VR Karts is a DK2 compatible go-cart racer currently in open beta that delivers familiar gameplay along with a number of smartly designed VR-specific optimizations.

Still in open beta, with many more additions to go before it can call itself a full-featured game, VR Karts puts you in the seat of a customizable cartoon mini-racer and sends you along your way to pick up weapons and power boosts while you speed around one of six different tracks currently available in the game. Does that sound familiar? No? Are you really going to make us say it?

Fine. It’s like Mario Kart.

Viewpoint Games has managed to create a go-cart-style racer similar, yet different enough from ‘that plumber game’ for fans of the genre to take notice. Yes it has rockets, mines, shields, and power boosts—all very well-trodden territory—but what VR Karts has done in terms of fitting all of those things into a digestible, sim-sick free package, is something to take note of.

Driving off track in ‘that plumber game’ usually meant you were lifted high up in the air by Lakitu, the friendly Koopa who rides a cloud and hooks you to his fishing pole. In VR Karts your view gently fades to black as you reset position on the track. Simple, but effective.

In ‘that plumber game,’ a strike from a turtle shell would toss you spinning in the air—in VR Karts a massive plume of black smoke trails behind you as you slow down for 4-5 seconds, further avoiding unnecessary jolts. It may be anti-climactic to fire a giant rocket that you just picked up, targeted with your gaze reticle and landing straight into the back of your enemy, with only a bit of smoke to show for your efforts, but VR Karts doesn’t once fudge Oculus’ best practices guide.

VR Karts castle
one of six tracks featuring cartoon castles and whimsical hot air ballons

In fact, the only jarring part of racing in VR Karts is the occasional back tire nudge from another player, which invariably spins you out into the wall.

See Also: We Preview ‘Crystal Rift’ on the Oculus Rift – Now Available on Steam Early Access.

Right now only 2 real weapons are available—the rocket and the mine—both deflected by a third option, a shield orb that you can deploy when you hear your incoming rocket alarm sound. You can pick up and store boosts for strategic moments, and with the latest update even drift around the track to make turning that much easier.

Download VR Karts on Steam Early Access

VR Karts supports gamepads, racing wheels, and keyboards, and lays out all of the input details (besides the keyboard strangely enough) on your tablet back at the delightfully cheery cartoon trailer. The open beta currently features quickrace mode and championship mode, both with AI racing bots of varying ability.

VR Karts rocket
watch out for unavoidable rockets… because… you can’t avoid them.

After playing VR Karts, I came out wanting what most everyone wants at this stage of development; more weapons, more maps, and more difficult tracks. Above all though, the game is still missing an online mode, which is currently a grayed-out option. Developer Neil Campbell told us that the team is “working on online multiplayer and actually have it up and running in the office, but it’ll be a few updates yet until we’re happy to release it.”

After all, the most fun part of ‘that plumber game’ wasn’t the endless championship modes against bots or the cute recognizable characters, it was the opportunity to crush your friends and younger siblings under the weight of you ego, something we hope we’ll be able to do in the near future with VR Karts.

VR Karts has good bones to rest on while in open beta and respects VR’s best practices, but needs to push nearly every aspect of the game before it can call itself full-featured. Wider selection of in-game music, more weapons, tracks, and multiplayer mode will make this game worth more than the current $12.99 price tag, which have all been promised down the road for full launch.

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  • AJ@VRSFX

    The music is great! A reverent homage to the series we all love.

    It’s tough to do a racing game justice in a Youtube preview because the pacing just looks a little slow compared to other kart racers, but if you’ve ever tried VR, you know what looks slow on Youtube might just feel gut-wrenching in a VR headset.

    Can’t wait for this one. It looks awesome!

  • Michael Miller

    What’s the chance this gets ported to Gear VR?

  • eric

    how do do i get on it ? anyways