When you think of competitive kart racing games, Mario Kart is the main franchise that comes to mind, with several iterations on all number of Nintendo systems. However, developer Nimblebit is hoping to shake up the kart racing genre with their first offering for the PC, Zero Gear.
It’s hard not to draw parallels to Mario Kart when speaking of a kart racing game, and Zero Gear stays true to the style, offering numerous weapons to use against your opponents in an effort to score an underhanded win.
Fans of Mario Kart will be right at home with this racer, but there are a few drawbacks that keep the game from being as fluid as it could be. First of all, keyboard controls for a racing games tend to be spotty at best, and Zero Gear is a prime example of this. While there are many customization options available for your kart, the aesthetic aspect has absolutely no effect on how well the cars handle. Because of this, the game can seem a little one dimensional, as there’s no reason to use some of the uglier car options aside from earning achievements on Steam.
Apart from the hundreds of different karts, drivers, hats and accessories you can use to personalize your avatar, there are four different game modes in which to deploy seven different style of weapons, from blocks of ice to massive mines in order to deter your fellow racers. Of course there are your standard race maps in which you make a certain number of laps in order to win, but there is also a tag mode, which has you playing bumper cars with one another in order to stay “it” the longest and earn the most points before the round ends.
The target and goal modes are nearly the same with the goal modes focusing on several different themes from soccer and football. All the while, the target mode features a massive Pachinko board for you to try and earn points with by strategically aiming your car. While these modes are fun, they quickly get boring fast, as you can’t use any of your weapons on the Pachinko board, and you’ll soon find that there’s not as much strategy as luck is involved with winning on these maps.
All in all, there are 18 different style maps for you to race on, from the standard looking race track all the way to a western-themed track with tricky bridges and cliffs to navigate. The art style is very distinctive and colorful, but the maps quickly get tiresome as you learn the curves and perils. Since the karts don’t handle differently, you’re always reliant upon the curve ball of your opponents’ weapons to make them challenging after the third or fourth time.
Of course, the customization and unique weaponry are all positive aspects of the game, but I did experience some problems when playing that will hopefully be ironed out in future patches. As previously mentioned, the controls are rather spotty with the camera being the worst of all. While racing, for no reason at all, the camera control would reverse itself, which would have the unfortunate aspect of causing a wreck. This is infinitely frustrating, especially in a tight match where there is no clear cut winner. In fact, there were two or three matches I lost because of this camera control problem.
Aside from these problems, the price point for Zero Gear seems a little high, considering what you’re getting for your money. For $20, you get four racing modes and only seven different weapons; some of which aren’t extremely effective. The kart customization options are nice, but since each kart has absolutely the same handling on the track, the only real difference is aesthetic, which doesn’t warrant the price. As an aside, the game is only available on Steam, and while it features achievements for you to earn, parents of some of the younger gamers that Zero Gear targets may be put off by this distribution platform.
Zero Gear brings a tried and true kart mechanic to the PC, which can be extremely fun in short bursts. However, spotty controls and a lack of variety in weaponry and environments can quickly turn a session of Zero Gear into repetitive play that only die-hard kart racing fans would find enjoyable.
Gamer Limit gives Zero Gear for the PC a 7/10.