By: Justin Redmon
Arcade racers used to be a mainstay of console and arcade gaming, something that sadly seems to have all but disappeared with regards to this generation of games targeting realism, with more arcady stylings being but brief blips on the radar. Super Toy Cars by Eclipse Games is definitely different from what you’d expect in a racer, with an almost Micro Machines meets Mario Kart sort of vibe coming across with its style. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air, but it doesn’t pan out as well as you’d hope.
As a racer, there are a few weird things going on control wise. A quick tutorial when you first start brings you up to speed with controls, but it also highlights some of the problems the game has. Steering never really feels exact no matter what car you’re driving, so you’ll find yourself constantly adjusting.
Things like boosting and drifting are encouraged, and you actually gain boosts for hitting jumps, drifting and driving up or down slopes. Actually boosting is risky, though, as you all but lose control of your vehicle depending on what you’re driving, and hitting any geometry in this state sends you spinning wildly out of control. That can be tricky as the game isn’t always clear to what is and isn’t sticking out.
A handy respawn button sets you back on track, which thankfully keeps things from getting too frustrating. Wiimote controls are probably the weirdest, as instead of a horizontal setup, its vertical with constant acceleration and the d-pad for movement.
In presentation, Super Toy Cars is somewhat rough around the edges. Just like its name implies, Super Toy Cars establishes a toy look to everything from cars to environments, with tracks taking place across kitchens or on the floor with toys strewn about to make up the obstacles you race around. A slight outline around pretty much everything gives objects and cars a nice cartoony effect, and the option of a behind-the-car or top-down camera perspective changing practically the entire way the game plays. Other than that, however, there’s not much that can really be said about the game, as everything else is rather plain looking while tracks feel lifeless and sterile.
In-game music is quite nice and gets the job done, but there just isn’t enough of it, so tracks repeat quite often and get annoying because of it.
Super Toy Cars’ main hook as a racer is placing you behind the wheel of a tiny toy car on tracks made up of strewn together toys, overturned kitchen supplies or cardboard boxes, and it definitely carries a certain charm. Racing along tracks, drifting and hitting jumps for boosts while avoiding powerups like rockets and giant 8-balls makes up the brunt of the main experience offered.
It isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely a serviceable racer, and a single-player campaign puts up plenty of content to keep you occupied. Past normal races and time trials, elimination and evade modes switch things up, with elimination removing the last-place position from the race every so often, and evade littering the track with mines to dodge while racing.
Outside of racing, you can use your winnings to purchase new vehicles. Each one handles somewhat uniquely, and upgrading them with new parts changes various stats. A level editor lets you put together tracks, but sadly the lack of both a tutorial for this mode and any way to share tracks means it probably won’t find much use. Overall, there’s a decent amount of content to play with in Super Toy Cars for the aspiring racer, but its main problems stem from so much of it being similar, bleeding together into a repetition as a result.
Many tracks you race across share similar layouts and settings, and even within the first cup section of the campaign, you’ll start to have trouble distinguishing tracks from one another. The tracks themselves have problems with the geometry of certain objects and obstacles as well, and when driving over some sections you’ll mysteriously lose all your speed and come to a screeching halt, a problem that also plagues jumps.
Collisions of any sort send you spinning out of control, which during normal races is a minor nuisance when packed together with other racers, but during evade races it becomes a nightmare of explosions. Then again, if it weren’t for all the little wrinkles to do with the game’s physics, most of the races would be a complete pushover difficulty wise. Ultimately, whether or not I won was due to if I didn’t spin out wildly after slightly bumping a wall when trying to take a shortcut or sharper turn than the AI opponents.
The vehicle variety comes with its own problems with handling as well, ranging from utterly useless to completely broken, with one car in particular constantly drifting even on straightaways, meaning I was always acquiring boost, which all but guaranteed a win on races. Past single-player content and local play, there’s no online to be had here, which is somewhat of a shame for this style of game, meaning the more interesting bits like the track editor are relatively useless.
If you’re looking for an arcade racer on the cheap, maybe Super Toy Cars can scratch that itch, but be wary of wonky physics and other issues that spoil what otherwise would have been a completely serviceable title.