Karting Superstars Review: A Brand New Perspective

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Original Fire Games are back: Their sophomore effort Karting Superstars is out on Steam Early Access. What awaits racers in the successor in the initial version? We have taken a closer look for our Karting Superstars review.

Image credit: Original Fire Games

Original Fire Games first made a name for itself with Circuit Superstars in 2021. The top-down racer with surprisingly many sim-like elements met critical acclaim, and a console release soon followed the PC version. In 2023, the game even became available on Nintendo Switch.

Following this first game, the Vancouver-based studio now steps up to the plate with Karting Superstars - "a very daring attempt for our company to stay afloat and keep making racing games", as Studio Lead Carolina Mastretta admitted in our recent interview. It also takes Carolina and her brothers Alberto and Carlos back to the roots of their love for racing, which started at karting tracks.

After initially not planning on an Early Access release, the game is now available using this approach after all. OFG explains this with them wanting to work with players to polish and improve the game as much as possible while taking into account community preferences.

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Karting Superstars New Features​

While the first teasers already showed very similar visuals to Circuit Superstars, the most striking new feature was immediately visible in them as well. Unlike its predecessor, Karting Superstars takes racers onto the track using chase cam. This alone offers a new perspective on the action quite literally: Races feel a lot more action-packed, sometimes even hectic, and the sense of speed is increased.

This is despite the vehicles in question are – at least in theory – slower than in Circuit Superstars. As the title suggests, karts are what the game is all about. All drivers use a single model of it, although customization options have been improved for their liveries, as well as drivers’ suits and helmets. Adding to this, more customization options are planned in the future.

On track, the karts handle similarly to Circuit Superstars, meaning Karting Superstars is just as easy to pick up, but also just as hard to truly master. Knowing when to brake and when to keep it pinned, hitting apexes just right and keeping up your momentum can make or break your races.

Additionally, there are the new Kartcade and Kartcore game modes for singleplayer racing. Both of them make use of a flying start, just like many real kart races.

Furthermore, Karting Superstars introduces Adaptive AI, which is optional. If you have ever played Need For Speed, you will know the term ‘rubberbanding’, which is how the system works in this case as well. An optional setting lets players adjust this rubberbanding so they will not run away if the difficulty is set too easy, but will also be able to catch up if it is too hard.

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Karting Superstars' photo mode lets players choose their own perspective to portray the action.

Graphics​

As mentioned above, the style of the graphics has not changed much from Circuit Superstars. Environements clearly bear the OFG signature look, meaning they are charming and feel alive. Fans are back in the stands, tire marks darken the asphalt with each passing lap – the visual atmosphere is certainly there.

However, the karts see a new and different approach. Whereas Circuit Superstars‘ vehicles were small, stylized versions of their real-life inspirations, the karts are fully modelled in Karting Superstars . The same holds true for the drivers, which are now fully animated as they are much more visible than in a car. Both are very detailed, too.


For screenshot enthusiasts, the replay mode now features a photo mode. It lets players place the camera anywhere they like to line up that perfect shot of the action. However, the mode could use improvement in future updates, as the focus is tricky to get right. Objects close to the camera will be blurry – an adjustable focus distance is very much needed in this regard.

Sound​

Veterans of Circuit Superstars will immediately recognize the sounds of Karting Superstars. The Early Access version uses the audio of the previous game, but is still a work in progress. As a result, the karts do not sound like karts just yet. This is subject to change as OFG intends to record a proper kart engine soon.

Apart from that, everything that sounded good in Circuit Superstars also sounds good in the team’s latest effort. This includes the soundtrack, which should sound familiar to players of the first game – although we are not quite sure if we heard a new track or two in the main menu.

On track, sound cues are present for completed laps, the start countdown and even for overtakes. Players can switch them off if they prefer, though.

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There is more to the race than just finishing in a strong position in Kartcade , with additional challenges being available to complete.

Game Modes​

Karting Superstars features two new singleplayer modes called Kartcade and Kartcore. While the latter boils down to being a sandbox for building your own championship, the former switches things up a bit.

Kartcade auto-generates a three-race championship at the player’s preferred difficulty. While their finishing position gains them championship points, XP are also awarded depending on their rank. The latter can be increased by completing challenges during the race – a set of three will always be present at the lower edge of the screen.

These challenges include completing a certain amount of laps without collisions or penalties, gaining a certain amount of positions or hitting a set amount of penalty pylons. Whenever a challenge is completed, a new one replaces it so players can tackle as many of them as they can before the race ends.

With the XP gained, players level up. Currently, there are 60 levels to rise through, and each of them unlock a new customization option. Among the rewards are liveries for karts and helmets, suit designs and different helmet visors. If you want 2013 Indy 500 winner and IndyCar legend Tony Kanaan’s lid, you will not have to wait, however. The Brazilian’s helmet is available from the beginning – and he is an AI opponent on one of the highest difficulty settings, too!

Additionally, Online mode and Time Trial are also present in the Early Access version. For multiplayer sessions, players can choose to open their own lobby to invite friends, join a custom lobby, or join a random lobby if they are playing solo.

Gameplay​

Again, the comparison to Circuit Superstars has to be made when it comes to the gameplay aspects of Karting Superstars. At its core, the handling model carries over, but seems to be slightly more agile to account for the karts’ light weigth and quick acceleration. The result is a fun experience that is hard to master.

Despite the game being a kart racer, it does not include any sort of power-ups or boosts. Instead, it takes a semi-realistic approach to the driving experience, meaning anyone can pick it up quickly. Mastering racing lines and squeeze out those vital tenths is a different story, however – this is just as tough as in Circuit Superstars, but also just as rewarding.

