...it's a cartoony, fast-paced, simple competetive game with a few novel bells and whistles that make it a joy to play.
TNT Racers is a 4-player top-down racing game that, for me at least, came out of nowhere. In talking with Curtis and Chris on the podcast, I learned that the game was previously released as a minis title, and that this PSN version is similar to the original in many ways. The game features three single player cups and online multiplayer. I haven’t read any reviews for this game, but I would bet that the word ‘casual’ pops up in many of them. Let’s get something sorted out in the introductory paragraph: ‘casual’ is not a derogatory term, and it’s certainly not mutually exclusive to the word ‘fun.’ TNT Racers isn’t a simulation racer; it’s a cartoony, fast-paced, simple competetive game with a few novel bells and whistles that make it a joy to play.
In single player, you play with three computer players in different race types. Time Race, Time Attack, Knock-Out Mode, Smash Route, Lap Race, and Mine Race encapsulate most of the events. There are about a dozen simple powerups that range from mines to the candy cannon, my personal weapon of choice. Powerups are random, so there’s no strategizing or thinking needed in that department. No matter what the objective, though, you’re main goal is to stay on the screen. Falling too far behind leads to your car being knocked out of the race. If ghost-mode is on (it usually is), you will respawn immediately as a translucent racer, badgering the remaining cars and swaying the outcome of the round. It reminded me of Bomberman’s ghost mode, and adds an element of vengeance to TNT’s recipe. This continues until there is only one racer left, at which point the ’round’ ends and everyone is respawned at the point of the track where the race recently halted. Rounds last anywhere from 5 seconds to a minute or two, and there’s practically no down time between stopping and restarting. It’s frantic fun, and it only gets better when you play with other people. Curtis, Brad, and I had a wonderful time going nuts over close races. I only wish the game had a larger online community; I once sat in a lobby for about an hour only to have one person join and quit as soon as I toasted him in-game.
There are 9 tracks in TNT Racers, each with a mirror version that plays surprisingly differently than the original track. The tracks are rather lively, with ostriches, penguins, bears, etc. roaming around just outside of the barriers. The jungle area even has birds flying by every few seconds. It’s a nice touch that adds to the whimsical feeling of the game. While the graphics may not be particularly impressive, they are certainly decent and achieve what they set out to. I haven’t any problems with the tracks packed into the game, but a track editor/creator may have put this game in the 5 star range. The music in TNT Racers is great. It sounds a bit off at first, but after a few races you’ll get used to its lilting, whistle-worthy rhythms. Really, I found myself whistling the title song (which sounds like something you’d hear at a Bar Mitzvah) on multiple occasions while at work. Yes, I whistle while I work. Anyways, back to TNT.
Only a few things peeved me about the game. I encountered a small problem when I initially set my controls to the wrong setting. ‘Whoops,’ I thought, ‘I guess I’ll just change them in the options menu.’ I get to the option to change the controls, change them to my preferred scheme, but the only way to leave the menu is by pressing the ‘O’ button, effectively cancelling the control change. It doesn’t take long to quit to the menu and set up your car again, but I really shouldn’t have to do that, especially since the option to change the controls is there, in the options menu, practically teasing me. Another minute gripe is that you progress linearly. If you get up to a challenge that is particularly difficult, say the final Mine Race in the Turbo Class, you can’t choose a different mission then come back later. You can only play the race you’re up to, except in the few occasions where you unlock the next level of races.
None of the little problems put a hold on my having a good time with TNT Racers. The stay-on-the-screen, quick-round action is easily understood. Add to this the fact that the music is fantastic and you get a fun little game that will keep you occupied for a fair amount of time. Earlier, when I wrote ‘no strategizing or thinking,’ I think I inadvertently summed up the entire game. No, there isn’t much of a deep racing experience to be had in TNT Racers. There is, however, a bite-sized kart racer that anyone can pick up and play.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
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Developer:dtp entertainment AG, keen games
Release Date:January 2012
Players:1-4 (Local OR Online)