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Renzo Racer (Early Access)
Renzo Racer (Early Access) Renzo Racer (Early Access) Renzo Racer (Early Access) Renzo Racer (Early Access)
This is Renzo Racer, the brand new racing game from developer EnsenaSoft. It recently hit Steam Early Access and I've spent the last few days speeding through the 20 cartoony levels using the 16 adorable animal characters. I know you have a lot of questions about Renzo Racer, so let's crib this.

Is this another kart racing game? It is, but hear me out. From Snake Pass to Yooka Laylee to Skylar & Plux (I guess), this has been a great year for 3D plaformers starring cartoony mascot characters. So given this sudden interest in the genre, it only makes sense that we get a kart racing game filled with characters that look like they should be jumping over bottomless pits in other video games. That's where Renzo Racer comes in. This is a racing game that evokes the bad old days when every company wanted to chase the success of Mario Kart.

You've played this game before. You choose from over a dozen animal racers and speed your way through a wide variety of cartoony levels. This is where the game really shines. The developers do an admirable job recreating a lot of familiar track types, such as the kingdom setting, Pirate Island, several levels made of ice, a futuristic Neon City, the spooky cemetery, the sandy desert and even the Rainbow Road. Just about the only thing missing are the familiar Nintendo characters that make Mario Kart so much fun.

Are the characters any good? They're fine, but only a few stand out. Without a popular franchise or licensed characters to fall back on, the developers have been forced to come up with 16 cartoon animals that kind of/sort of look like the type of mascot characters you would see in this type of game. They pull it off, for the most part. You get Renzo Raccoon, Skyla Skunk, Lenny Lizard, Timmy Turtle, Alex Alligator, Rudo Rat and more. Easily the best character is Sherman Shark, which is dumb in the silliest way possible. If the rest of the cast was this goofy, then we would really have something fun to talk about.

Seeing as we don't know these characters, the developers are going to have to make it a point to create cinemas or intro videos that give these animals unique personalities. There isn't much of that in the Early Access version I played, but I'm willing to accept that some of the character and world building may come late in the development. I have my fingers cross.

Did I just see you racing on water? You better believe it. The one cool thing I can say about Renzo Racer is that there's as much boat racing as there is traditional karting. While the gameplay doesn't change as much as you might expect, it still does a good job adding a new dynamic and giving us different types of levels. I really like the boat racing, and appreciate that it doesn't constantly switch from one type of vehicle to another mid-level like other racing games.

Regardless of whether you're on water or dry land, the real problem is that the handling isn't very good. It's too easy to get hung up on the obstacles or get tossed around when you screw up a landing. It never feels like there's any weight to the vehicles, which is something I'm hoping they'll fix before the finished build is released.

Conclusion: I was genuinely surprised by the amount of content already in this Early Access release. There are 16 characters and 20 tracks to race right now, which is more than some $60 games I've bought. But even with all that content, Renzo Racer still has a long way to go before it's worth recommending. There are no power-ups in its current state, which ends up making each race boring and too easy. It also has crummy physics, characters with no personality and quite a few lackluster levels. These are just a few of the things that will need to be ironed out before release. At $5, this Early Access build is reasonably priced, but it still has a long way to go before it comes anywhere close to matching games like Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing. I'm going to keep my eye on Renzo Racer.
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