KartWorld combines isometric-perspective kart racing with light management/sim elements to give the player a feeling that they are running a successful racing team. Through purchasing karts, racing them and providing services to generate income, the player attempts to rise to prominence in the racing world as a legend.
The two components of KartWorld are distinct from one another, and the game introduces them separately via an initial tutorial that gets players straight into a race and then proceeds to show them how to make money, challenge other players and other possibilities on offer.
Racing in KartWorld is mouse-controlled. The player’s kart sits in the middle of the screen and follows the mouse pointer. The further the mouse pointer is from the kart, the stronger the acceleration. It’s a simple system that works quite well assuming the player’s mouse is in decent condition, though if playing on the Facebook canvas it’s much too easy to move the mouse outside the game window and cause problems. There is a full-screen mode available that removes this issue, but the player is not made explicitly aware of its presence and, oddly, it only works for the racing component, not the management sim. This means that the game constantly flicks back and forth between full-screen and windowed mode, which breaks the immersion factor significantly.
In the management component of the game, the player has a number of options. They may use earned soft currency (and purchased hard currency) to acquire and upgrade vehicles and add facilities to their garage. Additional income may be earned by performing services on cars that queue up outside the garage. Services take varying periods of real time to complete, and in order to perform several at the same time, the player must “hire” their friends as staff members. One “fake friend” is provided for free, but additional ones must be drawn from the player’s friend list or purchased using hard currency. Hard currency may also be spent on premium upgrades, vehicles and speeding up time-consuming services, and may be acquired either through Facebook’s payment interface or by watching partner advertisements.
From the management screen, the player has the option to launch a variety of different race types. Challenges allow players to compete asynchronously against one another by exchanging ghost data, while the option is also available for live multiplayer races. Drag racing and destruction derby minigames are also available for a bit of variety, though there seems to be plenty of diversity in the tracks for the normal races, too. It costs gas to compete in all races, and this gradually restores over time or may be immediately refilled using hard currency.
The structure and gameplay of KartWorld is very sound. Racing is simple but satisfying, and the management component provides enough things to do between races to keep things interesting. Multiplayer races are easy to set up, and asynchronous competition allows players from disparate time zones to compete against one another quickly and easily. The whole experience should be excellent.
And it is, for the most part, until numerous technical issues start to rear their ugly heads. The game froze up completely several times during testing, once with an HTML Error 500 and once simply becoming completely non-responsive. Reloading the game page occasionally lost progress or purchased items — in one notable example, the first kart I purchased and placed in my garage disappeared from the screen completely in subsequent reloads, even though the game still considered me to own it when attempting to start a race.
In the races themselves, things are a bit better, though there are a number of graphical glitches evident on several tracks, where the tiles that make up the map “flicker” in a distracting manner. This doesn’t usually affect the track itself, only the backdrop, but it’s still rather distracting. The frame rate is, at times, a little inconstent, too, even on a powerful machine with decent graphics hardware. There are no complex 3D graphics going on here, so a consistent, smooth frame rate isn’t an unreasonable expectation.
Regrettably, these technical issues are too prevalent and occur too often to be easily written off as something to tolerate. They impact the experience to a significant degree at the time of writing, and thus while the game structure and gameplay is incredibly sound, it makes it impossible to recommend this title without reservations at this time. Once the bugs are fixed, there’ll be a truly excellent Facebook racing experience here — as it stands now, however, it’s just very strong potential.
Once the various issues are fixed, this will be a fantastic game.