Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: if you began reading this review hoping for a snail-themed take on Mario Kart, you can stop reading right now as this game wasn’t truly meant for you. If — however — you’re the sort of person that likes playing experiences where you ragdoll fling something through the air, and then afterwards watch it tumble about on the ground, this might be more up your alley. Although there’s more depth to Escargot Kart (out now, $2.99) then just having random accidents, watching physics based catastrophes is certainly the bulk of what you’re going to be doing over here.
Your mission is to successfully pilot your kart, without somehow losing your driver in the process, over to each stage’s ending, while also collecting enough golden stars along the way (as these are needed to unlock the next level). Thankfully you don’t need to collect all three of these during a single run, since — considering just how easy it is to dismount your driver — I’m not actually sure such a thing would even be feasibly possible. While not explicitly required, you’ll also want to collect coins — which are either found lying around, or earned via landing upon a giant target at each course’s end — in order to buy upgraded gear for your kart (some of which will even afterwards cost coins to use).
To steer your vehicle you have two virtual analog sticks — one on each side of the screen — which control how fast the wheels on that respective side of your cart are spinning, as well as in which direction (so you’re basically driving your kart as though it were a tank). Below these in the middle of your screen — because that’s a great place to be awkwardly reaching over to — are a rocket and spring icon, which activate your turbo-boost and jump functionalities respectively. Once you’ve hit the springs they’ll disappear and be replaced with a parachute icon (but not in exactly quite the same place); this can be used to either glide long distances, or to level yourself out so that you may actually stick your landings.
Remember when I said earlier that your most likely activity in this game is going to be watching your snail dismount his cart, and afterwards tumble about for a bit on the floor? You’d be right if you’ve already guessed — considering the control scheme I’ve mentioned so far — that this game is ludicrously hard, especially considering the plethora of obstacles littered all over the game’s varied levels. With very little to inform your learning, and physics you’ll need to do much experimenting in order to fully understand, this here truly is the Dark Souls of games involving snails sitting on top of go-karts.
Like I said earlier, for a game like this — where awkward controls, plus ultra-unforgiving physics, both reign supreme — you probably already knew if this game was for you before I got down to explaining how it all worked. I know there’s an entire throng of people out there whom love watching things bounce and flop along, all to the beat of real-time physics, each and every time they mess something up (either accidentally or on purpose). This group — however — is not exactly most of the people out there looking for games, and Escargot Kart furthermore lacks the elements — such as some truly intense gore (a la Happy Wheels) — that many of the more popular physics-based games tend to employ.
However, the controls do work consistently — even if they are quite a bit awkward to manage — so you certainly could do far worse than Escargot Kart in your quest for an iOS based ultra-hard driving game featuring tons of physics-based crashes. Additionally, there’s absolutely no IAP greed here trying to harass your efforts every three seconds (and that’s despite my earlier mention of some upgrades costing coins per activation). Pity the entire package doesn’t currently feature a free “lite” version for people to initially sample, as that would have greatly reduced the risk players currently face in regards to deciding whether or not Escargot Kart was truly for them.
Despite the images this game’s nomenclature might initially conjure up, Escargot Kart most certainly is not a whacky multi-player racing title featuring snail-piloted karts lobbing cartoonish weapons at each other. It’s actually an ultra-hard puzzle-esque game, where even the slightest mistake will usually leave you watching your snail careening disastrously about the ground (all via actual physics). While there’s certainly a small — yet intensely dedicated — audience for games such as this, the further addition of Escargot Kart having a somewhat awkward controls scheme isn’t much helping (but at least they always function in a consistent manner).