We all know Nintendo hit it big with Super Mario Kart and, as a result, everyone in the business of making games wanted their own cute kart racer. Atari was no exception. Their response was Atari Karts, a little played (and underappreciated) racing game for their 64-bit Jaguar.
The graphics in Atari Karts are nice, however they're barely above what a 16-bit system could do. Sadly this seems to be the case with many Jaguar games, which strikes me as odd considering it was touted as being the world's first 64-bit console. The characters are sprite based instead of polygons, which really isn't that big of a deal. But it does remind the player that the Jaguar is not a polygon- pushing behemoth. The backgrounds are nicely detailed and even include some slick parallax scrolling. The Jaguar's high color palette is put to good use as you can tell from the screenshots above.
Atari Karts' power-ups are wholly disappointing, since the icons in Atari Karts are flat on the road! These flat icons make it significantly more difficult to see exactly what special ability you are about to pick up ... if you can even pick them up at all. This is a significant flaw in a game where power-ups are of importance. Also don't expect the edge-of-your-seat battles found in Super Mario Kart, as all of the power-ups (save one which lets you reverse opponents direction) simply involve improved handling, speed, etc.
There are only a few sound effects during the game, but they're appropriate for the style. There is the "bumping" of the Karts, the spin-out sound, the power-up effect and not much else. However, this is one Jaguar game where you'll actually find music playing during the game. This alone is a sad statement about the Jaguar's ability to put forth music.
Most of the tracks are a fun to play and there are several shortcuts you can use to get ahead of the competition. And much like Mario Kart, I want to warn you of the castle levels where, if you're not careful, you will hit the walls and spin out. Naturally when you do this everyone passes you. It's definitely frustrating when this occurs.
The artificial intelligence is neither too hard nor too easy, but it's pretty obvious they're "perfect" in the sense that they seem to be programmed for a certain path, rarely making mistakes or getting power-ups. Also speaking of the characters, they're all pretty generic. I mean, why didn't Atari use some of their own famous characters, as opposed to the generic guys presented here?
Obviously they weren't going to be able to match the beloved cast of Mario Kart, but the game would have gotten points just for trying.
Overall. Atari Karts is a good game if you're looking for a kart racer on your Jaguar. Sadly this is just about the only way you'll enjoy the Mario Kart-style of racer on this Atari product, so enjoy it for what it is. The sad truth is that this is one of the best racing games on the Jaguar, which says a lot about the sorry state of racing games on this supposed 64-bit console. Fans of the sub-genre will find something to like in Atari Karts, but there's just not enough here to fully recommend.