Hands-On: Jimmie Johnson’s Anything With An Engine

I never take games like Jimmie Johnson’s Anything With An Engine too seriously. But then again, when you’re racing on a looney track as grandmother in a shopping cart, it’s clear that they’re not games created with a “serious” reception in mind.

I got my hands on the upcoming Mario Kart-esque racer, coming to “all three major home consoles” this year, at PAX East, last week. And while it’s not something I’d jump out of my seat to purchase, it’s silly, fun, and enjoyable (especially when company’s over).

I played two tracks on the racer — the first alone, and the second in split-screen multiplayer against Matt. Pimped out in my granny mobile during the first race, I drove my way around a stage named “Castle Crash,” filled with tight turns and fiery village homes. Each stage is filled with plenty of obstacles and traps; towards the end of a lap in “Castle Crash,” if you don’t drift (or power slide, as its called in the game) tight enough, your vehicle will swing into a boost platform that drives you backwards and into the water. On the very same stage, as I fell behind in the race (I was playing on “Pro” difficulty, leave me alone), alternate paths opened up to help me catch up with my opponents.

As it’s like Mario Kart, or even ModNation Racers (minus the creation), each vehicle has its own unique set of weapons and defense. The granny, for example, puts up bananas on the back of her shopping cart to block from oncoming attacks. She can also drop the bananas and use them as mines. As you’ll constantly find yourself being attacked, each stage has its own pit stop where you can drive by and repair your kart. You’ll also gain nitro boosts, while driving on the course, which are pretty self-explanatory — your kart emits sexy blue fire to push you ahead.

Perhaps one of the game’s biggest highlights is its vast multiplayer features. The only multiplayer I was able to experience was 2-player split-screen local multiplayer with Matt, but the game also boasts up to 4-player split-screen local and 2-player split-screen online multiplayer. In addition to the standard race, which was the only mode I got my hands on, there will be five other game modes, including the one-on-one Duel mode and a more intense Matador mode.

As I’ve said, it’s a looney game. It sticks to the philosophy of Jimmie Johnson, the NASCAR racer behind the title, who once said, “I’ll race anything with an engine.” Now, if you want to toss an engine on a shopping cart, cement mixer, or dumpster, you can race it, too.

We’ve recorded our entire gameplay session. It starts off in single-player; the multiplayer session beings at around 6:43.

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