Super Toy Cars (PC) Review

By Joshua Callum Jeffery 02.08.2014 1

Review for Super Toy Cars on PC

Last month, up and coming indie developer Eclipse Games completed its own little ode to the arcade racing genre, and Super Toy Cars was released on Steam. While the team has clearly been inspired by classics in the Micro Machines and Mario Kart series, what does their own little foray bring to the tyre and oil stained living room table?

There's something pretty nostalgic about the idea of racing toy cars around in obstacle courses made of household objects. Perhaps everyone did it once as kids or perhaps the old Micro Machines games were just that memorable. Either way, Eclipse Games has made a clear effort to tap into that nostalgic slice of childhood. After all, it can't be hard to make the player feel like they're racing a toy car in someone's living room so long as they place huge building blocks and tins everywhere, right? That's exactly what the player is granted with upon booting the game: giant toys, blocks, household things and... some catchy rock music? Not bad, but already the game's supposed identity feels like it's slipping.

Nonetheless, the game has a decent amount of content for the asking price, throwing in Career Mode, Quick Race, Online Multiplayer, and even a Track Creator. Career is, as one may expect, the main single-player game. It has the player choose their car and do various challenges for points to unlock more cars, before moving onto the next set of challenges. Challenges range from regular races, to time trials and elimination games. The variation definitely stops things from getting stale too quickly if no one's around to play multiplayer with, and time trials and other modes can offer a welcome break from the AI of races. The menu presentation certainly seems clear at first, with clearly named modes and options. Even the Track Editor is quite simple and easy to get used to. However, when choosing one of those modes, some of them explain car stats and stage names or explanations, but some don't. What does this achieve? Players who wish to get to grips with certain cars in local multiplayer must check their stats in another mode, and players who can't recognise a stage from its icon in one mode must head to another to search for the stage's name. Yes, despite there being 16 different tracks to choose from, the presentation and images chosen for each sometimes make it very hard to tell which is which. One image has a picture of a tin can on its side. Which track is that? After playing multiple different stages with tin cans on their side, remembering which is which, especially without names, can make finding a favourite stage tedious.

The gameplay itself is mostly solid, though, with a few of its own issues. Keyboard controls are okay, but a controller is much more ideal for comfortable play. It actually plays well enough with simple and easily memorable controls with buttons assigned to accelerate, drift, item, respawn, and boost. There's a good feeling of speed and weight behind every vehicle, especially after boosting (which can be pulled off after building up the boost gauge via drifting).

Screenshot for Super Toy Cars on PC

Unfortunately, some mechanics such as simple turning and especially drifting can easily backfire. Drifting is awkward and very imprecise; finishing a drift can sometimes be a very uncomfortable transition ending in a sudden stop or trajectory turn that doesn't flow well with the speed of the game at all, while AI seem to pull off drifts without issue. Driving alongside an annoying AI racer can occasionally make turning not work properly, sometimes meaning being left with no choice but to hurtle towards obstacles. Once, this reviewer was suddenly ambushed from behind a bunch of obstacles into a low placing by a fierce AI truck. Why the truck was driving that direction in the first place we'll never know, but it's clear there are more than a few physics niggles that need ironed out, especially when turning or driving along flat ground can randomly lead to spinning around in place or hitting some sort of bump that doesn't exist. Here there be hit detection glitches.

Only having 'solid' gameplay isn't the only place Super Toy Cars fails to hit many high notes. The core problem is Super Toy Cars' presentation is all over the place, and its identity screeches in too many different directions to make a consistent or notable impression. It's clear that the developers were aiming for a game about toy cars racing - it's in the game title and the big toys everywhere in the game are probably supposed to give it away - but all this manages to achieve is make it feel like this game is about driving a regular sized car around a valley of huge blocks and toys. There's an option to add cartoony black outlines to the graphics, but even then the game's visuals feel uninspired and fail to make the player feel like they're a little toy car. The colouring is diluted, and it's too easy to forget during gameplay that the cars are toys at all. They look relatively realistic - the areas are dark and sometimes more realistic than cartoony - and while this isn't a terrible thing it doesn't help the game achieve any sense of identity whatsoever.

To add to this confused game's identity is the music, which, as said before, is good and catchy on its own merits, but as BGM doesn't do anything for Super Toy Cars' vibe or identity. It's a few tracks of rock music, sometimes with lyrics that don't entirely mesh with a "toy racing" game.

However, it's really not all bad. Past the confused aesthetics and the occasionally glitchy turning and drifting mechanics, Super Toy Cars has handy features not seen in most party racing games. The items are neat and reliable, ranging from cartoony missiles that are easy to hit with and easy to recover from, to oil slicks and bombs, which make a little screen in the corner which will stay up 'til an opponent hits them - that way the player can feel the full glory of hitting someone with one of their own obstacles. Not only that, but in the not-so-rare instance the player crashes, respawning back on track is just a small button press away, so the opposition is never allowed to get too far in the lead, and the game generally feels fair.

Screenshot for Super Toy Cars on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Super Toy Cars is an average arcade racing game. It's definitely not bad, but it's also definitely not great, and it also definitely doesn't feel like a toy racing game. A little harmless and upbeat party racing fun? Sure thing, that it can do, and it does that fine, but it's difficult to become engaged in a game world that doesn't know what it is. All the opportunities to create a nostalgic experience were present, but its inspiration doesn't shine enough to resonate with anything due to lacking a concise and meaningful aesthetic. This isn't Super Toy Cars, this is Regular Cars That Drive Surrounded by Giant Teddybear Sculptures Sometimes. Which is fine, of course, if what is being looked for is a mostly generic party racing experience.

Developer

Eclipse Games

Publisher

Eclipse Games

Genre

Driving

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Seems that Table Top racing trumps this one! Super Toy Cars is out on Wii U eShop as well now, actually. I wonder if it's any different, or just a straight port...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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