A mobile adaptation of Viewpoint Games’ promising virtual reality (VR) racing title, VR Karts: Sprint is a smartly packaged Gear VR launch title. Featuring single-player championships and online multiplayer competition, it offers an enjoyable first taste of its forthcoming sister release for Oculus Rift.
The obvious and inevitable comparison for VR Karts: Sprint is Nintendo’s beloved Mario Kart series. There’s no denying this has been an influence for Viewpoint Games, as VR Karts: Sprint features all of the tropes established by that series: on-course weaponry, skid turns and speed boosts. However, VR Karts: Sprint isn’t without a few unique ideas of its own.
The videogame is played entirely in first-person. Sitting within your kart, side mirrors offer a view of what’s coming up from behind while the full width of the track ahead can be viewed with head-look. Much of the weaponry you’ll gain upon the track is also targeted with head-look; a reticule will appear in the centre of your vision and when turned green your weapon can be fired on your unsuspecting foe. The weapons available include the typical assortment of missiles and mines, but also lightning that reverses steering and spikes trips that slow the opponent for a short period of time when run over.
On-track boosts and weapon use is taught during a short tutorial which must be played through before additional gameplay modes are available. These include multiplayer racing and 3 championships for solo play. Multiplayer allows up to 4 players to go head-to-head in single races, with a lobby system allowing for racers to gather and exchange short preset text-based greetings and smacktalk. It’s a fun but diminutive experience.
The single-player championships are VR Karts: Sprint‘s standout feature, with intelligent AI opponents and a welcoming progression system. It’s a shame however that there is no indication of your current placement in a race, lap count, nor the position of yourself or rivals on the track. The variety of tracks is rather disappointing also, with the small selection available only varying between 3 locales and within those environments only minor differences between many of the courses.
The handling of the karts is wonderful, with the automatic drift turns being a definite highlight. Sadly, VR Karts: Sprint does suffer from severe framerate drops on occasion during these sequences, not only ruining the immersion but also hindering your driving line.
VR Karts: Sprint is comfortable visually, but far from being progressive. There are few blemishes outside of the mirrors which don’t track the full extent of your head movement, yet still VR Karts: Sprint doesn’t push the bar beyond being comfortable. Chunky character models and low detail scenery make for a comfortable but less than stunning backdrop.
A welcoming taste of Viewpoint Games’ potential, VR Karts: Sprint is a short-lived experience. It’s a comfortable adaptation of the hugely popular kart racing genre for a new medium, and for that Viewpoint Games deserve commendation. However, it would be hard to suggest that there’s not going to be a rival title appearing soon that will likely take VR Karts: Sprint‘s strengths and push the boundaries of the genre further.