Review: Mart Racer

Something tells me that the employees of Joju Games were the kind of kids who loved to goof off with a shopping cart, but their mothers would never let them. Now that they are adults, it seems that instead of taking the risk of being banned from a store, they decided to let a WiiWare title fulfill their fantasy. Could the dream of playing around with a shopping cart really worthy of its own game?

In Mart Racer, it’s your job to speed your shopping cart through a supermarket, collecting specific items along the way before your opponents accomplish the same. The shopping carts are controlled by two characters – one person to steer, and another to sit in the cart and pickup and use items. With such unique personalities as gangstas, geeks, Elvis impersonators, and goths, you are sure to find a character cliché worthy of smashing into walls.

Mart Racer offers two control schemes: the typical sideways-Wii Remote tilting and twisting, or a traditional d-pad and buttons scheme. Both schemes allow you to launch projectiles at other characters (which will force them drop one of their items), as well as perform special maneuvers that seem to do nothing at all.

Unfortunately, shopping carts aren’t exactly known for their precise maneuverability. Mart Racer makes no exception. You will regularly find yourself smashing into shelves, booths, and other racers, lining yourself up to grab an item is best done from a complete standstill which isn’t very helpful in a game where you must fill your cart as quickly as possible.

To make your shopping life harder, the vast majority of the supermarket is rendered completely useless to you. You can only grab items from randomly placed kiosks despite the entire stage being packed with produce and goods. So, if a banana is on your shopping list, you may very well find it amongst the frozen foods instead of amongst the fruit. This is particularly frustrating when you can plainly see a bin of bananas right in front of you but no matter how many times you smash into it, you simply can not grab a banana!

Collecting all your items and returning to the store’s check-out before any of your opponents makes you the winner of… whatever it is these insane shoppers are doing. Winning races unlocks more stages (up to twelve total), but there is not a whole lot of difference between them.

In addition to the single-player free play, Mart Racer offers both offline and online competitive multiplayer supporting up to four players. As expected, however, playing with other humans added virtually no enjoyment to the gameplay and quickly devolved into an unexciting game of shopping cart destruction derby.

One thing Mart Racer does have going for it is an eccentric pseudo-celshaded visual style. Even though the characters are the absolute standard of video game personalities, they all feature an anime-esque appearance and embody their respective trend suitably. The only problem I noticed was occasional pop-in of distant objects, but otherwise the game looks and runs smoothly.

Closing Comments:

When it comes down to a purchase, I wouldn’t recommend buying Mart Racer at any price point, much less the totally unfitting price of 800 points. With such a bizarre premise, the one thing Mart Racer desperately needed was fun and enticing gameplay – something that it severely lacks.
Version Reviewed: Wii (WiiWare)