Before the thought of fooling around with a “micro machine” even crossed my mind, I had to stop for a minute to take in the explosion of vibrantly colored objects in the main menu of Super Toy Cars. From the messy assortment of Legos and letter blocks, to the little green toy airplane and the adorable teddy bear sitting on the side of the table, it really felt as if I had been swallowed into the bedroom of a bemused toddler who forgot to put all of his toys away after playing with them. When I was prompted to select my profile, my ears were greeted with a cheerful acoustic guitar riff that sounded familiar to me for some reason. At this point, I was ready to greet Eclipse Games’ newest creation with open arms, especially since I also happen to be a big fan of their Tachyon Project, which was yet another recent installment onto the Xbox One platform.
Now, it’s time to take my new car out for a test drive – and a smile crossed my face when I glossed through my “toy garage” of vehicles, for each one had its own unique name, appearance, and set of stats with advantages and setbacks. To further delve into the options of customization, each car also comes with its own choices of color and paintjob design. Bear in mind that only one of the cars was available at the beginning of the game, but each car can be purchased (along with upgrades) for a reasonable amount of money that can be earned from storming through the career mode. I could immediately tell that a lot of time and thought went into this part of the game, as each car really comes to life when it gets placed on the track.
The tracks themselves are just as colorful and appealing as the cars. Each one is cleverly crafted and many of the track designs are highly inspired by food, making them fun to look at and play on. My only complaint would be directed towards the low number of tracks present in the game, as I found that I was already getting several repeated maps in my early career progression. Some races offer power-ups that seem unremarkable, but they do make the races more interesting. There is also a boost bar that can be filled up by drifting or spending time in the air, but I found it quite odd that the entire bar will always empty out its boost and that you cannot use it again until it is completely filled up. The in-game soundtrack is diverse and it fits the nature of the game, but none of the songs particularly stand out to the point where they are worth writing home about. Finally, I felt it was also worth mentioning the adjustable camera angles (close, far, and top-down) – and if you want to really challenge yourself, then I recommend the top-down angle for a fresh perspective that is not commonly found in most arcade racing games nowadays.
The career mode is broken up into eight episodes containing six races each that fall under Race, Time Trial, Time Attack, Elimination, or Evade. The first few races will not seem too difficult, but it becomes apparent that you will be in for a lot of trouble later on if you are not actively using your money to purchase more formidable cars or upgrade the ones that you already own. Since most of these modes are self-explanatory and are exactly what you would expect them to be about, I will focus on elaborating on the Evade mode. It functions as a regular race against the AI cars, except for the fact that the last place holder gets eliminated every few seconds until there is only one racer remaining. However, it is set apart from the standard Elimination races in that there are also mines scattered across the track. As expected, contacting a mine will cause your toy car to spin out of control and be temporarily immobilized. Avoiding these mines will sound like a simple task, but there are a lot of factors that would suggest otherwise – for instance, these mines are difficult to notice when they are directly in front of your car, unless you happen to be using the top-down camera view. Additionally, the AI cars are very clumsy and have a nasty habit of bumping into you while you’re trying your hardest to thread the needle around the mines – which causes, no surprise, a chain reaction in which the mines will go off anyway. While it is certainly true that every race mode can be easily cleared with enough practice and patience, I found the Evade events to be unnecessarily frustrating and unforgiving when comparing them to anything else in the game. This would have been a far more pleasant experience if Evade had been scrapped and replaced with something more original and fun, like a Destruction Derby event.
If I haven’t made my sentiments clear enough at this point, I will politely confess now that I despise being punished by a game for situations that I was not responsible for, and Super Toy Cars is one of those games that is frequently guilty of doing this. My complaints regarding the collision detection in Evade mode served to capitalize on this aspect, but the overall poor handling on the cars in this game became the real dealbreaker for me. One major flaw that this game has is its drifting mechanic; it felt uncomfortable and unnatural and it took a long time for me to adjust to how it worked. Unlike drifting in most other racing games, it does not feel fluid enough to serve its purpose of taking tight corners and it’s difficult to straighten out your car at the right time. The game’s tutorial left me with the promise that each car drifts differently, but I did not sense this at all when I was swapping out my cars throughout the career. The steering of vehicles wasn’t particularly smooth either, which may also be a contributing factor to my unimpressed thoughts on the drifting.
The Final Verdict
I’m sorry, Super Toy Cars. I know that you were only trying your best to look good and please people, but a game like you can only go so far with pretty aesthetics alone. No matter how visually impressive your graphics may be, that alone cannot excuse the poor mechanics of your game. The controls felt unpolished, the drifting was awkward, and the collision detection is one of the worst that I have ever had to experience in a racing game. These factors lead to a lot of unnecessary crashes and restarts that could have been easily prevented with smoother handling. I am willing to appreciate the effort that went into creating this game (because I can tell that there was a lot of it), but the gameplay itself is something that could use a lot of work. It might still be redeemable to a lover of arcade racing games, and it’s not as if the game is entirely unplayable. With a bit of polish, it could have been something really good. In the meantime, keep your expectations low and your tolerance for frustration high if you’re still dead-set on a purchase.
+ Colorful, eye-catching graphics
+ Many cars and camera choices for the more selective drivers
– Poor handling and drifting
– Unfair collision detection for a racing game
– The boost bar cannot be controlled, which often leads to more unnecessary crashes
– Not enough unique tracks to span the whole career mode, so many of them will repeat throughout your adventures
– Evade events, which were frustrating enough to deserve their own mention entirely