When a game has a name like TNT Racers, you'd probably expect it to be an arcade racing game that has plenty of explosions to form some kind of core mechanic. Oddly enough, if you were expecting that, you'd be completely wrong - at least from the perspective of explosions. Instead, TNT Racers focusses on fun driving being the core mechanic, and although there are some weapons to play around with, none really have anything to do with TNT.
So that begs the question, where does TNT even come from? Who knows, but it's not really important. Choosing to forego a story, TNT Racers shoves you straight into the single-player campaign with some challenges, each of which is graded in three difficulty levels: normal, fast and turbo. There are fifteen challenges in each section, and you can only start on the next set once you've progressed through the preceding set to a proficient level.
The maths wizards amongst us will realise that this means there are forty-five challenges throughout the single-player campaign. It doesn't seem like a great deal, and it's not really - each challenge will take a few minutes tops. They're all comprised of fairly similar events too, the only difference is that as you progress through the difficulty levels your car gets faster. Now, that might not seem like a big deal, but given how the driving mechanics work, there is a significant difference between the normal difficulty and the turbo difficulty, and it creates a new experience, even when driving around the same tracks.
In many ways, the gameplay is reminiscent of the old style Micro Machines games. It's a top-down racer, from a slightly tilted perspective and grip is rather loose even at the best of times. The key to speeding around the track is making sure you take corners perfectly, as going in too steep or too wide will see you lose time either on the entry or the exit. It takes a little bit of time to get used to, but after a short amount of time you'll be drifting around corners in no time.
With the game's main mode "knock-out mode", comes another homage to Micro Machines. It's a race against three other opponents and the object is to be the last man standing. In its purest form, there are no weapons available, so it's literally down to who's the best driver, but when weapons are involved it becomes a little crazy. Weapons range from bombs to plungers with mines attached to them, so there's plenty of variety here.
If you're playing in a variant of this called "Score Mode", there's also another avenue which can be explored. You get points for using weapons, and you get 250 points whenever someone is knocked out. However, when someone is knocked out, they can come back in "Shadow Mode", where they can still earn minimal points, but can also attack the remaining racers with weapons that slow them down, or generally disrupt them. It's a nice addition, and it allows for some retribution.
There are other challenges available which focuses on the standard "race against time" objective, but some have a twist as well. There are ones where you need to avoid explosive cones while speeding around and there are others where you need to knock down a certain amount of objectives in order to progress to the next challenge. It creates a nice variety throughout the different challenges that you'll undertake, and some of the later challenges will certainly breed frustration, as the AI become brutal with their weapon usage.
Graphically the game promotes a nice style. Skid marks are left when you drift around corners, so you can usually check where you went wrong, or right the time before, and the different tracks each have their own appeal. The music choice is rather interesting too, as it's more of a comical style than anything serious - it works rather well.
Perhaps where TNT Racers goes wrong though, is with its longevity. Once you finish the challenges, there isn't really much else to do. And even does those challenges can get a bit stale because of the AI. It's a shame the game doesn't have local multiplayer, as playing with other human players in the same room would have created a nice bit of friendly banter. When playing online it feels just like playing against the AI again - if you can actually find people to play against. If you can't, you'll be left to do time trials, or custom races against the AI - not exactly an appealing prospect.
TNT Racers is a quirky little game. It has very friendly gameplay and some nice weapons to play around with. However, the bulk of the game isn't very long and once you finish off the challenges, you'll be left wondering what to really do with the game. The gameplay is fun, but playing against the AI repeatedly gets pretty boring and playing online isn't much better.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Live Arcade.