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OS Scores Explained Jimmie Johnson's Anything With an Engine Overview (Xbox 360)
Pros
Weapon-leveling system; Unique race models; Local multiplayer
Cons
Bland theme; Cheap looking; Nobody online
Bottom Line
Certainly, this isnít a great game; I would hesitate to call it good. However, if you like cart racers, the low price is worth the risk.
4
out of 10
Jimmie Johnson's Anything With an Engine REVIEW

Jimmie Johnson's Anything With an Engine Review (Xbox 360)

Jimmie Johnson’s Anything with an Engine feels like a throwback. It’s a budget cart racer with "crazy" characters, and a game that would feel right at home on the original XBOX, circa 2002. That’s not to say that it's a game devoid of value or fun. In fact, the game features some innovative mechanics; unfortunately, it’s all wrapped in a pretty bland theme.

Gameplay

Anything with an Engine is a straight cart racer, full of genre tropes like over-the-top weapons and tracks, "humorous" characters and a series of races organized into “cups.” However, three unique elements are notable for their added innovation and fun.

First, Anything with an Engine replaces the traditional weapon pick-up system with one that features a leveling mechanic. As you race, you’ll earn “votes” from the crowd that will unlock various stages of four consistent weapons: mines, missles, “blast waves” and nitro. This “voting” system is a little ambiguous for my taste, but does fit the realty show theme (see Presentation section) and is a refreshing change of pace for the genre.

Next, a damage and pit-stop mechanic adds a strategic element to the procedings, as it does in more serious racing games. Entering the pit and mashing the Y button removes damage and refills your weapons, but also slows you down. Knowing the right time to pit can be crucial to winning races.

Finally, some unique racing modes change things up as well. My favorite is “Matador,” which splits the pack into two smaller groups, each racing the opposite direction. An elimination mode is also fun; Endurance not so much.

Presentation

Again, I find the theme (a realty show based on home-made cars) entirely disappointing and surprisingly bland. What seems like a good opportunity for customization (build your own car?) is instead just a vehicle for uninteresting and stereotypical characters: Sports mascot in an easy chair, farmer riding a lawnmower, etc. Their limited amount of spoken lines help bump them from boring to slightly annoying. 

Visually, the game is a mixed bag. While racing, Anything with an Engine features nice bright colors, but hardly pushes the console’s limits. Many of the obstacles on the track are 2D; I’m not sure if it’s for technical/budgetary reasons, or if the designers were trying to carry a theme. 

You see, the cut-scenes feature completely frozen 2D characters and lots of zooming. It’s almost like a motion comic, if motion comics were poorly drawn and featured uninspired voice-overs. 

Lasting Appeal

The single player mode features a number of “cups,” or series of races. Finishing a cup grants you the ability to race a boss version of Jimmie Johnson. Depending on which character you chose (each has slightly different stats), these cups can be surprisingly difficult. I suspect the AI is doing a fair bit of cheating -- or at least rubber banding -- but that’s not entirely unexpected in a cart racer. 

Local multiplayer is predictably fun, especially considering the over-the-top nature of the races. There’s a certain joy found in getting a buddy to play in a Matador contest without telling him why cars are flying directly at him. Also, because items like the mines are themed to each racer, it’s a pleasure to take credit when he complains that he ran into a discarded nuclear bomb. Of course, be ready for whatever his cart is spewing all over the track.

Online features are present and surprisingly fleshed out -- too bad there’s nobody plays online.

Final Thoughts

Jimmie Johnson’s Anything With an Engine took me back to a simpler time, when these types of cart racers seemed to come out just about every month. If anything, it reminded me of the “ultra-budget” racer, Burger King Pocketbikes, though with much better handling and those unique concepts mentioned above. 

Certainly, this isn’t a great game; I would hesitate to call it good. However, if you like cart racers (and there are surprisingly few on the 360), the low price is worth the risk.

Learning Curve: Not a lot to grasp, though you’ll get better as you familiarize yourself with each track

Control Scheme: Weapons are mapped to the face buttons, which makes sense. Other than that, it’s a basic racer.

Visuals: Not bad in-game, but everything else screams “budget title.”

Audio: Annoying characters are about the only notable aspect, other than Johnson himself.

Value: You are getting what you pay for. This game can be found for under $30, and will probably go down in a hurry. 

Score: 4 (below average)

 


Member Comments
# 1 JerzeyReign @ 12/14/11 12:40 PM
Just commented on the FB page with this: Thought this was going to be something dealing with Nascar -- I was wrong and disappointed. Do they not know that Mario Kart dominates the 'Go Cart' scene
 
# 2 jyoung @ 12/14/11 05:20 PM
The videos I've seen of this make it look pretty fun.



I may pick it up once it inevitably hits the bargain bin.
 
# 3 Blitz1942 @ 12/14/11 06:04 PM
I'll stick with Modnation Racers. In fact, the better track/character/kart creators could probably make that game within MNR, or get fairly close to it. We've already got Mario Kart, Diddy Kong Racing, and Crash Team Racing in it just through community creations.
 
# 4 Blzer @ 12/17/11 10:35 AM
Mario Kart gets too many brand name recognition points. In other words, there are games with better visuals, racing physics, track layouts, weaponry, tournament style play, challenges and AI difficulty, etc. Maybe a single game doesn't have all of those things over Mario Kart, but they get a pass "just because." ModNation Racers obliterated M.K. in my opinion, and I don't think there's any reason one game should get 10x more sales than the other.

Granted, they're on different systems entirely (as well as this game), but I hope my point here is getting across. That said, I watched about a minute of gameplay here, and while I'm not buying it (I also wouldn't buy Mario Kart either), I'm not sure why it warrants a 4 in the end.
 
# 5 jyoung @ 01/25/12 01:34 PM
The demo for this just went up on the marketplace.
 

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