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Super Toy Cars (Wii U) artwork

Super Toy Cars (Wii U) review

"The mini-car racer is still a fun concept, but Super Toy Cars is neither refined enough nor interesting enough to justify your time and money."

At their core, racing games are all about the same thing: you in a car, speeding toward the finish line and hoping to cross first. The other stuff--customization, tight controls, a sense of speed, skilled AI--is technically optional, even though it's also what separates the good, the bad and the mediocre.

Super Toy Cars seems to have been designed without much focus on anything more than the basic core. Start playing it and you'll find that you can race through a series of around 48 events in a "campaign," or you can jump into a quick race with friends or design custom tracks with the Wii U gamepad. Victory nets you virtual currency that you can use to fill your garage with vehicles, or to upgrade them. That's really all there is to the game, which wouldn't be so bad if it weren't all lackluster.

Super Toy Cars (Wii U) image

A game like Super Toy Cars is the reason the phrase "rough around the edges" was coined. Every aspect of the game needs additional refinement it never got, from a sloppy control layout screen that looks like someone just laid two diagrams against a gray background, all the way up the line to the important stuff like what position shows up on the screen and which content you can access as you advance. It's not unheard of to receive an on-screen prompt letting you know that now you can access a track you just finished racing.

Helpfully, the developers did at least get the game's tutorial segment right. When you start playing, you'll be asked if you want to start there, which is wise. You're then walked through the usual concepts: accelerating, turning, drifting and special weapons. Near the end, you can choose which control method you're most comfortable using to initiate and maintain drifts. Then you're done and the tutorial disappears into the Extras menu.

Alas, actually driving the game's vehicles isn't a similarly painless process. Whoever was in charge of the physics didn't quite manage to make it feel like the vehicles are on actual surfaces. Instead, the miniatures all seem to float in a world of watermelon wedges, basketballs and rubber ducks. You'll whip around a corner and the cars glide for a bit before responding directly to any controller input. The exception is if you try to drift, in which case they'll veer sharply to the side, suddenly touchy.

Super Toy Cars (Wii U) image

Because Super Toy Cars is essentially a kart racer, along the lines of Super Mario Kart or even the Micro Machines games (which must have been the primary inspiration), you also have to deal with weapons. There are a few of them, and they're difficult to keep straight even by the point you've worked your way through most of the events. Some are easy enough to grasp, but there are (for example) two different puddles you can drop. In a Mario Kart game, there's a sense that you're in control and circumstances dictate when you can most effectively use a banana peel or whatever. Here, you should generally use something the instant you get it. Otherwise, you'll round a bend and pick up something less helpful, which replaces whatever you're carrying. And of course, there's not any defense against it if someone gets behind you and fires a rocket or launches an oversized 8-ball. You just have to take the hit and hope you can recover by the end of the race.

There actually are a few types of race. There's the standard 8-car affair, where you try to come in first for the biggest prize. There are also Time Trial and Checkpoint options, which find you racing for the best time or to pass through checkpoints quickly enough. Finally, there are two variations on Elimination. One is precisely what the name implies. You need to avoid being the last car in the pack at 15-second intervals, until finally yours is the last car in the race. The other one follows those same rules, but also litters the track with random mines that send both you and your opponents careening about like ping pong balls.

Mayhem can be fun in a kart racer, as Mario Kart and Sonic Racing Transformed have both proven on the Wii U hardware, but that mayhem only works well if the player has a genuine sense of control. Since that sense is lacking here, Super Toy Cars feels more like a chore than the entertaining delight its developers no doubt had in mind. Not only that, but there's not enough variety to stay interesting for long. The earliest events look much the same as the final ones. You're just racing across a track in someone's empty room, encountering around 15 different objects that have been used to construct courses. This eliminates any sense of progression.

Super Toy Cars (Wii U) image

In spite of my complaints thus far, there are a few things Super Toy Cars does well. A sense of speed is effectively produced, thanks to some artfully applied blur and rapid scaling. If you ram against a wall or fly off the track, you will by default be spawned back where you were, with only a slight delay (unless you change that setting from a menu, which I don't advise). Finally, there's some pretty good music backing it all up, provided courtesy of a band. Apparently, someone listened to a cool EP and said "Hey, we could use that in our game." Then they got permission and did so.

It has a few bright spots, then, but Super Toy Cars is ultimately too sloppy a game to recommend to anyone. It falls much too short of the standard set by its peers and doesn't do anything interesting to make up for it. Hopefully, someone will eventually step in with a Micro Machines clone that again captures the magic of the 8-bit original, but this particular attempt is one to avoid unless you're a hopeless mini-car enthusiast.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (July 29, 2014)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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