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Cars 2: The Video Game - DS Review

Game Info
Cars 2: The Video Game

DS | Disney Interactive Studios / Firebrand Games | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now
Related Game: Cars 2: The Video Game (Wii)Cars 2: The Video Game (3DS) 
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27th July 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

What is it with developers and treating portable releases of multi-platform titles like an afterthought? Maybe it's the fact that people who don't know any wiser are still purchasing these games. You would think by now that with so many bad examples to refer to, things would be improving for the better. But sadly, as the DS version of 
Cars 2: The Video Game well illustrates, there is a long line of lacklustre, quickly-pumped-out releases with no evidence to suggest this situation is getting any better. Where's the love? The truth is, anyone who immediately thought this would turn out to be yet another shovelware release was not mistaken, and as such, you would be wise to save your money and stay away from it.

    Gameplay consists of two main portions: races and field missions. The first part of the game focuses on Lightning McQueen and his advances in the World Grand Prix, while the second shifts attention towards Mater who, early on in the game, becomes affiliated with a spy organization known as C.H.R.O.M.E. In progressing through the game's Story Mode, you'll bounce between the two regularly, along the way also showing some pretty rough-looking static images that try to advance the plot. In keeping with the theme of the movie, the video game releases have tried to incorporate an air of espionage that, theoretically, would propel players further into the game. But more on the spy theme later. 

    As one would expect, a simple control scheme has been put in place here. The +Control Pad is used for movement, the A Button for acceleration and the B Button is for braking. Blue energy tanks appear on the Touch Screen, signifying just how many boosts you can make by using the L Button. Also found on this screen is a map, a visual of your car's special ability (I'll get to that in a sec), as well as character icons appearing in the order of position. The organization is a bit weird, with some areas that are always empty and don't serve a real purpose. When you're the only participant in a race, the area used for identifying player position is made vacant, leaving two rectangles completely empty. I know for a fact this layout could have been approached better. 

When you first begin playing, the controls aren't very co-operative. Let's say you're driving along a straightaway in the dead center and you begin holding down one of the directional buttons on +Control Pad for just a second, your car will very quickly angle itself towards the wall in a slippery movement. You can drift by holding the R Button as you turn, but this just makes things worse. Soon you come to realize that the only way to avoid slamming into walls on a regular basis is to use light button presses. You're kind of forcibly eased into it after a few races, and at that point, the controls seem more functional. But that doesn't excuse the fact that the controls aren't in an ideal state from the get-go. All in all, the controls just aren't up to par.

    Getting back to the abilities I just mentioned, there is a small set of shared moves the cars can execute once there has been enough energy built up in the gauge. These include a simple ram and a leap -- neither of which are anything fancy by any standards, but the latter move can be useful for crossing barricaded shortcuts. During field missions, Mater specifically has a stealth move that allows him to avoid detection, but that's about the only spy-related ability you'll see. By comparison, the console releases feature gadget-based weaponry. The feeling during races is quite different in the DS version, and if you were to bounce back and forth between the two, you'll quickly surmise how inferior the handheld counterpart is when it comes to race action. 

Cars 2: The Video Game
 follows an extremely predictable game flow that quickly causes players to become annoyed with its repetition. Whenever you play as Lightning, you'll go through the same pattern pretty much every time: a Knockout Race, followed by a Rivalry Race, then a round of the WGP. Then the game switches to Mater for one or two of his spy missions which include avoiding searchlights as you follow a convoy in an airport, disabling cameras in a secured area, and searching a party room for a contact. It's nice to see the spy theme was explored more than what's seen in the console counterparts, but still, the repetitiveness that exists here is less than desirable.

    So it's at this point that you'll probably ask, "Has Cars 2 been tailored fairly decently to the target audience?" Well, the AI is simple enough for a child to overtake with some ease, but that's only after they get really used to the game. The regular appearance of arrows on the overhead display helps you transition into sharp turns is a decent feature, but the controls, as mentioned earlier, just lead to frustration. Taken as a big picture, the fun factor is mild if not low, especially if you were to compare this to other handheld racing games. With all that said, I feel they HAVE adapted the experience to the target audience, but not in the sense that they're looking to make kids smile and laugh over what they see. No, they were counting on kids being oblivious to the problems plaguing this release because of their attachment to the license. 

