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Super Toy Cars / 4th of September 2015

Last month, I had a brief look at an early build of Eclipse Games’ Super Toy Cars, but now with the finished product hitting the Xbox One marketplace on September 4th, it’s time to see how this miniature combat racer stacks up. Released through the ID@Xbox program, Super Toy Cars puts players behind the wheel of a collection of toy cars and challenges them with a variety of race types that range from time trials to survival events. Now, I think it’s prudent to say that when I first started playing Super Toy Cars, I didn’t really enjoy it very much, it all felt a bit stale and mundane, it just didn’t seem to offer anything that hadn’t already been done in the genre before. But since when does a game have to do something new in order for it to be any good? So I stuck with it, and low and behold, it turns out that Super Toy Cars is a bit of a grower.

Following in the footsteps of the team’s last effort, Tachyon Project, Super Toy Cars may seem like a complete departure from that outstanding twin-stick shooter, and in most ways it certainly is, yet it seems that Eclipse Games has also brought the same desire to make this game as inclusive as possible. Progress through the single player career mode is not a difficult task by any means; the player is simply asked to play through a several events scoring a number of points depending on the finishing positions that they achieve, these points unlock successive episodes, yet Super Toy Racers demands a level of performance nowhere near perfection to make this happen, leaving the quest for those flawless races to the achievement hunters and completionists. What this also does, is give the game an extra added ounce of replayability, leaving the events open to return to and tackle again with a modified vehicle, or perhaps even a different one altogether.

There are sixteen different vehicles to choose from, the game limiting the player to only the first car – a Beetle rip-off of some description – until sufficient funds have been earned to purchase one of the more powerful modes of transport. Personally, I tried to stick with the initial car for a while but, even with all six of its modifications in place, it was still just no fun to drive whatsoever, and then I discovered the Shibuya WRC4, and from there, Super Toy Cars revealed itself to a worthwhile effort after all. Suddenly, I was power sliding around corners better than Sébastien Ogier, which simultaneously made the game more enjoyable and, less difficult too. There are a variety of vehicles on offer from the speedy, corner holding Formula 2500 to the ridiculous Schneider Surfer (a makeshift Volkswagen Camper Van), yet personally, I feel as though it’s the vehicles with the slackest handling, such as the Horns Hot Rod, that seem to have a bit of an unfair advantage, making up for their comparative lack of speed and handling with the sheer fun of driving them, as well as their ability to quickly generate much needed speed boosts.

In game, the player has a boost meter which, when full, allows them to activate a short lived increase in speed, the quicker that the player generates boost, the better their lap times will be. Now, I haven’t yet gone back to ensure that I’ve won on every stage, so there may be the case to prove that certain vehicles are better suited to certain events, but personally, I feel that if you can drift easily in it, you’ve got a pretty good chance of doing that anyway. Though, obviously the CPU controlled drivers aren’t going to make that easy for you, in fact the AI is actually quite aggressive, they’re not especially good with the weapons that are on offer, but instead they will from time to time attempt to ram you off the road, spin you out and slow your car down before it hits a ramp, this can prove to be frustrating, but thankfully it’s not an especially common occurrence.

In terms of weapons, there are seven different pick-ups to be collected (along with gold coins) that offer certain abilities, these being; Oil Spill (reduces grip), Glue Spill (slows down cars), Mine (spins chasing cars), Spring Trap (sends an opponent flying backwards), Boost Fill (fills the boost bar), 8 Ball (launches a large 8-ball straight ahead) and Missile (a homing attack that automatically targets the nearest player). Personally, I found that the combat just wasn’t visceral enough for me, especially at first (before I started drifting like a madman), and Super Toy Racers wouldn’t really be any worse off without it, it seems more like Eclipse just felt obligated to include it. However, its inclusion certainly doesn’t harm the experience at all, it’s just not the main focus here.

Spread out across the campaign, events are divided into five different race types, Race is just a straightforward contest against seven other opponents to see who can reach the finish line first by any means necessary. Hot Lap and Time Attack events are pretty much self-explanatory, the latter tasking the player to race across a track reaching various checkpoints before the timers counts down to zero. The last two modes are Elimination and Evade, these both see a timer appear and countdown, when time runs out the racer occupying last place is eliminated from the competition, the only difference between them is that Evade mixes things up a little by placing mines around the racetrack. This mode, which was certainly not a favourite of mine when I first encountered it, brought back memories of Split/Second’s Survival mode, only with less swearing.

Super Toy Cars’ Unity powered visuals are pretty solid, the texture resolution could obviously be better but it runs well enough, it’s fast and smooth, and the reflections on the race tracks themselves are actually very good. There are some nice trackside details, such as toy dump trucks dropping a mass of blocks onto the course, or toy helicopters that scoot about overhead, these are excellent touches, but they are few and far between. Personally, given the toy setting, I’d hope for a little more variety in the locations (much like the legendary Micro Machines had) and perhaps even a more inventive use of the other denizens of the toy box, why not go for all-out destruction, Split/Second style with an array of toy robots, planes and even army men invading and destroying the track? But then, perhaps I ask for too much.

You may have wondered why I haven’t mentioned the game’s multiplayer component yet, right? Well, that’s because there isn’t really one to talk about, now whilst Super Toy Cars does support up to four players competing locally across any of the race types, there are no online features aside from leader boards for the top lap times and not even a hint of a battle mode. Of course, given the size of the development team behind it and the relatively short time that they have had available to them to create this, it’s probably to be expected, and even still, without these features, it still feels like a game capable of punching above its weight, though only just. There are audio issues that need to be resolved, which on top of the other concerns that I have mentioned, could unfortunately harm the game’s chances of finding success, yet it’s definitely still fun enough to play through and enjoy, and at just £7.99, what else can you ask for?

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