RACERS START YOUR ENGINES
Let me open this review of Cars: Fast as Lightning by confessing a bias; I love Disney. I mean I LOVE Disney, like, possibly in an unhealthy way. I love everything about the place (Disney World, Orlando Fl) and the company. I have been a fan of the animation since as far back as I can remember and made every effort to own the full catalog of Disney hits. I went there often as a kid and found, like I’m sure many kids do, that I never grew tired of the place. When the wife and I first started dating we spent nearly every weekend at Disney World, we did this for nearly five years. Times have very much changed but my nostalgia for The House That Walt Built is undiminished. I also went into this game expecting something geared for an eight year old. Knowing the movies, and having an idea about their core audience, I expected something super light and superficial, something geared for a very particular niche that I would quickly tire of, my love of Disney notwithstanding. Add to that the fact that Cars is not one of my favorite Disney movies. So I go into this review predisposed to liking this Cars: Fast as Lightning but with a very specific expectation. I was happily surprised to find a very well crafted, not completely flawless game that did not disappoint.
Based on the events, places, and characters of the Disney Cars series, Cars: Fast as Lightning was fun. A lot more fun than I expected. I found I was losing hours to it, on my last day of play the room I was playing in had gone from daylight to pitch black as the sun had set and I had barely noticed. Games based on movies, as much as I really want them to work, often fall flat for me, Cars did not. This game had a very familiar, comfortable feel and it’s hard to say if that is due to the excellent job done by this game’s creator, Gameloft, at crafting, or if this is my own bias sneaking in.
I FOUND I WAS LOSING HOURS TO IT, ON MY LAST DAY OF PLAY THE ROOM I WAS PLAYING IN HAD GONE FROM DAYLIGHT TO PITCH BLACK AS THE SUN HAD SET AND I HAD BARELY NOTICED.
Cars: Fast as Lightning is brought to us by Gameloft, the French developer that has won too many awards to list here. With company sales of 167 million euro in the first nine months of 2014 and properties from Marvel, HASBRO, FOX, Mattel, and Ferrari, suffice it to say these guys know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well enough here. Cars: Fast as Lightning isn’t a groundbreaker or a game changer, but it is fun. Darn fun.
All aspects of gameplay in Cars: Fast as Lightning are good, competent, basic and familiar. On the strictly mechanical side I did find that my nearly full iPhone choked a little bit on the game but not so much that play was effected. The idea is simple: Race to win coins, gems and experience points, use these to build up your track, trick out and upgrade your cars, and build up Radiator Springs, which will also generate more coins and XP as your town expands and starts to generate income. Gems become a more vital commodity as the game goes on and you find yourself wanting to purchase more. I have to say I was never tempted. New cars are unlocked as you go, a total of twenty in all, and you can choose from them as you continue to race. When not racing these characters, Mater, Filmore, Chick, Guido, et al, populate radiator springs as you unlock them.
Racing is ultra basic, something that did disappoint me a bit as I was hoping for a little more of a “real” racing experience, POV cam, steering control, etc. Instead, racing is as simple as working a throttle, ease off in the turns, wide open in the straight aways, the game does everything else. You can lose control and crash if you don’t ease off the throttle at the right times, but that’s the extent of your control. There are some points where tricks can be done, based on how you’ve built your track, to earn more points. These involve prompted swipes that did add a little something extra to the experience, but not much. As races are won more characters are unlocked, each one with it’s own unique track that you can then customize to your liking. Building Radiator Springs was fun and easy and collecting coins and XP is easy enough; each building generates X number of coins after X time. Tap, collect, repeat. The town can be expanded, buildings replaced and swapped, signs erected, all in an effort to make it the boom town it once was.
The top selling point for Cars: Fast as Lightning, after the fact that it’s a Cars game, has to be graphics. It looks amazing. Pixar and Gameloft have truly brought the movie to this game. Renders are crisp, beautiful and absolutely accurate. Animation is top notch. Colors, backgrounds,and characters are all true to the Cars series.