For a myriad of reasons, racing games on the indie channel have failed to impress me. Sloppy controls, terrible design, zero sense of speed, etc. There’s always been aberrations and exceptions, of course, namely Milkstone’s excellent Little Racers Street. Still, the vast majority fall short of something you’d like to play again and again. And as for a legitimate alternative to my beloved Mario Kart series? Yeah, keep dreaming, Devs. Yet it must be said that Dirchie Kart 2 ($1.00) plays pretty close.
The theme is essentially the same as that perennial karter; a roster of cartoonish characters (or your avatar), colorful courses set across some of the major cities / countries of the world, and the arcade-y combat (with offensive and defensive items that mirror Mario’s arsenal) that helps jostle the race standings with each new lap. What you can’t glean from the fantastic visuals is the absolute spot-on control for a kart racer, with power slides that feel great and give you a slight boost around corners. It really is nice to get behind the figurative wheel of a vehicle that feels as solid as it does here, from the green light on, with no learning curve.
Dirchie Kart 2 introduces its Cups and race classes similar to Nintendo’s flagship racer, locking the tougher CC limits behind easier to manage courses and opponents, letting you learn the tracks before throwing you to the wolves. Powerups can be acquired one of two ways; either as pickups on the field, or purchased between races with coins that you’ll scoop up as you drive. Regardless of your preference, they can be used to great effect, blasting opponents off the track or boosting your own speed.
Even with starting you off in the shallow end of the pool, the difficulty doesn’t really rear its head until the final class of races. It will almost always come down to who drives with the fewest errors, as AI opponents don’t commit many mistakes, but won’t in turn use much offense in trying to overtake you (I don’t remember a single AI car hitting me with a weapon… ever). Human racers (up to four at once), however, will likely not abide by any such lax policy.
Additional hazards, like edgeless corners and… pigs, will keep things interesting across the playing field. Some of the courses lack imagination maybe, but there’s plenty to race on, including some classic levels from the first game. Save for an annoying red flicker that denotes your failing car’s health (though you don’t actually die in-game, you just manually eject), there’s very little to complain about.
If you prefer an arcade racer over some of its more sim-heavy brethren, you can’t go wrong for $1 here. It’s hard to even find another challenger worthy enough to make it a fair fight. With fifteen-plus tracks, a novel ranking system, three race classes and tours apiece, separate battle / party modes, and tight controls that make it a joy to play, Dirchie Kart 2 pretty much steals the Indie Kart Racer’s Cup.