Wednesday, May 15

Review: Meow Motors [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When it comes to racing on Switch, there’s no doubt that Mario Kart is the king. The thing is, that’s not necessarily a strong enough statement. It’s not so much that the mustachioed mascot and his friends sit at the top of the genre, it’s that the competition isn’t even worthy to suck their exhaust fumes. In the indie space this has been almost painful to watch, though being honest for the most part a bunch of generic mobile ports weren’t exactly putting their best foot forward in the first place. Enter Meow Motors, a kitty-filled game that from a distance you’d think would be for kids. Though it won’t threaten Mario Kart for top billing by any means (being fair, nothing really has for multiple generations on any console) it’s a surprisingly satisfying kart racer that thoroughly proves that with care and effort you can make a worthwhile budget-friendly game in this space.


The first and most notable thing to say about the game is that it feels pretty good when it comes to controls. Typically the worst issue in this space is that there’ll be a floaty feel, that there’s insufficient nuance to turning, and even smaller things like there’s no good way to get an initial boost at the start of the race. These are all elements that Meow Motors addresses nicely and right away it’s far easier to appreciate the rest of the game because of it. The controls are generally tight, there’s a nice gauge that you’re trying to keep in the green as you rev up to start racing, and while the handbrake turns in this game aren’t as great as powersliding there’s still some skill to turning, and a reward for doing it well so it feels really good.


The next area where Meow Motors stands out is in its weapons. Again, without completely copying what Mario Kart does figuring out how to handle these well is a challenge but I think they do a great job of showing some creativity and humor in this space to keep the weapons from being boring or one-note. Not only do different weapons behave in a variety of ways, there’s also an incentive not to use them constantly as after a pause they can get charged up and more effective. This introduces a layer of strategy to the mix that I appreciate and shows some care that again sets it apart from the competition.


In terms of variety the 20 tracks, 10 vehicles, and 10 racers who each have a different bonus associated with them work as a great base. 3 different race types will also challenge you a bit: Standard races where you’ll jockey for finishing position with opponents using weapons, Drift events where you’ll be challenged to make the most of every turn to increase your score and multiplier to meet points objectives, and Strike events where you’re racing against others but your objective is to knock as many racers as possible within the time limit. Yet again, even though none of this is on par with the breadth of what Mario Kart offers the fact that it’s a fraction of the price and provides as much as it does is pretty impressive.


All said, though there’s no question that this is a “budget racer” that can’t compete with a premium genre-defining title, Meow Motors holds its own very respectably. In pretty well every area it addresses the failings of its competition, providing racing that’s varied, nuanced, and satisfying. It looks very respectable, runs smoothly, and sucked me in pretty easily with engaging play I’ve been missing in this space for quite some time. If you’ve been itching for a viable alternative to Mario Kart for a price that won’t hurt your wallet, Meow Motors is absolutely the indie racer to go with.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • The racing itself is satisfying, has nuance, and can be challenging for the right reasons across 3 modes that are each unique and fun
  • Weapons in the game include some surprises and are worth holding onto for their charged versions that are more effective in a pinch
  • A budget-friendly price

Cons:
  • It can’t really compete with Mario Kart (nothing does), but taking the far lower price into account it’s absolutely a solid value
  • Maybe the cute kittens and silly shark attacks won’t be for everyone
  • The position guide to the left always seems to imply racers are practically on top of each other, which makes it feel like under the hood there may be some rubber banding going on, though I didn’t notice it otherwise