Cars

boyward - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

GAME TECH INFO

Computer Platform: Xbox 360 (Microsoft)
Produced by: Rainbow Studios/THQ
Price Range: $11-20
Learning curve time: 1-30 min.
Age level: Children (Young)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Reviewed By: Phil Rownd (boyward)
STAFF REVIEWER

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
Genre: Racing
Christian Rating: 5 of 5 (excellent)
Gameplay: 3 of 5 (average)
Violence: 4 of 5 (barely present)
Adult Content: 4 of 5 (barely present)

 

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I had originally given Cars a 3-star rating. I’ve been playing racing games for 20 years, and in mind I’m thinking, “Three out of five stars means that ‘Cars’ is a slightly above average racing game.” Most veteran gamers would agree with me. Cars lacks the extreme sense of excitement and competition that we associate with the most cutting edge racing games. It picks up where the movie left off and then plays it safe, completely failing to push the envelope in any way. But I consulted with my four-year old son, and he cheerfully gave Cars the full five stars. The Cars video game lets him toodle around Radiator Springs and drive his favorite characters from the Cars movie, and in his mind there’s it’s the best game in our collection. Since he and I play Cars together, we compromised on the rating, and that’s what you’re going to see in this review.

Race car Lightning McQueen has moved in the dusty town of Radiator Springs and the game is built around his interactions with the townsfolk. (Or is that towncars?) If you want to simply drive around the wide-open Cars world you can do that. Feel free to explore Radiator Springs and the wide-open desert around it. Try to find the hidden postcards and points icons and improve your high score. There is no time limit, and if you (or your child) tend to crash a lot, that’s okay because there are no penalties for crashing. It is impossible to lose here.

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If, however, you want to “win” something, there are about 30 mini-games and races scattered around town. As Lightning or Sally you can participate in friendly road races. Or you can control Mater the rusty tow truck and go out for some Tractor Tipping or a demolition derby. As the Sheriff you’ll want to chase the speeders who come roaring into town. Or you can play as Luigi the tires salesman and zip around collecting the tires you’ve lost around town. There are about 10 playable characters and as the story progresses you’ll get new abilities and trophies for Lightning. Eventually, he’ll qualify for the big race venues. Mack the truck will come to town and take you to the race track, where you’ll drive around in a big circle against a whole bunch of brain-dead cars for about 12 minutes.

I get a little bored with the whole thing when I play by myself. I get a little frustrated with the stiff controls when I’m playing as Sheriff and I miss a tight turn, and frankly, I’d rather be playing Burnout. But Cars wasn’t made for me. It was designed with my son in mind, and his face lights up every time I suggest we play Cars, so lately that’s been our thing to do… together. When we play together, I really can’t complain. This is a great game for a father to play with his young Cars-loving son. Some of the events can be played with two players simultaneously, usually in split-screen mode. I found that racing simultaneously wasn’t really the best thing, though, because of our difference in skill. By the time I had finished my 12 laps my son was still on lap 2 with no end in sight. So we usually pass the controller back and forth and play short, timed events like Tractor Tipping. However you manage your play time, you’ll likely find an event or two that everybody can enjoy together.

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The Cars video game will be most appealing to fans of the movie. Cars was one of my least favorite Pixar movies, but I know there are plenty of grown men out there who LOVED Cars, and you guys will probably dig this game too. It sounds like the original voice cast came back to record dialogue for the game. Larry the Cable Guy is unmistakable as Mater, especially when he and Lightning make their getaway from Frank the Combine and Mater chuckles, “Whoo-hoo! He’s gonna gitcha!” Good voicework. The music isn’t anything you’d recognize from the movie, though. My son and I were hoping the Sheryl Crow theme song “Real Gone” would make a showing here, but it was noticeably absent. Fortunately, the cars all look like they did in the movie. Their faces have even been animated to recreate the personalities we remember from the movie. There are a few technical problems with the visuals, such as the clipping that occurs every time the cars drive over bushes and the bushes magically go through the cars. But do kids notice this? Apparently not. Even though nothing truly special happens to advance the storyline, my boy is happy just to see his favorite characters together again. It’s a decent continuation of the Cars story you know and love.

The video game’s content is about on par with the movie. If anything, the game is less offensive, since the cars don’t even take damage when they crash. Some of the adult humor has returned. Lightning’s groupies are still around to flash their “headlights” at McQueen. In a scene that uses the drug culture as its inspiration, the 1960’s VW hippie van Filmore shares his “special brew” with Lightning. Those kinds of jokes went over my son’s head in the movie and he didn’t get them here either.

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My son loves Cars, and the game lets him control his favorite characters in his favorite cartoon world. The game doesn’t penalize him if he crashes or wanders off the race course, so that’s just perfect. And even though I enjoy the look on his face more than I like the game itself, I can say that Tractor Tipping has helped me work on my Mater impersonation.

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Year of Release — 2006

[tags] 4 stars, Racing, Xbox 360 (Microsoft), E (Everyone), Rainbow Studios, THQ [/tags]




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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