The back of ATV Quad Kings for the Nintendo DS says that it “immerses the player in the world of ATV motocross racing.” If this is true, than ATV motocross racing is a pleasant sport which is slightly less dangerous than the sort of kart racing commonly practiced by video game mascots. None of the ATVs flip over or explode, the other drivers rarely act aggressively towards you, and the biggest obstacle you’ll ever come across on any of the tracks is an inconveniently placed puddle. This doesn’t mean that the game is terrible, as it provides gamers with a new and largely playable opportunity to drive in circles at potentially dangerous speeds. When the first word that comes to mind when attempting to describe a game about ATV racing is “relaxing,” however, the game may well have run into a slight problem.
In ATV Quad Kings, the goal of the game is to win a variety of races and race tours on tracks that are scattered across the globe. Since it’s a racing game, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the gameplay involving racing, but the fact that the racing is incredibly repetitive poses a problem. Though the tracks that you race on have slight cosmetic differences, like cherry blossom trees lining the edges of the tracks in Japan or palm trees along the sides of the beach courses, the fact that every single course is relatively short, walled in, and covered in speed bumps and puddles means that they start to run together very quickly. Towards the end of the game, it even goes so far as to artificially increase its number of tracks by presenting mirrored tracks as new levels. The racing itself is also a little boring, since anyone who can manage to stay on the road and drive through the middle of any water on the track will easily be able to win most of the races. Races can get a little more intense if you drive into the wall at the edge of the track for any reason, since that, for some reason, is an error that will almost always cost you first place, no matter how far ahead of the pack you were before driving into a wall, but if you can manage to avoid that, things will never get too difficult.
Despite these significant problems, the gameplay in ATV Quad Kings actually isn’t all that bad. It certainly doesn’t have any sort of edge, since you play as an ATV racer without any sort of personality on tracks full of equally faceless, but apparently quiet and polite racers, but as a standard racing game, it actually doesn’t work too badly. There are a lot of vehicles to unlock, all of which seem to handle at least a little differently, and as you progress through the game’s tours, the races certainly do get faster. Because of the game’s repetitive qualities, it also becomes sort of a Zen experience, particularly in the tours that last more than ten races. I am not sure if this is a compliment to an ATV-themed game or not, but it’s actually sort of relaxing to play. Even if it wasn’t what the game was going for, it’s fairly unique, and I can say without sarcasm that I sort of enjoyed it.
If there’s one thing that has the ability to derail any sort of enjoyment that ATV Quad Kings is capable of providing, however, it’s the graphics and sound. The 3D graphics in ATV Quad Kings, while they aren’t good, aren’t really bad in an extraordinary fashion. The tracks are sort of fuzzy and ugly, with brown or gray roads lined with weird looking paper cutout trees and cheering crowds, and the races are populated with non-detailed and blurry drivers, heralded by race girls that look like their faces got erased. Still, they don’t distract from the game’s playability. Playing the game with the sound on, however, is a massive mistake. If you like the idea of being stuck in a room where someone plays a 10-second loop of nu-metal from a stereo with blown speakers while you are surrounded by bees and someone in a room next to you periodically blows an airhorn, then you might love the sound in ATV: Quad Kings. For the rest of the world, however, I recommend leaving the DS silent while this game is played.
If you really want an ATV racing game for your DS and only have $20 to spend on it, ATV Quad Kings is not that bad. There are a lot of races to complete, three distinct difficulty levels, a few different play modes, piles of vehicles and tracks to unlock, and, if you’re really into dune buggies for some reason, there is an unlockable dune buggy racing mode. It isn’t very exciting, which may be disappointing for people who expect the game to have any sort of attitude or personality beyond its atrocious music, but it works decently and has a great deal of unadvertised potential as a relaxation aide for stressed out people that have a fondness for ATV racing.
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