Avatar Grand Prix 2

And so we conclude this ill-conceived theme week, but at least I’m playing a game that tries to ape something released in my lifetime.  Out Run and Super Sprint both hit in 1986.  At the time, I was too busy not existing to be a fan of those.  On the other hand, Super Mario Kart was released in 1992, meaning I had been upgraded from non-existent to existent by way of parental fucking.  Crudeness aside, my first gaming memory is playing Super Mario Kart with my friend Meagan at the ripe old age of around fourish, so the series has always held a special place in my cold little heart.  It’s also probably why I’ve never cared too much for kart racing clones.

When I was a kid, I was a huge Crash Bandicoot fan, but I always thought his kart racers were kind of stupid.  It was around this time that the word “generic” entered my vocabulary, because that pretty much describes every kart racer that doesn’t star Mario.  I got a Nintendo 64 for my ninth birthday in July of 1998, along with Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing.  I loved Mario Kart and absolutely hated Diddy Kong Racing.  It was so boring, and its cast of characters so cookie cutter.  Who the FUCK was Tip Top the Turtle and why the fuck should I care about him?  By the way, it was around this age that I first learned what soap tastes like.

I haven’t played a Mario Kart clone yet on XBLIG, but there are quite a few.  Avatar Grand Prix 2 hit and I figured since I was going to do this silly race week shit, I might as well make it the grand finale.  I had my expectations set a bit low, because the screenshots looked a little on the bland side and, well, it’s an avatar game.  Those are usually underwhelming at best and skull-fuckingly horrible at worst.  So it surprises me to say this and you should be surprised to hear that Avatar Grand Prix 2 is actually a pretty good game.

It doesn’t look like much in screen shots, but the graphics of Avatar Grand Prix 2 are pretty solid.

Obviously the idea is “it’s like Mario Kart, but it has your Xbox avatar” and that creates a possible problem right off the bat.  There is a time-honored tradition in racing games.  There’s the fast cars with the shitty acceleration.  There’s the slow cars that handle the best.  And there’s the middle car that’s average in every category.  That gets chucked in the dumpster here.  There’s no karts to select from, so everyone has equal footing.  On one hand, I kind of see the advantage of that.  You won’t have four people fighting over who gets to be Wario, because we all know that Wario is the shits.  On the other hand, not having a kart with stats that cater to your skills as a gamer kind of blows.

Thankfully the handling is pretty decent.  Well, most of the time.  Avatar Grand Prix 2 is easy enough that it has a good pick-up-and-play quality about it.  The accelerator is mapped to the right trigger, and breaking/drifting is set to the left one.  The learning curve for this is fairly small, so you should be able to easily handle corners.  I figured since most Xbox Live Indie Games put as much stock in good play control as the village whore puts in monogamy, the game would handle like shit.  I was proven wrong.  And then I crashed into a wall for the first time.  This was immediately followed by me bouncing off that wall into the opposite wall.  What started as a game of kart racing turned into a game of Pong with me as the ball.

Playing through the game on the 50cc setting, this wasn’t a huge problem.  No, it became a huge problem once I started using the higher speed classes.  On 150cc, the game is significantly faster, and cornering becomes more of a reflex tester.  Hitting a wall on this setting was akin to hitting a bumper in pinball.  My kart was suddenly getting bounced from left to right for nearly the length of a full lap before I was able to correct myself.  And by the time I did, I was usually primed to hit another wall and watch the walls go all Venus Williams on my ass again.  It wasn’t just me either, because both Brian’s roomie Bryce and some random dude online were having problems with the walls as well.

There’s twelve tracks, each with four possible variations.  For the most part, they’re well designed and the variety present is pretty good.  However, they are way too short.  Without exaggeration, you can complete three laps on some courses in just over twenty seconds.  The longest any three-lap race took me was about a minute-and-a-half, which is ridiculously short.  I would have way preferred less tracks that were more substantial in length.   In the single-player grand prix mode, races only have three laps, plus one “qualifying lap” which feels out-of-place, especially when it can begin and end faster than it takes to finish taking a piss.

