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Jimmie Johnson's Anything with an Engine Review

4 January 2012

Jimmie Johnson’s Anything with an Engine is a funny little game. It’s not going to make us rethink our best games of 2011 list, but it provided ample entertainment for the period in between the fall’s big release schedule and the early 2012 heavy hitters yet to drop. Quirky kart racing is the order at hand, and if Anything with an Engine does one thing extremely well, it throws you headfirst into the fiery action with little need for explanation or rationale. The game asks you to hold tight to the well-known standards established by successful, better-known kart racers, yet keep an open mind about what exactly constitutes as a race car.

When Jimmie Johnson says you’ll race anything with an engine, he means it. You’ll sport around in a converted bathtub, dumpster, and even a recliner. There are seven vehicles available out of the box and five more unlockable tricked-out rides. While each kart is unique, with different strengths and weaknesses, it’s the kart-specific weaponry that really gives Anything with an Engine that properly quirky edge. Don’t expect mushrooms or tortoise shells; instead look for giant rubber ducks or toilet brushes. It’s not quite enough to make the game obnoxiously clever, but it does add to the general thrill of each race.

Each of the 13 tracks is equally unique and cut through any sense of seriousness thanks to the over-the-top art style and level design. The competition is fast and heated, rarely with a split second to observe anything other than your opponents’ efforts to knock you off course. There is a definite rubberband effect with the A.I. meaning no matter how well you drive you’ll never get that far ahead of your opponents. It’s not a huge deal, but it was frustrating that the reverse wasn’t true. Anything with an Engine takes a split-second approach to each race. Most races are won in the last few moments, and to catch up after falling off the course is nearly impossible. Better drivers will make out OK, but the learning curve, even at the lowest difficult setting, is annoying. Of course, this competition from you’re A.I. opponents makes it enjoyable, too. They are all good at knocking you around the tracks, they time their assault quite well, but they can also take a beating.

The game progression is setup in a simple cup approach. There are six different race types, and you’ll need to earn enough points to progress through the cups. The race types are fairly common, but Matador definitely stands out. It’s a classic race, but half of your opponents drive the track in the opposite direction. It’s a blast to weave in and out of oncoming traffic while launching goofy mines to throw off an unlucky victim.

There are a lot of familiar concepts in Anything with an Engine. For example, every track has panels that provide a nice boost, and you’ll have to drive over other panels to unlock your weapons. Hit enough of the right colored panels and the crowd gets on your side, unlocking upgraded weapons and even opening useful shortcuts. There is always a lot going on during each race, and the raceway is always covered with mines or various booster panels.

Playing with friends gets rid of the rubberband effect, and offers some quick party-style fun. Nothing in the game is very deep, but that’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. There is four-player split screen and you can play with up to eight players on any combination of split screen and online. There are ranked, quick, and private matches. Need more? The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version of the game support 3D, plus there are Trophies and Achievements to unlock.

The soundtrack is your typical rock and hip hop greased assortment and the graphics are sharp, but fairly rudimentary. That sums up quite a bit about the Anything with an Engine. There isn’t anything glaring terrible about the game, but there also isn’t anything particularly unique or crazy entertaining. You’ll get away with a few hours of pleasure playing through the campaign, and you may laugh a bit at first at the quirky karts and silly weapons, but the game’s staying power rests in your ability to round up some friends to play locally or online. Jimmie Johnson’s Anything with an Engine is an enjoyable kart racer that lacks any depth, but makes up for it in pure silliness.

-The Final Word-

A kart racer heavy on chaos and silliness, Jimmie Johnson's Anything with an Engine doesn't add anything new to the genre, but is fun enough to play with friends for a few hours.
  • Quirky karts and levels
  • Frantic racing
  • Driving head-on in Matador
  • Frustrating A.I.
  • Very little depth or replay value
  • Annoying rubberbanding
6.0
Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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