If there are two things I love, its cars and cats. So when I saw a small-time Russian game developer called Art Vostok had come out with a title that includes both I was pretty eager to try it out. Meow Motors (orginially released in 2018 but only recently making its way to the Xbox One) at surface level is a basic combat karting game much like Crash Team Racing and Mario Kart. But is was built on a smaller budget so it’s difficult to compare this to an AAA title. Still, priced at R249 for the Xbox One it’s significantly cheaper.
Meow Motors follows a conventional unlock-as-you-progress format as seen in arcade games of the past. At first glance, the selection of cars is quite interesting, with designs that resemble icons such as the Lamborghini Countach, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, Lotus 7, Porsche 930 911 and Austin Mini. Complementing this is a variety of cats dressed in racing suits (each feline with its own abilities to lend you an advantage while racing).
There are also weapons and power-ups that you’ll need to use to take down your opponents during a race. These include gatling guns, shark cannons, shock waves and shields. Depending on the selected difficulty, your opponents will aggressively use these against you, too. This will result in your car getting damaged which will reduce your acceleration and top speed. To solve this there are repair tokens scattered around the course but they are scarce so you have to be precise when aiming for them. Generally, the courses are not too challenging, featuring smooth, sweeping corners. They’re also fairly wide so it’s fairly easy to trace a good racing line. Using the brakes is almost never needed.
That said, the courses are still entertaining in design and feature obstacles that can slow you down and damage your car. There are shortcuts you can take to try to gain an advantage over your opponents but I found they rarely made much of a difference. Another element to consider is boosting and oil spilling. Boosting, as you can guess, allows your car to go faster while oil spilling leaves a streak of slippery oil causing your opponents to understeer and crash out.
There are three different modes in this game; racing, drifting and strike. Racing is a straight-forward challenge. There are 8 to 10 cars with you on the field and each race is completed over two laps. The average time of each race is just under five minutes. As I was playing on the hardest mode I found that the opponents were quite aggressive and would bombard you with attacks. This results in the player spending much of the race in a damaged condition, so any chance you get, you need to secure those repair tokens as they appear once in a while throughout the course. Racing is exciting as the rubber banding system often results in a neck-and-neck finish. What’s frustrating is the inability to shoot your weapons behind you as this would help with securing your position. Still, you can unlock a land mine as you progress, which does mitigate this somewhat.
Drifting is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. The drifting mechanics are smooth and satisfactory but unfortunately the cars just don’t have enough power to hold a drift chain. In order to maintain your speed you need to use the boost function but this is pretty much only good for one corner as the bar will deplete quickly. Drifting does help fill the boost bar but only once the points are secured which means you will be forced to lose your drift chain multiplier (which you will need to reach the targeted score). Along the drift course are land mines to slow your progress but I rarely found this to be an annoyance as the precise drifting mechanics made these easy to dodge.
Strike mode is a straight-up timed battle and my favourite part of this game. It allows you to use every mechanic that the game presents to take down your opponents. Each challenger has to be hit twice for you to score a point. This mode strongly resembles the road rage challenges in the Burnout series.
Meow Motors is an entertaining game that you could play with friends through the four-way split screen mode or by yourself through the short-ish campaign. Poor English featured throughout can become a bit confusing but it's not a game-ruining experience.
Ultimately, this is not the best karting experience you’ll come across but at the price point it’s one that’s certainly accessible. I also appreciate this is a game that can be enjoyed by a both young and old audience. It has crisp graphics, decent mechanics and, considering I didn’t encounter any bugs, it’s clearly put together well.