Platform: Nintendo Wii
Nunchuck compatible (not required for game play)
Compatible with Wii Wheel
The original Cars movie from 2006, whose sequel shouldn’t be in theatres until 2011, has already spawned two games based on the movie, so it would be easy to simply chalk Cars Race-O-Rama up to a holiday cash grab (it wouldn’t be the first one I can think of though). I think you really have to consider a game’s audience when reviewing a game like this. That’s why I had my seven year old nephew play this one along side of me and I listened to him when he offered his thoughts as we played.
Graphics (note: screenshots not from Wii version)
Race-O-Rama doesn’t look half bad. In-game characters are well represented and have good detail. It’s not Pixar quality or high definition (what game on the Wii is) but it gets the job done. Environments have a decent cartoony look to them with some fun effects such as sand blowing around the desert map, for example. There is some noticeable pop-up when driving around and in races, but really, will kids care about this sort of thing? My nephew did not. There are a few hiccups here and there but they are not deal breakers as everything moves along smoothly enough to get the job done.
The game’s sound does an adequate job as well. The game features plenty of voices and sound bites from the film. These may get a bit repetitive after a while but I didn’t find it too bad. Any repetition was most evident during races. The music is a blend of country and rock tracks. There’s only a few of them, but what are there are actually kind of catchy and fit the mood of the game well. Cars have plenty of distinction between how they sound, my particular favourite being the star of the game, Lighting McQueen, who sounds very much like a real Nascar racing car.
Cars Race-O-Rama can be played via a Story mode or an Arcade mode. The arcade mode is simply an avenue to quickly play events that you have unlocked. The meat of this game is in the story mode where you play as Lightning McQueen and several of his friends as they race against nemesis Chick Hicks and his band of baddies.
You will play through several different environments which contain races that progress the story as well as have the chance to participate in plenty of side events. In between events you can drive freely around the areas as you choose what you want to do. Races are marked with bright colours and are easy to identify. You can also collect various items around each world which will unlock characters, skins and accessories for each car. Want to change your rims or add a new spoiler? You can. These changes are purely cosmetic and in no way affect performance of your characters.
Event types include standard races, drift events, autocrosses, photo ops and other types of mini-game missions. These side events can be a fun diversion and will likely elicit smiles from the kids. The more adventurous can drive from event to event and explore each world area, or you can warp from point to point using the in-game map. Some of the worlds are pretty large with some pretty indirect routes to each objective. This may get frustrating for the younger player. I eventually reverted to using the map myself.
The actual racing itself is a touch generic but it will satisfy the intended audience. The AI follows a distinct pattern in that they are competitive for the first half of the race but tend to fall back as you approach the finish line, especially on the Easy setting. There is a leaderboard which was well designed to show the player what position they are in during a race and the times between each position as well.
Race-o-Rama can be played with or without the nunchuck. Since the game is geared towards a younger audience, I would recommend playing simply with the Wii Remote. It’s far simpler and offers the level of interactivity in having to steer left and right with the remote. If you have the Wii Wheel accessory, it’s probably even more ideal but it is not necessary.
Here is my dig at the game though. This is not a game a 36 year old guy with no kids like me is going to buy. It is obviously a game targeted to the younger crowd. I also want to note that while the game is rated E for Everyone there is a large amount of reading required. If your child is new to reading or has difficulty, be warned there is a large amount of text in the game. This will make it harder for some to enjoy. Race-O-Rama also lacks a certain level of polish. This may not be noticed by a younger audience but to me it felt like a bunch of individual pieces just put together with not much thought being put towards making it a more seamless experience.
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