Movie franchises that make their way into the video game world are all often the electronic equivalent of a Happy Meal Toy. Sure, it incorporates the new and exciting world of the movie to just out in theaters, but when it comes to play time they quickly tossed aside for other tried and true favorites. Thankfully, the new Cars 2 is the exception rather than the norm. While the last Cars game, Mater’s Tall Tales, was somewhat of a disappointment, Cars 2 redeems the franchise by delivering a good Kart racing game with solid tie-ins to the movie’s plot.
In Cars 2, you take on the role as one of dozens of characters in the movie (some cars are simply new paint jobs of others) in a “training simulator” run by CHROME from the movie. Thus, all the various races and games are technically simulations (presumably making things even friendlier for younger gamers – no real violence…) By completing each simulation, points are awarded with bonus points for earning bronze, silver, or gold trophy results. Earn enough points and new levels are unlocked in the form of higher “levels” of classified missions.
The game play is solid, with standard kart racing dynamics: weapons are picked up on the courses and fired with a button press. Turbo boosts are available and are accumulated via pick-ups as well as by performing tricks like jumping, driving backwards or on two wheels, or by performing drifts around turns. There are several game modes available including standard races, races with power-ups and weapons, arena combat (both elimination of other cars and a capture the flag variant), car chases (chase down bad guys and shoot them to extend your time), and a mode where you collect energy by following another car’s path, occasionally shooting it for extra energy. Each mode relies on the same basic controls but provides a nice variety of experiences.
The controls in the Wii version (reviewed here) are straightforward enough for young players (early elementary, 7+ yrs) to use. However, the Wii version does not take advantage of the Wiimote motion controls. Instead, the Nunchuk joystick controls driving with the Wiimote controlling gas and breaks. Presumably this was a result of developing for multiple platforms simultaneously, but it means the simple tilt-to-turn controls nearly standard on the Wii are not present. Whereas the game would be a big hit even for preschool ages, with the less intuitive “joystick” controls it makes the game more challenging for the really young (4-6 yr olds).
Aside from the poor control choice, Cars 2 makes a very solid showing providing a fun Kart Racing game with a strong thematic franchise. Fans of Cars will find a decent game here, and casual or family gamers will also find a solid title worth picking up. Hard core gamers looking for a challenging game with lots of racing options should probably keep looking, but for the rest of us this movie tie-in is a pleasant surprise.
Kid Factor: As mentioned, the Wii controls are old-school joystick and gas pedal rather than Wiimote tilting, requiring gamers to be proficient at using a Nunchuck joystick. Other than that issue, the game has little to offend. There are explosions and weapons galore but all in a cartoony sort of way without any significant damage to the various cars (good and bad guys) when hit.