|System: X360, PS3, Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sidhe Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 27, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
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.