Super Toy Cars is a throwback to a different epoch in gaming: I remember it well, I remember sitting at my Sega Mega Drive (or the Sega Genesis to our friends in the US), playing Micro Machines. I don’t have a great affinity for racing games, but I remember playing Micro Machines for hours and hours, trying to beat my big brother’s time on laps so that I might finally get the boasting rights. As I was playing Super Toy Cars, the new arcade racer from Eclipse Games, I had the same feeling as I had twenty years ago while driving a tiny car through a hazard heavy kitchen or bouncing from one pool table to another.
Super Toy Cars released on September 4th and I have been plugging away at the gameplay to test its mettle and I have come to the conclusion that Super Toy Cars is a pretty basic game. Eclipse Games have designed a very easy to understand user interface for the menu system, there are three options to choose from: Career, Quick Race and Extras. Firstly, the Extras menu is basically just the options menu, allowing you the opportunity to change the volume of music and sound effects and lets you play the Tutorial. It is an incredibly basic tutorial but then again, it is a basic game so there is no use crying over spilled milk.

The Career mode is where the action lies, and the authentically retro nostalgia of the title can be found. There are eight different episodes to play, each episode consists of a number of different tracks and game modes. At the end of each event, you will be awarded money and points that accumulate to unlock the next episode ala Angry Birds. As with everything else in Super Toy Cars, Eclipse Games have made this system basic and easily understandable, as a result, it makes the title very approachable and I can easily see it becoming a favourite for younger children and the family as a whole. If you think that Super Toy Cars is just a standard racing game you have another thing coming. There are a few different modes available to play through, from the standard race, where points are awarded by finishing 1st, 2nd or 3rd. There is the Time Trial and checkpoint modes where you need to race through a level in the shortest time possible or passing checkpoints to extend the countdown. Then we come to the Elimination mode. In Elimination races, the game will remove the player that is in last position every 15 seconds, these races can be very exciting, as a mistake or a mistimed boost can see you in last place at almost any time: it really kept me on my toes. There is also a variant of Elimination that will place mines throughout the track, in these races being in 1st position can be even more dangerous than last, as many of the mines (especially placed around bends and corners) will make you lose control of your car and slam into multiple mines. The difficulty spike on these mine Elimination levels can be pretty intense and I fast found myself being outclassed or forced into the explosive payloads by other racers. It became a huge frustration when I was trying to get 100% on each episode. This leads us into the first, and only real problem with Super Toy Cars.

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The collision detection and hit boxes for things like mines and traps seem almost random. I would drive past a mine, believing I was well clear of it, and my car would spin out, other times I would clip the side of the mine and nothing would happen, and that’s not the only issue. I was driving along, in first place, when I went to drive up a ramp, instead of driving up the ramp as intended, it seemed like my shiny new car slammed into an invisible wall at full speed. I assumed that I had been hit by missile fired by one of my pursuers, so I let it go, but as I played more and more races it happened at times when there was no one behind me, It seems that Super Toy Cars thinks of itself as a 2D game and the slight incline of the ramp or the bevelled edges of a half pipe, registered as obstacles if I were to hit them at the wrong angle. This glitch did cause me to lose a few races but it seems that it was the only problem with the actual gameplay that I encountered.

There are around sixteen vehicles that can be unlocked, purchased and upgraded as you play through the episodes. They unlock, generally speaking, when the opposition get new vehicles and the car you have becomes obsolete. If you are anything like me (a rabid perfectionist) then you will have replayed races to make sure you get full points, if you have done this then buying and upgrading cars is easily covered by your winnings. There are a tonne of stats for each car: top speed, acceleration, braking, handling, weight and so on, but other than the speed and acceleration, most of the cars handle very similarly. There was never a time when I bought a new car, upgraded the engine, gearbox and other odds and ends and thought “Damn, this thing won’t stay on the road”. There are minor differences such as some cars that will not catch as much air during jumps and others will be easier to power slide around corners like you are in a Fast and Furious movie, but overall it comes down to how well you drive the car, not the car you are driving.

The gameplay is fun. That’s about as much as I can say really. AI is competent and will challenge you, weapon pickups allow you to either attack drivers that are in front of you or set traps for those who follow. It has a hint of Mario Kart in this regard but there are only a handful of different weapons or power ups so it isn’t what I would call a “deep” mechanic. By catching air after a jump or power sliding around corners, you can build up your BOOST, the Boost was often more of a hindrance and would see me unable to corner, and thusly slam into a wall at full speed.

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Super Toy Cars has been inspired by games like Micro Machines (Eclipse Games have said as much) and there is an option in the menu to change the camera angle from the standard close/far angles to a top-down view that instantly took me back to the old days. The car loses much of its control in this view however and I found it difficult to stop myself from slamming into walls, barriers or driving straight off the course.

There aren’t many tracks available and after an hour or two of play, you have probably seen everything that Super Toy Cars has to offer. I had a few instances where the game would stick and the frame rate would drop. Throw that issue in with the rather basic graphics and it means that Super Toy Cars stands on the quality of its gameplay rather than the aesthetic. I did love the soundtrack but there are only half a dozen or so tracks, some of which are instrumentals, but the quality of the music is fantastic, it is catchy and lively: just what I want in a nostalgia-inspired racing game.

If you aren’t content to play the eight episodes in Super Toy Cars, then you can play a quick race with up to four players locally. This was great fun and the competitive nature of myself and my friends was front and centre from the get go. It really was a fun time.

Super Toy Cars isn’t a game that will live on in the annuals of gaming, but it is a fun, light-hearted game that had me coming back again and again. If you like the old school racing games, then you should definitely check this out.

 

FINAL THOUGHT—
I really liked Super Toy Cars, but I think I liked it more because of what it reminded me of rather than what it is. Super Toy Cars has a fantastic retro feel to it, with inspiration taken from games like Micro Machines and Death Rally, it has an old school feel to it that is rare in games now. The gameplay itself is rather basic and with a limited number of tracks and modes, it may lack longevity. Playing against friends in the local co-op mode is brilliant and, I for one, will be revisiting Super Toy Cars whenever I start to miss “the good old days”.

• Graphics – 54/100
• Audio— 71/100
• Gameplay—63/100
• Replayability—69/100
• Value For Money— 88/100

Overall – 69

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