For many years now, toy cars have been an iconic part of growing up male. Whether it’s Hot Wheels, Micro Machines, Kub Kars or something else, there’s no shortage of options and history is full of them. As such, there’s no surprise that, even as we grow older, the idea of racing toy cars continues to be a fun idea.
Enter Super Toy Cars, a newly-released [email protected] game that has made the jump from its Steam Early Access origins to Microsoft’s Xbox One. Aiming to bring nostalgia-fuelled gameplay to those who love toy cars, it bore a lot of potential and could’ve helped to rejuvenate an almost forgotten sub-genre. However, as is sometimes the case, technical problems and a seemingly rushed development cycle have resulted in a bland and frustrating experience.
Developed by Eclipse-Games, who recently released Tachyon Project through the same [email protected] program, Super Toy Cars is best described as a tabletop racing game. One that, as expected, makes small-scale items look large due to its focus on diminutive vehicles. It’s an interesting idea, and one that we used to see more of, but it wasn’t the drawing board where this game failed.
Despite offering sixteen unique and upgradeable cars, as well as a decent amount of tracks based in different environments — such as a toy store and a child’s bedroom — Super Toy Cars isn’t much fun to play. I put a good amount of time into it, and beat its career mode over the course of three to four hours during one afternoon, but even though I tried to enjoy it, the experience left me bored. Simply put, this game is glitchy, unfair, rudimentary and dated.
You’d think that, after having been released on both Steam and Wii U, Super Toy Cars would have come to Xbox One as a polished racing title, but it hasn’t. Its cars casually clip through the environments, while employing poor physics and imprecise controls that will sometimes leave you feeling as if they have a mind of their own.
Another thing about Super Toy Cars is that it suffers from an identity crisis.
Not comfortable with simply being a tabletop car game, it also aspires to be a Mario Kart-esque battle racer. However, while that’s an interesting combination on paper, it ends up being both half-baked and unfinished in execution. That’s because, not only are the power-ups basic and limited (outside of a cool eight ball that rolls over opponents), but the AI hardly ever bothers. They’re few and far between on the courses to begin with, and when you add in the fact that the player is the only one who really uses them, it’s hard not to see the things as a wasted opportunity.
The Wii U version of the game also included a track creator, which is M.I.A. this time around, for some strange reason. It’s a shame, because such a feature would’ve made this lacking experience more robust, by allowing players to create their own tabletop environments. At least the developers included a decent amount of tracks, although none of them are memorable or incredibly well-designed.
As it stands now, Super Toy Cars is limited to just Quick Race, “Career” and local multiplayer options.
Career mode takes the form of several different tiers, each of which is comprised of six individual events. It’s a basic design, and one that works around a points system, where first place is worth ten, second place is worth about eight, and so on. The idea, then, is to earn as many points as possible, because you’ll need well over two hundred in order to unlock the final tier. That’s not a crazy number, though, because I was able to exceed it shortly after reaching the game’s mid-way point.
There are several different event types to be found, ranging from traditional races, time trials and elimination engagements to time attacks and avoidance challenges, but there’s nothing special about any of them. In fact, their lack of polish can lead to a lot of frustration, as is the case with the game’s drift mechanic, which is imprecise and tough to master. When it works, you’ll feel like a superstar, but those moments will be overshadowed by a lot of crashes and some questionable physics.
This problematic trend also carries over into the base difficulty setting, which has infuriating peaks and valleys. Even early on, amidst events that are meant to be simple to overcome, difficulty spikes come into play. Hell, some of the challenges in the middle of the Career were much more difficult than those at its end because of this inconsistency.
The main culprits were both the avoidance challenges — wherein one must drive around mines while gunning for first in an attempt to avoid elimination — and the time attack scenarios. They’re easily the most difficult of the bunch, and sometimes unfairly so, especially when it comes to the latter group. Even some of the early time attack events were so unfairly difficult — due to their lack of allotted time and spread out checkpoints — that I had trouble beating them with the fastest car in the game. That’s certainly not a mark of good game design.
On the presentation side of things, Super Toy Cars is also a disappointing affair. Not only does it look dated and unfinished, it also suffers from frame rate problems, screen tearing and a bit of clipping. On top of that, the original score — which is aided by some half-decent licensed music — leaves a lot to be desired, and the sound effects tend to get muddy with ease. Needless to say, this isn’t a game that feels like it belongs on the Xbox One.
With all that being said, unless you’re really wanting a tabletop racing game, Super Toy Cars is one to pass on. It’s unfortunate, and I hate dumping on indie games, but this is not a good title, nor is it polished.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Super Toy Cars is not a good game. It's mechanically flawed, unfinished and generally more frustrating than it is fun. So, unless you're itching for a new tabletop racing game and happen to be willing to overlook such issues, this is one to avoid.