Once you go online, the options pick up quite a bit.  Races can last as much as 50 laps, which will still only take you about five to ten minutes, depending on what track you select.  Regardless, kart racing is always fun with more people and Avatar Grand Prix 2 is no exception.  I do wish the weapon selection was better.  Some of the items are downright worthless, like one that makes you invisible to other drivers.  In theory, that would be a good thing.  The problem is, it also makes your kart invisible to you.  Sure, the camera still centers on your kart, but not being able to see exactly where you are is not a good thing.  There’s also a force-field weapon that Bryce used while I was right on his tail.  It resulted in my kart being propelled way out in front of his, giving me the win for that track.  Not helpful for Bryce, but hilariously awesome for me.  Of course, if the shoe had been on the other foot, I would probably be getting booked on murder charges by now.

A few other glitches reared their ugly head.  The worst one caused myself, Bryce, and other players to be signed out of Xbox Live.  It happened to me more than once, and I would have to quit out of the game and sign back in for online features to work.  There were also instances of us getting stuck in the walls, which actually proved to be more annoying than the whole bouncy thing.

So yes, I have a lot of bad things to say about Avatar Grand Prix 2.  But I say them out of love, because I had a really good time playing it.  For all it’s faults, a lot fun can be had with AGP2.  Sure, it needs some patchwork to get rid of the wall recoil and a few other niggling little annoyances, but mechanics  here are really solid.  I’ve played a lot of crappy Mario Kart clones over the years, and screenshots of this were enough to set off alarms.  My worries were unfounded, and Avatar Grand Prix 2 is worth your money.  Thus concludes race week at Indie Gamer Chick.  If I ever talk about doing something like this again, you have my permission to spray saline in my mouth, tie a fork in it, and then shove me into a wall socket.

Avatar Grand Prix 2 was developed by Battenberg Software

80 Microsoft Points has never seen anyone actually pick Luigi in any Mario Kart game in the making of this review.

A review copy of Avatar Grand Prix 2 was provided by Battenberg Software to Indie Gamer Chick.  The copy played by Kairi was purchased by her with her own Microsoft Points.  The review code was given to someone else to provide her with a proper online experience.  That person was not involved at all in the writing or editing of this review.  For more information on this policy, please consult the Indie Gamer Chick FAQ

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

13 Responses to Avatar Grand Prix 2

  1. Bollocks to your anti-Luigi propaganda. I’m-a Luigi, number one. No shit.

  2. The signing out problem isn’t unique to this. It’s happened to me in a few XBLIGs. I don’t remember which except Cursed Loot (because it happened in that today). Annoying, especially when you lose an hour of progress. Gah!

    In any case, it sounds reasonably fun. Now I have to play this and Cro-Mag Rally, and see which is the better Kart klone. Sigh.

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Kairi, thanks for the review! A lot of time and effort went into AGP2 so it’s good to know that its out there being enjoyed, and if there’s ever an AGP3, all the feedback I’ve received will be very useful.

    Sadly, although I agree the signing out issues are a problem, we don’t have any control over them so I’m blaming XBox Live for that one. But I’ll let them off for actually allowing us Indie developers access to the service.

    Dave – Battenberg Software.

    • Kairi Vice says:

      Longer courses is what myself and everyone I talked to wants the most. The bouncy wall stuff seems like it could be fixed with a patch, and you should look into that. The course length, that can’t be changed for this one.

      You’ll have 500MB worth of space at your disposal. Use it, and use it wisely.

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  5. Keven says:

    Downloaded the trial.
    First impressions were good. Visuals are ok, controls are ok.
    And then, I finished my first race…
    The courses are WAY too short. When I finished the first race, I thought I had just finished the first lap…
    I’d love to see such game with longer laps, but a of now, I’ll have to pass this one.

    Kairi Vice, Little Racers STREET seems to have good word of mouth.
    Will you try another racing game soon ?

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