Super Tuxkart – PC (Open Source)
SO… this Mario Kart clone is a thing that exists…
Platform: PC (Open Source)
Developers: Joerg Henrichs and Marianne Gagnon, et. al
Publisher: None (Open Source)
Release Date: It’s complicated; for practical purposes, the precursor to the current version became available in September 2006
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Before I dive in, a quick definition:
Open source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone. Open source software is made by many people, and distributed under licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition.
-The Open Source Initiative (OSI)
SO, I’ve been into Open Source gaming for quite a while. My first experience involved building a FreeBSD desktop
system from scratch and playing… well, this game actually. I don’t do as much free-as-in-freedom gaming as I used to, but this particular project is just too neat to not tell the world about. Ready for the traditional student 20 history lesson?
Waaaaay back in the year 2000, some folks got together and made a Super Mario Kart clone for the Open Source community. It was programmed on and for Linux by Steve and Oliver Baker with a simple concept: re-create the genre defining kart racer using only Open Source tools, replacing the Nintendo gang with open source project mascots. Leading the charge would be Tux, the Linux penguin. It was a pretty good game, all told. There were some stability issues, but for what it was, it was pretty great. The project eventually went on an indefinite hold, but was later picked up by BerliOS developers and rechristened Super TuxKart. Technically available
in 2004, Super TuxKart underwent some developments shifts, and the first major version of the game as it is today was released in 2006.
So, what is it? It’s a Kart Racer, very similar to Mario Kart 64. It has pleasant 3D graphics, split-screen, LAN, and Internet versus racing, several versus modes, and even a Story Mode that is very similar to Crash Team Racing. In fact, Crash Team Racing might be a closer comparison. The two games have visual similarities, an open-world story mode, and a plot involving alien abduction. Sort of.
The plot is too threadbare to really get into, but that’s not the point of Kart racers anyway. I mean, Mario Kart doesn’t really even have a plot, and it’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys. So, what’s the gameplay like?
Well… it’s really good. Perhaps not great, but really good. It contains all the usual suspects for a kart game: bright colors, a variety of characters and cars to choose from, silly weapons on the track, and so on. The Story Mode has an open(ish) world to wander around and go to different races, unlocking new tracks as you go. The races are good fun, although not extraordinary.
It automatically configured my PS3 controller (my preferred console controller) with no difficulty, although it did refer to the buttons as “button 1” and “button 2” and so on.
Controls are responsive, and the kart physics are pretty good. The tracks are a shining point; they’re well designed and visually appealing. The AI for your opponents is pretty swell, ranging from barely there in the novice level stages to delightfully vicious in the expert modes.
The weapons are a bit uninspired (bowling balls, plungers, and, I kid you not, “A Wizard Did It”), and the visuals aren’t the best. Another disappointment is that all the characters handle the same – there aren’t any “heavies” or quick accelerators or differences in grip. Whether you’re driving as Tux, Huxley, or Beastie, they all handle the same.
The character design isn’t perfect, either, although that’s not the fault of the game’s creators. The truth is that Tux, while recognizable and a fun mascot, doesn’t have much personality of his own. Still, there’s a small collection of open source mascot racers, with more available to download in mods… which, surprise surprise, a game I love supports.
Within the game itself, there’s an online repository with extra racers, tracks, and other things. This wonderfully easy to use system, no doubt inspired by Linux/FreeBSD package management systems, is a really neat addition to an already fun game. There’s no charge for any of the extra content. You just pick what you want and download. It doesn’t even take long – most of the mods are less than two megabytes in size. Some of the tracks are bigger, but so far I haven’t encountered anything that was bigger than 11 or so megabytes – except the game itself, of course.
All in all, it’s not a great game, but it is a really good one. It’s also completely free (although if you like it, you should seriously consider giving them a donation or helping out with the project if you have the skills; it’s not required, and doesn’t give you anything other than satisfaction, but it’s a nice gesture), and a decent alternative to the Mario and Crash versions.
So, that’s that. Now, where was I in my modding research? Oh, yeah… time to boot up Skyrim I guess…
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