Everybody loves a bit of Micro Machines, right? Driving toy cars around the most ordinary bits of scenery you can imagine is strangely fun; many kids can happily drive their parents round the bend by whizzing little plastic vehicles up and down the walls, and a whole host of video games have tried to replicate the very idea over the last couple of decades in interactive form. So how does Super Toy Cars line up against its many rivals, then?
At its core, the game is a very standard racer that features most of things we’ve come to expect from budget titles within the genre. You’ll be taking part in a variety of events that are split between normal races, elimination rounds, time trials, and special elimination events that litter the track with mines to create even more chaos.
In the same vein as Mario Kart, item boxes can be found on track which can provide you with a selection of weapons or powers to use to your advantage. Some of these, such as the missile or giant pool ball will hit opponents in front of you, others can leave obstacles on the track behind you, and another will fill up your boost meter. This meter, which can also be filled by getting air time or successfully drifting around corners, will give your car a speed boost when it is full and activated.
The main chunk of the game takes place inside a ‘career’ mode, although this is essentially just made up of eight sets of six events with no story, characters or background attached. As you play you’ll earn a currency which can be spent on unlocking new cars, upgrades for those cars to fine-tune their performance, and paint jobs to personalise your vehicles slightly. On top of the career mode you can also jump into a quick race on any mode you like with up to three friends, and a tutorial is available to teach you the basics.
Set across five different tracks, each containing three course variants, the races are a mixed affair. We found that as you unlock the faster cars, and especially once you have found one that suits your racing style, the game feels much better than in the early stages which can feel a little sluggish. The career mode feels incredibly repetitive, with the same event styles happening over and over again, but the racing itself is just about decent enough to make you want to play through several races at a time.
Interestingly, you can choose from either a behind-the-car view like most modern racers, or a birds-eye-view that will make Micro Machines fans feel instantly at home. Unfortunately, this birds-eye-view option doesn’t work quite as well as you’d hope, though; the scenery on the tracks (which have themes such as a kitchen surface, a candy store, a street, and a garage) is much harder to see from that perspective and you’ll often find yourself crashing into things that weren’t visible to you.
This actually leads us on nicely to the game’s most frustrating issue. At certain points on some tracks, you’ll be happily driving along until you seemingly hit an invisible wall. Usually, the tracks behave just fine, but there are certain areas where you will make contact with a wall and spin out even if you’re actually just clear of it. When you couple this with the already chaotic nature of all of the cars making contact with each other, sending you spinning around in circles without mercy, you’re left with a racer that never quite feels in your control.
Thanks to this, the game never really manages to be anything more than average. The racing is fine, but also a bit too messy, and the physics and contact between the cars and points on the track is all a little too temperamental. In fact, on some occasions, a car next to us would hit a mine on the road causing it to spin, and we would end up suffering the same fate despite being a good car’s-width away from the one that triggered it. As something to pass the time or just have a laugh with, Super Toy Cars just about works, but for anyone who is looking for a tight, responsive racer, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed.
Visually, the game sits firmly within the ‘average’ bracket, too; models and textures are a little rough around the edges, and we did notice the occasional frame drop, but the car and track designs are mostly cute and colourful as you’d expect in a toy-racer. Similarly, using an EP from indie rock band The Spin Wires, the game’s soundtrack suits the vibe nicely, but as it is limited to around four or five tracks you’ll soon be wishing you could put on something new.
Finally, it is worth noting that the track creator available in the Wii U version of the game is missing in this release. While this mode was a little hit and miss, it is still a shame to see that it hasn’t made its way over to the new console. With a lack of any online play, aside from some online leaderboards, and with this feature missing too, we can’t help but feel that this Switch version needs a little more content to be truly worth a purchase.
Super Toy Cars is a decent enough tabletop racer that will have fans of the classics like Micro Machines taking a quick nostalgic trip down memory lane, but it never manages to live up to the games from which it clearly takes its inspiration. You’ll get some fun out of throwing your car around the cute tracks, but the temperamental physics and inaccurate contact between your car and its surroundings has the potential to frustrate players before that happens. Not a bad game, then, but one that is a few grid positions behind its competitors.