While F1 Race Stars doesn’t come close to challenging the candy-coloured majesty of Nintendo’s Mario Kart, this cutesy take on Formula One racing offers its own unique charms.
Rather than the fantasy, fairy tale and anthropomorphic racers of other karting games, F1 Race Stars is brought to life by stylised versions of the sport’s biggest players, with household names such as Lewis Hamilton, Jensen Button and Kimi Raikkonen playing dirty and hurling outrageous weapons at each other as they burn around the tracks. The courses, which are all based on real Formula One raceways, are also fun to speed around as each one features parodies of familiar sights and landmarks, Monaco’s impossible chicanes, battling Sumo wrestlers and geishas in Japan, and treacherous stretches of jungle in Brazil. And while most of the weapons are clearly pinched from other comedy speedsters, original pranks such as safety cars that slow down the race leaders and a drag reduction system that makes your ride temporarily invincible add variety to the action.
But despite its cartoon allure, F1 Race Stars falls short of karting greatness. Like in real Formula One racing, you need to pump their brakes carefully to take corners and follow the racing line, which feels out of place in a genre where players are accustomed to keeping their finger firmly planted on the accelerator. In single-player races, the AI of computer-controlled racers is nothing short of brutal, which makes the closing stages acutely frustrating, and while the drivers, tracks and weapons all riff on Formula One themes and tropes, the game fails to bring anything truly original to the karting genre and feels contrived when compared to more established comedy racers.
Reviewed by David McComb