Reviewed for: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Also available for: Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS
From: Monkey Bar Games/D3Publisher
ESRB rating: Everyone (comic mischief, mild cartoon violence)
You need not have a degree in video game history to realize "Ben 10 Galactic Racing" - a kart racer featuring the cast of the "Ben 10" cartoon doing battle on fantastical tracks inspired by the cartoon - is a callback to "Mario Kart" at first blush.
Unfortunately, "Racing's" aim is a bit off. Instead of harkening back to Nintendo's iconic racing game, it ushers in memories of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when cash-thirsty developers turned every kid-friendly property within reach into a me-too kart racer. Like nearly all of those games, "Racing" falls well short in its bid to conjure the greatness of the real thing.
It isn't for lack of enthusiasm on the game's part. From the description of modes to the voice-acted banter that supplies on-track commentary and track overviews, there's a lot of fan service setting the table. The tracks also vary considerably in terms of design, with numerous climates, themes, on-track hazards, shortcuts and other random curveballs and visual touches on display.
Once the actual race begins, though, "Racing" succumbs to a significant lack of refinement. The steering is tenable but not nearly as sensitive as you'd like with tracks that twist, narrow and reveal as many pitfalls as these do. Opposing racers sometimes appear more concerned with banging into you than winning the race, and they're particularly good at nailing you with whatever items they have as you close in on the finish line. Some of the items draw obvious inspiration from "Mario Kart," but others seem designed simply to cloud your vision on tracks that are tricky enough as is to navigate, and when opponents spam you with these items in the last lap - whether you lead the race or not - it's aggravation on top of aggravation.
Rarely, between these issues and some blatant rubberband A.I., does actual racing skill feel integral to winning in "Racing," which is unreasonably difficult on its Easy setting and just obscene on Hard. Be prepared, regularly, to take a lead into the third lap and find yourself somehow in last place half a lap later.
If your love of "Ben 10" is such that you'll suffer through "Racing's" shortcomings anyway, its multiplayer (four players, offline only) very likely will be its saving grace. Many of the aggravations are either non-existent or marginalized (and, if you don't take them too seriously, pretty funny) when there's a level playing field, and while "Racing's" A.I. is unforgivably cheap, its handling and track design are sufficient enough to get the job done on the multiplayer side. There are more refined and more feature-loaded kart racers on every platform - if not "Mario Kart," then surely "Blur" or "Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing" - but if the license matters more than the game, racing with friends is the best way to enjoy it.