repeat value bread and butter of a game like TNT Racers is in the multiplayer. Which makes it especially problematic that the online servers for TNT Racers are currently a ghost town, and it’s usually impossible to find anyone to play with. While the inclusion of a 4 player local option will naturally be more fun as you go up against your friends in person during post-pub bouts of multiplayer fun, it’s unfortunate that the online plains are so barren.

TNT Racers doesn’t do anything remotely new, but it’s a fun pick-up-and-play cart racer that does exactly what it says on the tin. With colourful, charming graphics and simple but effective RC car-style controls and some fun design ideas, the core game is solid as a rock. Shame, then, that the online multiplayer is a deserted wastleland at present. Even so, with a few friends round, TNT Racers is great fun, and a worthwhile little destructive PSN racer for anyone who misplaced their copy of Mashed or Mario Kart.

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TNT Racers is available to buy on the PlayStation Network Store and Xbox Live Arcade now.