I was horrified by the trailer for Warped Kart Racers, a new kart-racing game that blends together several popular animated shows. But like a terrible car wreck, I couldn’t look away from the waking nightmare of Peter Griffin and Hank Hill racing each other in a Mario Kart clone. It was cursed. And yet, now that I’ve actually played it, I’m even more horrified to tell you all that it’s pretty good, actually.
Released earlier this month on Apple Arcade and nowhere else so far, Warped Kart Racers is very much a Mario Kart clone. But instead of Mario, Peach, or Bowser racing around the Mushroom Kingdom, Warped features a cast of characters and maps pulled from four different animated sitcoms: Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, and uh…Solar Opposites, whatever the hell that is. If you’ve ever dreamed of being Peter Griffin and attacking Bobby Hill with a turtle while you all putter through the streets of Langley Falls, Virginia, well, your dream’s come true.
And let’s be clear here: This is a Mario Kart clone. The folks who made this game know that and don’t really hide it, which is fine. If you’re going to make a game, why not make it play like one of the most popular video game franchises ever made? Seems logical. As a clone of Nintendo’s popular kart racer, Warped features colourful tracks with shortcuts, loads of power-ups hidden in boxes, drifting and boosting, big jumps, gliding, and kart customisation. It’s all here, and it all works as you’d expect.
When I first booted Warped Kart Racers I was shocked by what I saw. All these characters and shows interacting with each other in a Mario Kart wannabe is very odd, cursed even. But just a bit of play revealed Warped to be a fun and well-made mobile kart racer. Like many of these games, you don’t have to accelerate, as the game handles that for you. But you do have to do everything else, like steer, activate power-ups, drift, and brake. All of this can be done using touchscreen controls, which work fine, or you can hook up a controller instead, which works great.
I won’t pretend like I haven’t enjoyed some episodes of American Dad and Family Guy. And I legit love King of the Hill. (Solar Opposites is…a show I’ve seen ads for.) Being a fan of one or more of these shows helps a lot. The 16 tracks are filled with little details and jokes ripped right from the shows. I found myself sometimes slowing down and just appreciating how fantastic the levels look. It’s clear the people who made Warped either really liked these shows or spent a lot of time watching them while making it. Likewise, character costumes and cosmetic items are also ripped right from the show, letting you stick Dale’s Dead Bug mascot on the back of Stan’s CIA armoured car.
(Yes, all of pop culture is merging into a giant pile of grey monoculture mush, but I can still enjoy how cursed all of this is and have a good time while sliding into the abyss.)
And because this is an Apple Arcade game, all of the locked content, cosmetics, characters, and other stuff are not tied to microtransactions or ads. You just play the game and unlock stuff. It’s a nice change of pace from most other mobile games I play. Some daily challenges and the ability to level up each character help add some mobile game grind to the experience if you’re someone who loves that kind of stuff, but you’ll never have to fork over money to enjoy Warped Kart Racers. At least not beyond buying an Apple device and subscribing to Apple Arcade.
If you’ve grown tired of Mario Kart Tour’s in-app purchases, love Family Guy or King of The Hill, or are just in the market for a solidly made, fun to play, and nice-looking mobile game featuring no microtransactions, I’d definitely recommend Warped Kart Racers. And if you prefer card games, Animation Throwdown on iOS, Android, and Steam has been out for a few years and merges all these shows (plus Bob’s Burgers) together into a pretty good Hearthstone-like card game, too.
We live in weird times, but at least some of the games are fun.
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