Cars 2 Wii Review

A poor man’s Mario Kart that manages to be better than its movie namesake.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 08/03/2011 18:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Good character graphics; a variety of cars and game modes
Poison Mushroom for...
Mediocre background effects; variable AI ranges from easy to flagrant cheating; no online racing

Cars 2 for Wii is based on the lousy movie of the same name.  This in itself is a serious enough obstacle without the natural challenges that come with making a licensed game.  As it turns out, the Wii game is a lot better than its lackluster big-screen counterpart, and while it has some flaws that older gamers will notice, this is a surprisingly solid arcade racer that compares favorably to other Wii arcade racers. 

At its core, the game is an arcade racer with Mario Kart elements thrown in.  The storyline only loosely follows the movie.  Set in Europe, the game reconciles its contradictions with the film by making the game take place within a holographic simulator.  As in the film, a new cadre of European cars– Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell chief among them–  join those returning from the original.

From the main menu, the game offers a few different game modes, including free play and a story mode, and while there isn’t much in terms of surprises, the game’s development works well.  Cars 2 ramps things up slowly, with a series of tutorials interspersed with the early races.  Using points earned from races, new tracks and characters are unlocked, which helps to give players constant payoff for continued play. 

All of the modes revolve around a myriad of race types.  Some races are standard three-lap races with no weapons.  Some races are shameless Mario Kart-style three lap battle races, with floating icons bearing weapons.  Still other variations include arena-style combat races, time trial races, races where you have a limited amount of time to destroy as many cars as possible, and so on.  The race diversity is actually much greater than Mario Kart and gives the game long legs.

Cars 2 provides a wide variety of methods to control the vehicles, including Wii Remote and Nunchuk, Wii Remote held sideways, and Classic Controller.  As is often the case, the sideways Wii remote proves to be too imprecise to be more than a novelty, although it is simple and may be a draw for young players.  The Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination requires some motion controls that don’t always work as cleanly and consistently as they should.  The Classic Controller, then, is probably the best option for playing the game.

Cars 2 Wii screenshot
As Mario Kart-esque as it may appear, the staff’s favourite Pixar movie will always be Finding Nemo. (Noah always tears up the at the end… -Ed.)

The weapons system is used in many of the race styles, and it borrows heavily from Nintendo’s kart racer in substance, if not in style.  There are dumb-fire missiles, homing weapons, oil slicks, and mass attack weapons that bear conspicuous resemblance to green Koopa shells, red Koopa shells, banana peels, and lightning bolts, respectively.  If there is a knock, it’s that the selection doesn’t feel quite as deep as Nintendo’s racer.

The entire cast from the movie is here and is more than just a surface difference.  There are literally dozens of characters to choose from, ranging from the headliner, Lightning McQueen, all the way down to Luigi, the Italian shop owner.  Each car has specific power and speed abilities which give each car its own unique appeal, and they do indeed play differently enough from each other in the field that there is incentive to experiment with different cars.

The presentation values of the game vary widely.  On the graphics front, the character models are very good, with nuanced animations that accurately mimic their on-screen counterparts.  The backgrounds, though, are pretty lackluster, with blocky buildings and not a great deal of real detail.  Soundwise, the music is nondescript but works well enough, and the voices are good enough that it’s impossible to discern whether the talents are the actual film actors or sound-alikes.

A couple of other points deserve attention.  There is a drop-in-drop-out four player mode that allow other players to easily jump into the fray.  Finally, there is an online component that allows basic connection to a website, but there is no online gameplay per say, so those looking to test their skills against online opponents won’t find it here.

This is, first and foremost, a kid’s game, so it stands to reason that a child’s eyes are a worthy judge of this game’s quality.  This reviewer’s preschool daughter watched several hours of this game being put through the paces, and was enthralled by the game, from the authentic character designs to the action-packed battle races.  For the person behind the controller, the game was no less interesting, with accessible controls and a lot of play variety.  The game certainly isn’t perfect– the backgrounds are forgettable, and the game oscillates too readily between being a pushover and cheating badly– but it does better than most games of its ilk and is worth a look for curious young gamers.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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