    There are some issues with the way this game has been designed that go beyond just the controls. First point of consideration is the presentation. The visuals look dated even by DS standards. Most of the character animations aren't bad, but seeing the eyes on the guard Lemons jumping abruptly from left to right was a bit weak. Much like the static cutscene images, some level backgrounds don't look very good. A cruddy white-coloured font is used to display text multiple times throughout the experience, often with no contrast at all. Even the backs of cars don't look very good. When I saw the back of Lightning's car on my first race, I instantly thought of Destruction Derby (PS1). 

The game isn't exactly impressive in the category of audio either. It was nice to see they included voice clips where they could, but hearing the same ones over and over again each time you collide into a wall or an enemy got very annoying. I mean, how many times does McQueen have to tell me to "watch the paint"? As is the custom with these kinds of releases, the music isn't worth talking about. It's all mediocre stuff.

    On a more serious note, there are problems with this game's programming. Framerate reductions take place more often than they should, and floor textures are unstable at times, causing black lines to emerge as you drive along paths. Also, instead of getting stopped in your tracks by a wall or the banister attached to a flight of stairs, your car will sometimes ride up them. Whether kids realize it or not, this is a glitchy game. 

    The Story Mode won't last you more than, say, two hours. It shouldn't surprise you to read that the DS version of Cars 2 is a short game. In the way of secondary game modes, first you have the C.H.R.O.M.E simulator that allows you to play field missions, single and circuit races on stages that you've already cleared. If you just want to jump in and skip the character and region selection, you can choose Quick Race to jump into an event randomly. There's also a Spy Camera option that uses the DSi Camera to take pictures of QR codes on Cars 2 merchandise that can unlock exclusive in-game content. There's even one to refer to in the manual to get you started. 

Inside each game box is a small insert that lists an activation code for World of Cars Online. From there, you can create a new account, select a car, and cycle through a list of name choices for your vehicle. The code acts as a 30-day pass, allowing you to participate in Disney's online Cars 2 website for free, but after that kids will need to ask their parents for a paid subscription. One word of caution: the keyboard used in the game to type in your username doesn't allow you to enter underscores, but thankfully you can still connect to the server by using a Guest account. There is some connectivity between this online world and the DS version of the game, but it's nothing big.

    Also included with the game is another piece of paper with a code that can unlock a bonus character design by connecting to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. As you place in the top spots during WGP races, you'll gain other rewards that require you to do the same thing to find out what you've won. So yeah, that's where the Wi-Fi incorporation comes into play.

    For multiplayer races, the back of the box identifies this game as having both Download and Wireless Play, but it's important for me to point out that Download Play is pretty much worthless. Once the two players have connected, it goes straight to a race on a pre-determined level with a lame track layout. Well actually, that's not totally true. The three-second countdown to initiate the event probably lasts for five seconds with delays in between each number that's displayed. Anyway, once the race is over, that's it. Your friend's experience with the game will end right there. I'm not sure what the selections are like in Wireless Play, but if you're a parent who's thinking your second child can also have some fun with the game, guess again.

The DS version of Cars 2: The Video Game currently retails for $29.99, and to me, this game isn't even worth $15 let alone twice that much. If you're a parent looking to buy this game to stop the constant nagging from your son or daughter, I must tell you that you would be wasting your money. Even for the target audience this game has been designed for, this game is not good at all, regardless of whatever few positive qualities it may have. These kinds of games are often designed to take advantage of a marketable demographic that, on the whole, won't complain profusely about what they're paying for, just so long as the kids are happy. The developers had no shame in putting forth minimal effort into this title, and it definitely shows in just about every area.

    If your family considers themselves fans of the Cars series, then settle for the vastly superior console version instead. Even if you only have a DS to play with in the household, I strongly advise you re-think purchasing this game. The DS version of Cars 2: The Video Game is totally lousy with a list of complaints that effectively prove just how "devoted" the developers were towards creating a good handheld counterpart. There's no two ways about it, it's an all-around weak effort. Although it could have turned out worse, this game should not be supported at all.

13/30 - Very Poor

Gameplay 5/10 - Controls could have used some work, races don't have much action to them, simple abilities, decent field missions, predictable game flow
Presentation 4/10 - Below average visuals, glitchy, mediocre music, annoying voice clips, silly organization of the Touch Screen, cruddy font choice
Enjoyment 1/5 - Both the controls and the technical issues take away from the fun, repetitive missions, races aren't that much fun either
Extra Content 3/5 - Connectivity with World of Cars Online, worthless Download Play, won't last long, definitely not worth it, take pics of QR Codes on DSi

Equivalent to a score of 43% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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