Touring Karts is a kart racer from Ivanovich Games, who previously brought us the Operation Wolf-inspired Operation Warcade VR. It’s not a VR exclusive and can also be bought through Steam, but we decided to play it on a Playstation 4 with a Playstation VR headset.
It feels like it’s been quite a while since we had a VR racer, and many of them have been of the more futuristic variety – including the VR patch for Wipeout. I can only really remember one kart racer, and that was VR Karts. It’s been two and a half years since we reviewed that one, so it came relatively early in the PSVR headset’s lifecycle. While it was fun and used VR as an effective way to play a Mario Kart-type racer, it was also woefully short on content. If anything, Touring Karts has that part covered.
Featuring no less than 22 tracks and 30 cars, this is a racer with plenty of gameplay content. Some of the cars are recognizable as iconic real life cars (including F1 cars and a DeLorean), and all of the vehicles can be customized with various (cosmetic) upgrades that you acquire while racing. This ties in nicely to the game’s objective-based campaign mode, in which you gradually unlock new content – and what’s great is that you’re not just tied to single player gameplay while doing so, since everyone knows kart racers are best enjoyed with other people. You can access all the tracks and cars without unlocking them in the quick race mode though, which is going to be a popular choice for anyone just jumping in for a race or two.
Speaking of multiplayer, Touring Karts VR features online multiplayer for up to eight players at once, and we had quite a few players join us when we were testing. It would’ve been great to also compete locally with non-VR players in split-screen, but we assume that’s difficult to pull off from a technical/performance perspective.
Another great aspect about the game, content-wise, are the power-ups – and many of these feel like they were designed with VR in mind even though the game can be played without a headset. One example is a giant hammer that you can briefly wield, and if you’re using a Move controller you can use it to literally smack other racers on the head with it. Obviously aiming and throwing also works great with a Move controller, but we’ll get to the control options later. Besides using the vanilla power-ups you can also combine them for added effect, so there’s a lot of in-race combat to enjoy.
And if that doesn’t make Touring Karts a very complete VR experience, then its control options surely do. You can use the classic kart racer controls and play with a Dualshock gamepad, or use an enhance Dualshock mode when the gamepad’s position is tracked to also act as a means to grab and use power-ups. You can also use two Move controllers, or use a single Move controller for throwing/grabbing while you drive with a proper steering wheel. If you have one, you can even use the 3dRudder controller. The latter works great since it keeps your hands free, but it’s a little weird in how it feels like you’re seated in a self-driving kart where your legs are doing most of the work.
But of course none of that really answers the big question…. how does it play? With all the love that went into the game’s mechanics and controls, the visuals feel a little on the plain side. Mario Kart on the Wii has richer visuals, and that’s over ten years old now. A lot of that has to do with the limitations of VR, but in the past three years we’ve seen plenty of titles push the envelope of what’s possible. Luckily, the flipside is that the performance in terms of frame rates is smooth. There are other small issues though, like floaty controls or fidgety physics – especially when bumping into other racers. The latter feel like bugs that might be fixed post-release, so let’s hope that happens.
Even with that layer of polish that’s missing from the game, this is still a great new take on the VR kart racer and easily the closest we’ve come to a proper Mario Kart experience on Playstation VR.