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Track List​

While the vehicle list includes a single kart, six locations are available to drive it. Two of them, Hidden Lake and Centrifuge, are brand new, while the other four return from Circuit Superstars. More are to come in the future, however, as Original Fire Games already stated.

Two locations feature shorter Club layouts, and all of them come with Reverse layouts. In total, there are 16 different layouts to race on at the start of the Early Access period.

Circuits in Karting Superstars​

  • Centrifuge (+Club & Reverse layouts)
  • Copperwood (+Club & Reverse layouts)
  • Hidden Lake (+Reverse layout)
  • Maple Ridge (+Reverse layout)
  • Siena (+Reverse layout)
  • Sugar Hill (+Reverse layout)

AI​

Of course, AI opponents are present in the singleplayer game modes. Up to 11 computer-controlled karts can take to the track alongside the player, battling them for the win. And they are absolutely relentless! If you leave the door open ever so slightly, the AI will take the opportunity to divebomb without mercy. To add to this, they are not afraid of making contact, so a good amount of roughhousing has to be expected.

By default, the AI shares the same names that are also in Circuit Superstars. This can be changed by editing certain files, however. In addition to their competitors’ names, players can also change helmet and kart designs, as well as their colors. The exact process behind this has yet to be explained, though.

Whether the AI bears your buddies’ names or not, some intense races can be had. And tussling with them race after race will likely make you think of them as rivals sooner or later. Looking at you, Nadine Belkacem!

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The AI in Karting Superstars knows no mercy, so tough on-track battles have to be expected. Image credit: Original Fire Games

Karting Superstars Review: Conclusion​

With Karting Superstars, Original Fire Games delivers a successor to Circuit Superstars that is just as fun, but with a fresh perspective. The chase cam does offer a very different look at tracks that players may already know from OFG’s first effort, capturing the hectic kart races well.

Although brand new tracks are in the minority for the Early Access release, the known circuits lend themselves well to kart racing. OFG based their selection of circuits on this instead of recycling all the tracks from Circuit Superstars just to offer more content.

Of course, Karting Superstars’ is nowhere near the amount of content of its predecessor. More is set to come, though, as well as more customization options. The graphics and sounds are likely subject to change as well, at least in part.

There is, however, the elephant-in-the-room question that might come to mind: Is Karting Superstars different enough from Circuit Superstars to warrant a brand new game?


Compared to the predecessor, there is less content and modes for the time being. Do keep in mind, however, that the game is very much a work in progress, hence the Early Access release. Original Fire Games are looking to expand the roster of content and add more modes and ideas that have not made it into their first title. Judging from the development of Circuit Superstars, there should be plenty more good things to come.

As it stands, Karting Superstars is already very fun, although more content and depth would of course be welcome. OFG have been surprisingly upfront with how important the title is for their future, and to fully realize the game’s potential, they hope for the support of players in the early stages already.

The game is available for 17,49€ on Steam. Until September 20th, a 10% introductory discount applies, knocking down the price to 15,74€.

What are your thoughts on our Karting Superstars review? Are you planning on giving the game a try? Let us know in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

You don't need a wheel, it works perfectly fine on keyboard. Actually I think you can only have keyboard.
Believe it or not, pretty much all PC games which don't require a mouse support controllers since more than 2 decades, and all support xbox controllers out of the box (mapping, input displayed and all) exactly like on any xbox console since 17-18 years. It's desperating to still see people thinking that you've to use a keyboard or that keyboard is the norm on PC.

Believe it or not, you never need a wheel, people ask for wheel support because, as surprising as it may be for you, they buy a wheel to actually use it in racing games. For some of us, there is absolutely no reason to play to racing games with a controller, because 3/4 of the fun is in the wheel, so if we can't play to a racing game with a wheel, we will simply get more fun playing any other game with a wheel than that one with a controller. Of course there is some exceptions, games that have non standard controls like Trackmania, with is meant to be played with digital controls, or Inertia Drift which has controls based on the dual sticks.
 
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Believe it or not, pretty much all PC games which don't require a mouse support controllers since more than 2 decades, and all support xbox controllers out of the box (mapping, input displayed and all) exactly like on any xbox console since 17-18 years. It's desperating to still see people thinking that you've to use a keyboard or that keyboard is the norm on PC.

Believe it or not, you never need a wheel, people ask for wheel support because, as surprising as it may be for you, they buy a wheel to actually use it in racing games. For some of us, there is absolutely no reason to play to racing games with a controller, because 3/4 of the fun is in the wheel, so if we can't play to a racing game with a wheel, we will simply get more fun playing any other game with a wheel than that one with a controller. Of course there is some exceptions, games that have non standard controls like Trackmania, with is meant to be played with digital controls, or Inertia Drift which has controls based on the dual sticks.
Not quite sure why you felt the need to reply like a condescending moron, besides to prove you had completely missed the point of my reply.

But thanks for confirming that my 20+ years of owning wheels to play racing games was the correct choice in life.

Believe it or not, I do have a clue what I'm talking about.
 
Premium
Don`t know why they release a new game, they could add the gokarts into circuit superstars.

And i don`t know why some hype CS that much. The reason i bought it was nostalgia. But unfortunately that stayed the only reason.

The game is highly unbalanced - like too easy on semi-pro and already too hard on pro. Something in between is missing. (only example i can`t remember exactly).

There are only few tracks. Only few AI driver names. And every time the same guys wins in a given championship. Absolute zero variety within the AI.
Additionally the praised "physics" are way behind a little game like art of rally fe.

It looks very cool and sounds ok, has this nostalgia touch but i even can`t fire it up for 15minutes to continue a championship, because the possibility to save after races is not given.

Wish the creators all the best, but it was definetly a fail buy for me.
 
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