Anything with an Engine is anything but fun

Pro tip: Mines can be used to attack people behind you

This Weekly Kusoge comes courtesy of a request from Destructoid’s favorite child, Wes Tacos. I bring this up to drag out the fact that he’s an enabler. When kusoge has reduced me to a bitter husk of a human being, the intervention is going to be really awkward. I’ll point to him and shriek, “this is what you wanted, isn’t it!?” before diving out the nearest window and escaping back into the wilderness.

Anyway, I don’t know who Jimmie Johnson is. I thought he maybe made sausages, but then I realized I was just mixing together Jimmy Dean and Johnsonville brands. Try getting that association out of your head.

Turns out, he’s a NASCAR driver. I am both Canadian and a woman, so my only intersection with NASCAR has been to make the revelatory observation that they’re just driving around in circles. Luckily, Jimmie Johnson’s Anything with an Engine is a cart racer and doesn’t feature many cars of the NAS variety. Unfortunately, the new tracks for Mario Kart 8 just dropped recently and I’d much rather be playing that.

Anything with an Engine Tips

I’ve never really strayed far from the Mario Kart games. I think Wacky Wheels is the only other racer I’ve played, and I didn’t expect to make such a deep cut. I’m pretty sure I own various Sonic the Hedgehog racing games about six times each, but I’ve never played them. And yes, Crash Team Racing people, this is when your monocle pops off and falls into your wine glass because I’ve never touched them.

So, the closest I’ve come to a bad cart racing game is playing Mario Kart Wii with the motion controls on. It seems like its own little neighborhood of kusoge city. I could explore M&M’s Kart Racing or… Ew, there’s a Woody Woodpecker Racing. That sounds like the embodiment of everything I stand against.

James Stephanie Sterling, in their Destructoid days, handled the review of it. Their closing argument was that “Few videogames can claim to be ‘good in a bad way,’ but Anything With An Engine definitely comes close.” While I respect my senpai, I have to disagree. I find very little in Anything with an Engine that I’d actually consider worthwhile.

Anything with an Engine on asphault

Let me back up a step and say that I don’t think Anything with an Engine is a bad game, it just underachieves in every way. There were times during a standard race when I was left thinking, “this isn’t too bad,” and then a time trial or endurance race would come around and I’d think, “this is what hell has in store of my putrified soul.”

The tracks are fine. Some of them kind of suck, and because they’re all built as though they’re tracks within a stadium they feel flat, but they’re not the worst. I never really gelled with any of the drivers. They’re all just conceptually dumb. There’s a guy who drives a bathtub in an old-fashioned diving suit, but he’s a dope. There’s an incontinent sumo wrestler, and I’m not sure if I’m offended because I’m not a fan of toilet humor or because it’s disparaging sumo wrestlers. I wound up playing as the vampire because she has big tires.

The weapons are similarly fine. They’re mapped to the four face buttons, and each driver has essentially the same ones. They look different, and I think they have different efficacies. However, if you select a new driver, you’re not exactly relearning everything. You gradually build up your armaments by gaining crowd approval, which is a neat system. However, it doesn’t make for the most chaotic of races.

Coming into a curve

Where the game starts getting intolerable is with the rubber-band AI. I found it amusing that Mr. Johnsonville told me that “every lap counts” in a standard race when you might as well just cruise until the final lap. Opponents stay glued to you, and if you fall behind, you will noticeably rocket back up to the pack. A few well-placed rockets and nitros at the end is all you need.

The worst is when you’re racing Jimmie in the final event of each cup. Anything with an Engine is determined to keep the two of you glued together. I wouldn’t even use turbo on the first two laps, because I’d just gain speed automatically as I got further away from the sausage man. I’d save my rockets, then just make his life miserable for the last lap. Worked every time.

It’s not the most egregious rubber-banding I’ve seen in a racing game, but it is a great deal more brazen than it has to be. It might be necessary because the drivers aren’t that aggressive, but I don’t think it needs to be quite so blatant and easily manipulated.

Anything with an Engine Pitstop

I mostly hate the time trials, which provide you with an ideal track and a chevron instead of a proper ghost. Then there are the endurance races where you accumulate points the better you do during each lap. It’s monotonous. There are matador races where half of your opponents run the track in reverse, but this mostly just makes it difficult to tell how close you are to qualifying.

Then there’s the voice acting, which I turned off. They have these announcer people who comment on your racing, and they don’t shut up. Just imagine Mario Kart where Toad’s raspy, chain-smoker voice pipes up to tell you that a mushroom can help you get ahead of the pack. It’s like that. The one dude was very insistent on telling me what mines are for at least twice a lap. I get it, guy. They’re good for cleaning people off my tail feathers. They deter tailgaters. I was amply aware of this that past twelve races, maybe cool it on the unsolicited reminders.

Oh, hilariously, there’s an anaglyphic 3D mode. I think there’s a standard 3D-TV mode, as well, but my Playstation TV is in storage, so it was time to dawn my Blockbuster Video branded red and blues. Wow, it sucks. I mean, it doesn’t. It works like it’s supposed to, but I found myself unable to make out small details like rockets in that weird color haze my eyes make when trying to reconcile the two colors they’re seeing. Kind of funny, though. Takes me back to my Rad Racer days.

Boosting towards giant produce

Like I said, Anything with an Engine isn’t awful, I just don’t know why anyone would play it unless Wes asked them to. Who is it for? NASCAR fans? Jimmie Johnson is the only NASCAR driver in it (I think). Is there a lot of crossover between NASCAR fans and kart racing fans? I don’t know.

It’s rare that I feel like I wasted my time playing a game, but this is one of those moments. I have accomplished nothing. I have only learned that Jimmie Johnson doesn’t make sausages. This is time I spent that would have been better put to use on Mario Kart 8’s new tracks. Anything with an Engine reaches this level of unexcitedly, inoffensively bad that I didn’t know it existed. I’m going to put this back on my shelf and just be apathetic towards it from now on.

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Zoey Handley
Zoey is a gadabout gaming hobbyist. She's been playing video games all her life and is a lover of both new and retro games. She enjoys digging in the dirt and picking out the games that are perfectly fine if you clean them up a bit.