Backlog Quest: Day 28 – Cars 2

Dear Journal,

Today I drove around in cars that are self aware, which is kind of creepy if you think about it too much.

Cars 2 is another “kart style racer” in the spirit of Mario Kart (not the first one to be reviewed during Backlog Quest).  Though obviously, rather than “go-karts” the characters are themselves the cars this time around.  Also, like Dreamworks Super Star Karts, the game is a movie-tie-in of sorts; pitting fan favorite characters from Pixar’s incredibly successful “Cars” franchise against each other.

Unlike Dreamworks Super Star Karts, Cars 2 actually manages to provide an enjoyable if not somewhat forgettable experience.  The game doesn’t really have a story, it isn’t the movie re-told or anything of that nature (though there are a few moments of “plot” throughout). The game’s premise is really quite simple; the characters from the film are in a secret spy training facility where they race around holographic tracks as training.  Basically, the developers decided that there really didn’t need to be much explanation behind why cars are driving, and this makes sense. I’m not entirely sure whether the developers should be applauded or jeered for outright ignoring story for the most part, but at the same time they don’t try to cram some half-assed story down our throats either.  I’m leaning towards applause.

So in that vein, Cars 2 really is just about getting into the game and having fun.  Like many other arcade racers, the campaign consists of a series of races with the occasional switch-up.  This includes levels where the object is to destroy other cars rather than win a race.  Medals are dolled out based on performance (standard gold, silver and bronze) and a certain level of performance is needed to progress forward in the main campaign.  The game includes 25 different cars with many being unlocked as you achieve certain goals or just use unlock codes, and many of the cars have a genuinely different feel to them. As is to be expected from a Mario Kart style racer, there is a series of power-ups to use while racing; much of which are more or less what we have come to expect from these types of games.

Track design is solid and varied.  Using locations from both films as inspiration, there are some very fun and challenging levels (such as driving around the streets of London).  The campaign is unfortunately a bit stretched out meaning that some of these levels are re-used, but in many cases they are played in reverse and have a genuinely different experience.  Most maps have a few variant ways to get through them, but unlike Dreamworks Super Star Karts, you can still win the game if you don’t hit every single short cut the track offers. These variant ways to get through the tracks play a really big part in keeping the tracks fresh even when they have simply been reversed.

Overall the game is well balanced as well; not entirely nailing the Mario Kart formula but very damn close.  This wasn’t a game just rushed to completion, and it shows.  Solid gameplay was clearly more important than just cramming a bunch of kid favorite characters onto the screen and saying “go.”  The game gets a bit repetitive after a couple of hours in the main campaign, as it does drag on a bit, but for the most part Cars 2 is an enjoyable arcade racer that is also very family friendly. In many ways it actually reminded me of Blur, only with the Cars and Cars 2 characters starring.

The game’s main drawback is the lack of online play.  Playing with other people in the room is always fun for games like these, and honestly helps to capture the spirit of games like Mario Kart 64, but that is not always an option. Having the ability to go take the racers to Xbox Live matchmaking would of really pushed this title into a whole new category and potentially added countless hours of entertainment and replayability to the game. A real shame it was left out, as it is really missed in a title such as this.

Tomorrow I cut people and swear a lot in Rogue Warrior.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: Xbox 360
Time to completion: ~ 4 and a half hours
Gamer Score Earned: 480/1000
Price Bought at: $12
Current Price: $13.95 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: Under $15 isn’t a bad price if you have people to play with.
Why you should buy it: Fun, Cars inspired racer. Have people to play with.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: You are a cynical bastard.

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