If only real life F1 drivers were as cheery as they are in Codie's new karting spin-off. No moping around grumpily unsatisfied with second place. No pointless on-track feuds. Life's much simpler in a cartoon.
With the full 2012 roster, every driver in Race Stars is caricaturised with impressive realism. Alonso's eyebrows look like they could eat you alive and Schumacher's smug swagger is visible a mile off. The karts themselves are just as accurate, sporting all the liveries that make the real things driveable moneyboxes.
The circuits take a slightly different approach, varying from recognisable segments to entirely new detours. Monte-Carlo has the infamous tunnel but meanders off into a forest. Abu Dhabi's opulence leads you on a trip through the incredible Ferrari world, but retains the lit up hotel portion. Each track is recognisably rooted in F1, but there's enough creativity here to let the karting go suitably wild.
Heading through the huge career mode, you tackle cup events to earn rewards and trophies. With 11 tracks on offer, you're going to see them all quickly, but Race Stars packs enough modes to just about keep things fresh. Standard races and eliminations are mixed with interesting modes like Refuel, where you have to stay in the lead whilst picking up fuel to keep your car going, and Sector Snatch, where you have to earn the top spot in the timings on marked sections of the track.
It's a shame, then, that it throws the one thing that makes karting games so addictive out of the cockpit - drifting. Without drifting, you're left to tackle the on-track action as you would with any other racer, and while the power-ups keep things fun and kart-y, there's no begging incentive for you to memorise tracks like the back of your hand. There's nothing compelling you to stay up until ridiculous o'clock with your mates logging record-breaking lap times. You have to actually use the brakes. It's sacrilege.
The result is a title that feels like it's gripped by identity crisis, unable to let go of its F1 origins to the degree required to be a great karting game. Instead, we get a curious hybrid that's fun, but not essential for either end of the market.
By Sam White
Pretty, fun, but confused
- Looks gorgeous
- Commendable F1 detail
- Nicely adapted tracks...
- ...but there are only 11 of them
- No drifting