Xbox One

emoji Kart Racer Review

If emoji Kart Racer has taught us anything, it’s that emoji is a trademark. Which makes emoji Kart Racer a licensed racer, much like, say, Garfield Kart Furious Racing or the Nickelodeon Kart Racers series. It certainly goes some way to explaining the £24.99 price tag which we will politely call ‘steep’. Those poop emoji won’t pay for themselves. 

Arriving in the same week as a PAW Patrol: Grand Prix DLC and KartRider: Drift, a free-to-play karting game, it tells you all you need to know about the competition emoji Kart Racer is facing. We may not have a Mario Kart monopoly over here on Xbox, but we sure as hell have a LOT of kart racers. Emoji Kart Racers has some way to go to stand out. 

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The basics are present and correct. Emoji Kart Racer is up to four-player locally on split-screen, even if it can’t quite stretch to online multiplayer. We’ve played kart games that have single-player only, so we’re not taking it for granted. If you haven’t got any friends then it has you too, as CPU racers fill in the gaps. Races are in a Tournament format, with four cups of four tracks each, and there is a Single Track mode that lets you play each of the twelve tracks on an individual basis.

Knowing the little that we do about emoji, we found the choice of racers to be a tad bizarre. There’s no opportunity to race as the poop emoji or an aubergine: every racer is your choice of smiley yellow face and a series of hats. You can have heart-eyed emoji with a Viking hat, or winking emoji with a pirate hat. Perhaps we’re asking too much, but we found it less than inspiring. Everyone’s the same yellow character with a different expression (which you can’t see as you’re mostly looking at their backs), and a sequence of generic hats. There might be someone in the country who is rubbing their hands together at the prospect, but we found them to be uninspiring and a waste of a licence. And they certainly don’t have different stats or abilities.

Hopping into a race, it’s clear that we’ve emerged into the N64 era. Large, blocky polygons form the background, with tiki statues that look more like GoldenEye enemies, with flat textures wrapped around their faces. It is ugly in a slightly retro, gauche way, so it might fire up some nostalgia cylinders. But mostly it’s just ugly. 

There’s no tutorial or controls screen, so our race experience became downright bizarre. We hopped straight into a race, and immediately found that we were faster – quite significantly faster – than everyone else on the straights, but would crunch into the barrier on every corner. Which obviously got us looking for a drift or power slide button, yet we couldn’t find one. We looked for a brake and couldn’t find one either. And when we slammed into a barrier and got turned around, we looked for a reverse or a respawn button, and – yep – couldn’t find one. 

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They may well be there. We’ve pumped every face button multiple times, but there might be some unholy combination that does one of these things. But either way, we were faced with playing through twelve tracks and four tournaments by winging it. These essentials were ripped from us, and we somehow had to MacGuyver a win. 

Now, there is a kind of power-slide feeling if you let go of the accelerate button on a corner. The speed doesn’t reduce by much and you kind of glide round the corner. Sorted. It’s unorthodox but at least that means we’re not grinding the sides of the course like our drunk uncle. That covers the brake too: we can just stop accelerating when we need to. 

But the killer was the lack of reverse. You see, emoji Kart Racer is a bastard. Its idea of an obstacle is to stack lots of bricks, barrels, crystals and other junk on the track, and then let drivers pile through them. But once they’ve been scattered, there’s an exponentially greater number of obstacles and – get this – every last one of them can send you flying off the track like a loon, jackknifing in the wrong direction, or parking you up against the barrier. It’s a race track through a poorly tidied kids bedroom, and every piece of rubbish can fly you to the moon.

We can’t communicate how terrible this feels, and how much it dominates every single flipping race. No matter how well you are doing, you are one tin can away from dropping to eighth. The harder the difficulty, the greater the punishment for hitting something, and it’s a waking nightmare. Because if you find yourself facing a barrier, or turning 180 degrees, there’s no reverse button to get you out of there. You’ve got to hope that the automatic respawn kicks in (which it does, fifty percent of the time), or that you have enough room and time to spin around with the accelerate button. 

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It’s not only the detritus on the track that can sink you: other racers have a habit of getting in the way too. Kart games will often make a kart ghostly for a period after being hit, and you can see why, having played emoji Kart Racer. Hit someone, and they spin out suddenly, meaning they are now a whacking great obstacle to avoid. When you’re using the green shell-like missiles, which need you to be directly behind to hit, then you’re suddenly in a dilemma. Do you attack an enemy and turn them into a spinning death-wheel? It’s a harder choice than you’d think. 

In an effort to be positive, the tracks are rather well done. Having come out of games like PAW Patrol: Grand Prix, there’s a tendency to group together tracks into biomes, and those biomes also tend to make the associated tracks feel similar. In emoji Kart Racer, every track is something new. There’s a Poundland version of Rainbow Road (but with unicorns), while another has you spiralling downwards like a corkscrew. Each track has at least one differentiating idea. Whoever designed the tracks, at the very least, was on their game and deserves a raise.

Emoji Kart Racer arrives in a clutch of karting releases with a rather daunting £24.99 stuck to its bonnet. It needed to race ahead of the pack, but mostly it bounces from wall to wall near the rear, doomed by poor controls and blockages on the track. Sad face. Angry face. Poop emoji.

You can buy emoji Kart Racer from the Xbox Store

TXH Score



  • Tracks are well designed and varied
  • Four-player local multiplayer


  • Lacks any kind of tutorials
  • Seems to be missing basic controls
  • Like racing through minefields
  • Awkward racing experience


  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to – Joindots
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch
  • Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
  • Release date – 10 March 2023
  • Launch price from – £24.99

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