Review – Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers
Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers was a weird beast to tackle during Outright Games’ Unwrapped event. I was given pretty much the entire game to fool around with on a PC for a set amount of time, which made me realize that, sure, for a kids’ racing game, it wasn’t exactly amazing, but it ran well and had some decent level design. It was, at the very least, better than Outright and 3DClouds’ previous attempt at making a racing game aimed at young children. I now got the full version for the Playstation 4, and for reasons beyond me, it’s almost like I played a completely different game than what was originally shown to me a few weeks prior, and not for the best.
I have to remind you that, if you’re above the age of six, you will not like Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers, and that’s by design. This is not a game for us. Between its ultra-simplistic controls, lack of randomized powerups, and being taught physics trivia during the game’s loading screens (I actually liked that, to be honest), this is meant to be a toddler’s introduction to the kart racing genre. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The game has three difficulty settings and a gradual difficulty curve, which are beyond easy for us and even the little ones, but not patronizing at all.
I will start off with the positives. I actually liked the track design in Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers, despite the lack of challenge in pretty much all of them. Hell, the last track in the game is a NASCAR-esque oval. But it’s tailor made to gradually teach kids how to properly drift in a kart racer, before they graduate to Mario Kart territory. I’m fine with that. I also liked the lack of randomized powerups, with each character only having one special move activated once you collect ten wrenches scattered throughout the track.
A great idea in theory, but poorly executed due to a complete lack of balance. Since this game is not about chaotic madness, any character whose special move is more focused on offense than speed feels completely useless. The titular Blaze is, by far, the best character in the entire game as a result, since his ultimate is a really long and really powerful boost. I tried playing with other characters, and even liked the fact there is a friggin’ truck shaped after a triceratops, but none of them are nowhere near as good as Blaze.
My main issues with Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers are its performance and presentation. This is NOT the same game I played during the preview. The PC build (which requires pretty low specs in order to run smoothly, may I add) ran at a nice resolution and 60fps, even through a Parsec connection. Characters looked like their cartoon counterparts in a pretty convincing way. This Playstation 4 version simply does not.
Between the Switch levels of resolution and the fact the game struggles to main a mere 30fps with graphics that do not push the limits of what the PS3 has to offer, let alone a PS4 (or PS5! I double checked on both!), this is in dire need of a patch. I know many kids might not even notice this issue (try teaching a 5 year old about framerates), but there comes a point in which you have to treat your game aimed at toddlers in a professional manner, and not maintaining a steady performance with such visuals just HAS to be an optimization glitch, especially since I did play a much better build a mere few days ago.
Even for a children’s racing game, Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers is lacking in subtance and charm. It can and will be enjoyed by them, especially if they like the source material, but between the shallow amount of content and underwhelming performance, you’re better off just skipping a few learning curve steps and letting them play Mario Kart on the easiest settings instead.
Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers does not run at a good framerate, and I cannot understand why. This is not the kind of game that pushes the limits of what the PS3 can offer, let alone a PS4 (or even a PS5).
The gameplay is beyond simplistic, but serviceable for kids. The physics are dumbed down, there are no randomized items (just the special move each character has), the drifiting is simple and not required to win races. Sadly, characters are unbalanced. Some are way faster and more useful than others.
Even though nothing in here is inherently faulty, it’s not pretty good either. The voice acting is plentiful, but obnoxious. The soundtrack is unmemorable. Finally, the mixing needs a bit of tinkering.
Fun Factor: 5.5
Even for a children’s racing game, Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers is lacking in subtance and charm. Not to mention that there’s no reason for it to run so poorly on a PS4.
Final Verdict: 5.5
Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch and Stadia.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Blaze and the Monster Machines: Axle City Racers was provided by the publisher.