You’re probably wondering why there’s a review of Race with Ryan – a kart racer based on the kids’ YouTube channel Ryan’s World – on the vaunted pages of A Most Agreeable Pastime.
To be honest, I questioned whether this review was even something I wanted to do. But I did it because I feel that games for kids aren’t covered in games media properly, if at all. Both you and I know just from looking at screenshots and the YouTube channel that this game isn’t going to dethrone the likes of Mario Kart any time soon. But that isn’t the point. I took the opportunity to write about Race with Ryan as a way to bond with my youngest son, who is four. Ryan’s World is what he is into at the moment, and this is a game that is targeted towards him. So I wondered – what if I wrote a review through his eyes? What would he think of its design, its structure, its presentation? Would it even matter?
Spoiler: it does.
Race with Ryan is what you expect it to be: a light kart-racing game with the requisite modes, the necessary power-ups and a plethora of unlockable racers that gives Super Smash Bros. Ultimate a run for its money. This last bit is important because Ryan’s World started off as a channel about a little boy and his family who opened and played with toys, and it is now an empire with a cast of affable anthropomorphic characters that appear in animated shorts and blind-bag toys that are ubiquitous in stores [In the US, at least, I’ve never seen them in the UK! – Ed]. My son enjoyed getting something “new” with each play session, even if it was an already unlocked character with a different outfit. The game actually outlines how to get most of these things, but my four-year-old can’t read, so everything was a surprise to him.
That’s not to say that the game proper wasn’t fun for him, though. While thematically the game is diverse, with stages set around a toy-laden bedroom, palm-tree-and-sand covered beaches and medieval castles, the course design isn’t memorable. Courses divert in a lot of places and lack distinguishable landmarks, so if I attempted to tell my son to take a shortcut or go in a certain direction, it basically went in one ear and out the other. In the grand scheme of things, though, it didn’t matter – chiefly because it didn’t matter a whole lot to him if he won, so long as he was having a good time.
It was easy for him to find the fun he was seeking because Race with Ryan has very good accessibility options that make it palatable to just about anyone. You can set steering and acceleration to automatic if you so desire, letting your kids fiddle with the controller and feel like they’re getting somewhere while removing most of the frustration you’d expect if you let a four-year-old loose on a kart racer. That is, they won’t find themselves racing the track backwards, falling into pits continually or haphazardly colliding into other players. My son decided he wanted to control the steering but not have to fuss with the accelerator, and it worked out pretty well. Even though I did the whole “taking it easy” thing on my kid so he could win, he actually held his own pretty well.
Race with Ryan isn’t a game I’d usually touch with a ten-foot pole, but as a piece of software that let me connect with my son, it was aces. When I heard the characters banter with each other before a race I wanted to cringe, but when I saw my son talking back and soaking it all in it suddenly didn’t bother me as much. As someone who grew up with a gamepad in my hand, I quickly realized that you can’t push your tastes on your offspring; but if you’re willing to meet in the middle, you’ll both get something out of the experience.
Race with Ryan was developed by 3DClouds and is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC. We reviewed the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Race with Ryan was provided by Swipe Right PR. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.