Top critical review
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Game play is too easy
on November 1, 2011
I have just bought this for my son's 5 year birthday. It is a stand alone video game that connects to a TV set (through standard video-in/audio-in RCA plugs) and plays a racing game based on the Cars 2 universe.
While the box claims to include 18 games, in reality, I would consider that there is only a single game split into a tutorial plus 14 "missions", 9 of which are races on different tracks and 5 of them are somewhat dumb variations of shooting games, where you have to drop "traps" like oil or bombs to hurt chasing cars. The remaining games are just "mini games" used to fix your car in pits.
These 14 missions need to be unlocked in order, usually by arriving up to 5th place in the race. Unfortunately, missions don't seem to get harder as the game progresses.
The game controller (which is the game itself) is a steering wheel and seems quite fragile with its low quality plastic and stickers. I wonder how long it will last. It runs on 4 AA batteries.
Game control is pretty simple. Turning the key turns on the console. The wheel drives your car, gear shift is used to accelerate and break, horn is used for releasing the booster (and also as the action button on chase games) and the F1 butterfly style gear commands are actually used to put the car in a skid right or skid left mode, allowing it to turn on tighter turns.
Running close behind another car fills in your booster power which can then be released by pressing the horn, and this makes your car go faster.
Touching other cars or the limit of the track causes your car to gain damage, and if it becomes too damaged, you will be taken to the pit for fixing. Fixing the car is just a matter of following instructions and issueing commands (turn the wheel, push the gear, etc). Seems to me that your car does not lose positions or time while in pits.
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the graphics and sounds as my expectations were really low. These are probably sub PS1 in quality, but better than 16-bit video games. Graphics are smooth, with good frame rates, textured roads and some blocky polygon graphics. Racetracks are different and their visual change in each race. Each of the 9 tracks are located in either Tokyo, Porta Corso in Italy or London.
Game play however is seriously flawed. First of all, the races are all way too easy. Other cars run much slower than yours (Lightning Mcqueen), so even though you always start in last place, you will be 1st by mid race (each race is 3 turns). Running a race where you will almost automatically win every time is not fun. And really, my 5 years old son won his first race even though he had never played the game before and crashed the car and went to pit about 3 times. He has not been second even once since he started playing.
Since you will always win and since you cannot play against other players, the only goal in this game is to improve your race times. The 10 best times are saved for each track, so at least you can compare how well did you do against previous races or other people. But here another game play problem sets in, as your race times are almost unafected by driving style. Turning, skidding and crashing does not slow you down. I found out that the only thing that can cause larger time differences is the use of the booster.
I would have given this game 1 or 2 stars for its game play flaws, but in the end, as my son is enthusiastic about the game and doesn't seem too bother yet that it is so easy, I went for the 3 stars rating. But really, this is a game for very young kids and anyone slightly older than my son will get bored.
It is really a pitty, because given its processing and graphics capabilities, with better opponents, slightly improved driving simulation (for example, reducing speed while turning) and other additional small improvements, this game could have been a real hit for children in pre console video games ages and for older brothers/sisters and parents.