Cars 2: The Video Game
Wii | Disney Interactive Studios | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection | Out Now
Your adventure begins at the C.H.R.O.M.E Training Facility where you can access a bunch of gameplay modes. The first houses different kinds of missions for you to complete, while the second is a Free Play mode that allows you to play those same missions you've completed previously. From here, you can also initiate a multiplayer session for up to four friends. Next is the Awards area which splits into two categories: Badges and Crests. These include specific mission achievements as well as cumulative tasks you can complete across all modes like spending five minutes drifting behind cars. There's also an Options menu and a Garage where you can view details on the selectable cars. Additionally, just like in the handheld version of the game, you can connect to the World of Cars -- Disney's online, kid-friendly hub -- for bonus content and connectivity. There's nothing major that's worth noting or anything, but it's nice to see them include another extra to help kids feel like they can take a part of their web experience with them into the game.
Going back to the missions, though, there are six Clearance Levels that contain sets of challenges that increase in difficulty the higher you go up. Missions are categorized under six different types. Races are self-explanatory while Battle Races are the same as the first but with weapon pick-ups added to the mix; Attack missions have you driving to a time limit trying to defeat opponents to add to your countdown timer, while in Hunter, you fight off against those same targets in an arena setting over a series of waves. Survival has you completing three laps whilst collecting pink energy tubes to sustain your shields, and finally, the Squad Series sets consist of multiple mission types in a small line-up.
Depending on what place you come in (Races), how many points you earn (Hunter), or how many laps you complete (Survival), you'll be awarded a Gold, Silver or Bronze trophy. Along with that, you're also given a helping of Spy Points, which are used to unlock access to other Clearance Levels. In a family setting, members can work together to clear missions instead of keeping things a single-player affair. Right away, I can tell you that the Hunter and Survival missions often drag on and get boring quickly, but I don't have an issue with the rest.
Players start off in the New Agent Training area, a simulated environment that prepares you for the action that will be seen during missions. Here, you become slowly acquainted with the controls, depending on which configuration you end up using. Let's take the Wii Remote & Nunchuk combo as an example. With this control scheme active, the Analog Stick is used to move, Z is for turbo and C is for item use. A quick shake of the Wii Remote or Nunchuk will perform a quick side-bash move, while raising both of them will perform a jump. Manual drifting is handled with the B Button, but there is an Autodrift option that can be activated on the character selection menu. However, due to its spotty nature and the impact this has on boosting, it's pretty much pointless.
To be honest, the way the controls have been organized doesn't feel right, but thankfully, using the Wii Wheel (or the Wii Remote on its own) feels like a better way to play. Still, they're not flawless, especially with the handling acting up at times, so either way, you'll have some kinks you'll have to get used to. If you want to get away from motion controls entirely, you can play using the Classic or Gamecube Controller, but I personally wasn't into these control schemes.
Besides the normal set of moves, you can also pull off air tricks or basic ground tricks like driving backwards. There's also a special speed boost you can execute (known as "In the Zone") by pressing the boost button twice when the gauge is full. Racers build up energy in their boost gauge by performing tricks and drifting. Doing so, however, takes much more time than it should which I was kind of surprised about. Maybe the developers didn't want there to be an imbalance with rivals sneaking up to first place through easily-earned boosts. Whatever the reason, this is just one of the flaws that slightly bring down this release.
Speaking of unbalanced gameplay, certain kart racers have been criticized in the past for notoriously placing too much emphasis on item systems. But surprisingly, when items do make an appearance in missions, Cars 2: The Video Game is more about skill than it is about item use (or abuse as the case may be). Yes, there is a Blue Shell-like item, but the effects of succumbing to this attack is not nearly as damaging as in other situations you're probably used to. The rocket missiles, electric orbs, oil slicks and other forms of gadgetry that have been included here give Cars 2 more of a car combat feel than a comical one, which works well.
