Video Game Review: ‘Cars 2’ Delivers Family Friendly Racing Experience

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – Last summer, Disney Interactive, Pixar, and Avalanche Software teamed on the ambitious-but-flawed “Toy Story 3,” a game that dared to do something more than your standard family movie tie-in. The game didn’t work 100% but it was a masterpiece compared to most games based on animated films. They’re back this summer with the tie-in for “Cars 2,” with similar results. This will be a fun summer diversion for the target audience but could have been something truly special with a bit more fine-tuning. Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0

Honestly, a game based on “Cars 2” shouldn’t be that hard to conceive. “I got it…we’ll make a racing game!” Even though that may seem obvious to most of you, the number of bad family movie tie-in games that I’ve played makes it clear that sometimes even the most creatively obvious path isn’t the one taken. So, to start, we should be grateful that the developers of “Cars 2” didn’t produce yet another dumb button-masher or platformer with talking cars. They stuck with what a lot of kids love about the franchise — fast-moving vehicles.

Cars 2: The Video Game
Cars 2: The Video Game
Photo credit: Disney Interactive

The gameplay of “Cars 2” is simple enough but it’s the surprising variety of styles within it that elevates the title. The player works through “C.H.R.O.M.E. Missions,” earning points for playing that add up to allow clearance to the next level of play. Each level consists of a mix of race game styles, many of which will remind players of many, many hours lost playing “Super Mario Kart.” The most common mission types are basic races and battle races. The former is dependent on speed, drifting, etc. — your standard racing mechanics. Battle races are variations on “Mario Kart,” in which the player picks up weapons throughout the race like missiles, oil drops, guns, and more. Occasionally, the player also participates in hunting racers instead of doing laps in game types where the most “Lemons” wiped off the course determines medal placement.

Cars 2: The Video Game
Cars 2: The Video Game
Photo credit: Disney Interactive

Racing games hinge heavily on control. Does the controller feel as responsive and consistent as it should? Does the speed feel natural — not too slow and not too fast? “Cars 2” is hit and miss in this department. There were times where I wanted more boost from my Turbo (which can be earned throughout the races) but I also respect that the title is aimed at little ones who may not have the need for speed of this critic. There were also times where I felt the cornering and drifting was a bit unrefined, and that’s regardless of the age demographic.

Something else that’s unrefined about the title is even bigger drawback — track design. The “world tour” aspect of the game leads to tracks that are allegedly taking place around the world but the actual graphics and layout of the tracks are disappointing. It feels like not quite enough love and care was put into their design with too much repetition and some pretty weak aesthetics. The game doesn’t look as impressive as it should for a title like this one from a major studio in 2011. It’s not awful, but when you really look at what’s going on around the tracks on which you’re racing, you realize it’s a sub-par presentation.

But kids don’t care, right? They’ll love the opportunity to get behind the wheel of Lightning McQueen and blow up some competition in 4-player multiplayer mode. Yes, they probably will. And while I first was put-off by the obvious criticisms of “Cars 2” in the inconsistent controls and mediocre graphics, I realized that I was ultimately being much harder on the title than anyone who buys it is likely to be. If you’re old enough to get deep into the “Forza” franchise or even spend time designing tracks on “ModNation Racers” then you probably won’t want to take the trip back to “Cars 2.” But this is a solid starter car for kids new to the world of racing games, the ones who are trying to find a way to kill time between viewings of their new favorite Pixar movie. Ultimately, that’s how a movie tie-in should be judged — how well does it play to its target demographic. This one works.

‘Cars 2’ was released by Disney Interactive and developed by Avalanche Software. It is rated E (Everyone). The version reviewed was for the PS3, but the title is also available for the XBox 360, Sony PSP, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo Wii. It was released on June 21st, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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