Preview: VR Karts

As it stands, virtual reality (VR) plays host to numerous videogame experiences. Adventure, horror, science-fiction and even a few educational titles; but where’s the fun? More than 30 years of Nintendo franchises remind us that sometimes the most simple ideas can be the most enjoyable, and that’s the ethos behind Viewpoint Games’ VR Karts, currently undergoing a Steam Greenlight campaign.

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VR Karts isn’t intended to be an accurate simulation of real-world go-karting, nor is it a gritty depiction of the dust and grit kicked-up by high-speed racing. VR Karts is a much more approachable experience. Easy to understand, easy to play and simply fun.

Unashamedly a homage to Mario Kart, VR Karts plays exactly as you’d expect. From a first-person viewpoint the player must dash to first place in an attempt to take home the championship cup. The speed of the karts is much more evident than in many rival titles thanks to this perspective in addition to the ability to look left-and-right and assess the pace and placement of rivals. This, of course, aids the use of the weaponry the player can arm themselves with.

Limited at present, the player can benefit from boosts and hinder opponents in a decidedly unimaginative fashion. However, there is of course much more room to explore the opportunities here which, given the quality of VR Karts‘ preview build it would be easy to assume Viewpoint Games are already looking into. VRFocus expects a full arsenal of ludicrous power-ups by the time VR Karts launches and would be sorely disappointed if that wasn’t the case.

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In terms of presentation VR Karts borrows liberally from Mario Kart once again. The bright greens that surround the tarmac are only overshadowed by the multiple rainbows and appearance of a charmingly pastel castle in the background. A haunted woods track compliments this Nintendo-esque presentation and the spray from the rear wheels is a hallmark of passionate design; Viewpoint Games may be making a ‘clone’ for VR, but it’s one that they’re investing a lot of resources into.

The preview build of VR Karts has a number of technical issues. During VRFocus‘ playtest there were a number of hard locks and crashes. This is unfortunate but perhaps to be expected for a title so early in development. Conversely, the Oculus Rift compatibility is immediate and straight-forward. There’s no issues with duplicating screens or adjusting resolution; VR Karts launches and is instantly playable with the head-mounted display (HMD). This is the kind of compatibility that the VR community has been asking for, and Viewpoint Games have provided the answer.

There’s still some way to go for VR Karts, as there is for the hardware required to play it. At present it’s hard to tell whether or not Viewpoint Games will fulfil the potential of their debut VR project but even now it’s a fun and, surprisingly given it’s intensely close relation to the genre leader, unique VR experience. VR Karts isn’t essential right now, but there’s a good chance that it will become so in the near future.

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