The tracks themselves have been adapted nicely. Roads here are pretty open and wide with a few narrow passages here and there. There is a decent amount of shortcuts to be found which usually involve jumping to reach areas that look like they're just part of the environment. Some opportunites for air tracks do exist, but you don't find too many ramps lying around or anything like that. You'll see more of dynamite barrels that produce explosions when you collide into them, and oil cans that can give you boost energy. The urban tracks aren't exactly hustle-and-bustle; quite the opposite, some sound unusually quiet. But overall, the track design allows for a good amount of leeway as kids try to wrap their heads around the controls.
From a technical standpoint, I think Cars 2: The Video Game could have been better. I encountered brief game freezes mid-race as if I was participating in an online match, and I noticed the electric orb item fall through the floor at one point. While attempting to fire weapons in the air, I watched as my car fired the item while doing a flip. Things like this irked me a bit during my experience, but I didn't feel like these flaws interfered with the enjoyment of the game. That's partly because other areas of the game's presentation work better. The visuals look pretty good for a Wii game, and the sound is roughly on the same level (both in terms of music and the incorporated voice clips). The HUD is fine as is, but I was surprised they didn't also include a map of the track.
In speaking about the game's action element, I have to say that Cars 2 does a pretty good job. The weapons featured in Battle Races are fun to use and take the game in a direction that some kids may not be expecting. But I have to say that as far as speed is concerned, it often feels more like a casual drive than a fast-paced race. The fact is, the pace seen during races is a touch slower than it needs to be, and whatever the reason behind Disney deciding to keep it this way, the game would have given off more feelings of excitement had they sped things up a bit.
Another aspect of the game that I felt wasn't very effective was the overall flow. Instead of feeling like a spy with an open world or even just stealth-based missions, it just feels like you're completing mission after mission with a thin substance to tie it all together. It's not exactly surprising for a licensed product, but given that the game seemed to present itself as an espionage-themed adventure, it's disappointing to see Disney didn't deliver here. Even with the many problems that plague the DS version, at least that version featured spy missions. You simply don't feel that spy aesthetic coming through here.
Even though not all aspects of the game's core meets my approval, I can't deny that this is good fun to play in a group. Well, to be more specific, Battle Races are especially enjoyable. Hunter and Survival missions, on the other hand, often drag on and get boring quickly, minimizing your desire to take part in these modes again. Besides the usual modes, when playing with two or more people, two additional multiplayer modes become available. The first is Arena, a survival-type weapons battle mode set in a confined area. Surprisingly, some of the stages designated for this mode are quite nice, like the urban Tokyo environment.
There are also Disruptor challenges which play out like Capture the Flag variants where you need to bring back three Disruptors to your opponents base to destroy it completely. First, you need to find the device which can be hidden inside one of the many containers lying around the environment. Plus, while carrying one of these devices, your movement is limited so there's a good balance. Both of these modes are very fun, and if you love playing Balloon Battle in any of the Mario Kart games, you'll likely enjoy what these two modes have to offer with their slightly more edgy feel.
It's a shame that the online integration here is so minimal. Online races would have really made this game an even stronger contender in comparison to other kart racers and it's too bad that this wasn't implemented. But, to be honest, it's not really a big deal considering how well the local multiplayer works. Plus, solo players who don't tire of a repetitive structure will find there's plenty to go after if one feels so inclined. Additionally, there's a good selection of vehicles to unlock, with 15 different race tracks and 6 arenas to do battle on. Thus, a lack of content isn't a concern here.
Cars 2: The Video Game is a surprisingly good effort that will be a hit with families. While the gameplay could have used some work and the game did not live up to the spy feel it seemed to be projecting, it's still worth buying. If Mario Kart Wii is a favourite in your home and you're in the mood for something like it, be sure to pick this up.
23/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Pace is slower than it needs to be, boost build-up takes a while, spy aesthetic doesn't come through, control annoyances, open track designs
Presentation 7/10 - Visuals look pretty good, nice audio, some technical hiccups including brief game freezes
Enjoyment 4/5 - Especially fun to play in a group, Battle Races and Disruptor challenges are good fun, Hunter and Survival missions are boring
Extra Content 5/5 - Plenty of content, good number of tracks and cars to choose from, can aim for Badges and Crests, would have benefited from online play
Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)