Popeye Kart Racing begs the question, is spinach really strong enough to power a motorized vehicle? The answer, according to this game, seems to be a resounding yes, even if the game's intrigue might not go far beyond that conceit. Popeye Kart Racing does a decent job of simulating the over-the-shoulder kart genre and also has the benefit of the Popeye license, but it's not deep or interesting enough to recommend very strongly.
Popeye may not have any thematic connection to kart racing, but that doesn't seem to matter for this game. In it you pick your avatar at the beginning of every race: the muscularly enhanced sailor; his sweetheart, Olive Oyl; his nemesis, Brutus; or Wimpy, the lover of hamburgers. Although there is only one track at the game's onset, three more can be unlocked by merely beating the tournament. Since the game has only one mode, you will always be vying for the next unlockable track. This requires that you simply remain on top of the point standings for three races.
Although the four tracks differ in appearance, the gameplay doesn't vary in the slightest. Given the view of the game, your only requirement is to stay on the road, Pole Position style, leaning to the left and right during heavy turns and trying to make up speed on the straightaways. To help you, there are three different types of spinach that will contribute to your speed by giving you a little boost, by launching into the most immediate racer in front of you, or by shielding you from the projectiles of others. You can hold on to one can of spinach at a time, if it is more strategically effective for you to wait to use it.
The game's graphics are quite minimal on the Motorola V551. Most of the screen is taken up by the background and the HUD, which displays the race order and whether or not you have a can of spinach in your inventory. It would have been more engrossing if the racer and track took up more than a tiny portion of the bottom of the screen, perhaps by a closer zoom or larger characters. Regardless, it's still quite clear that you're maneuvering Popeye, because you can even see his tiny pipe during turns. You'll also be inundated by a cheerful rendition of the Popeye theme song on the main menu, although there are no sound effects during the actual race, to the game's detriment.
The problem with Popeye is that there's just not enough to it. The game is cute and manages to play well enough, but more races and more items would have made the game much more interesting. As it is, the value of the game suffers at the hands of its lack of content. Karting fans should look elsewhere for their racing fix.