It’s easy to forget a classic game you played as a child. At times, it can seem there are so many that they blur into one – or just lie in your subconscious waiting to be awoken, raised to the surface by a modern carbon copy.
Let me be honest: not many games have created the same charm as racing round the breakfast table as the original Micro Machines for the NES; sticking to marmalade jam and drifting perilously close to the edge, rear wheels being sucked into the void below – I have these memories flooding back due to the newly released, early-access Super Toy Cars with the various small cars dwarfed by plastic building blocks, books, and bricks, eight cars battle in the back garden, the playroom, and other areas of our real life; but will it reignite the joys of my inner eight year spirit, or be condemned to the closet like my real life remote control car?
Zaragoza-based developers Eclipse Games claim to be all about ‘making fun games people can enjoy’ – nothing more, nothing less. Having previously developed two arcade games – EcoFish and LightFish – they are looking at new ground with this arcade combat racing game, which borrows memories of games from previous decades – and molds them into their very own little creature, as affordable to the masses as it is playable.
As the name suggests, you’re in control of a toy car of which there are many: sports cars, muscle, off-road… none of which are the same. Starting off with the off-road land rover-like vehicle with fantastic handling, it’s easy to navigate the sharpest bends; but this handling comes at the expense of speed. This isn’t a problem to begin with, as the first set of six events – ranging from an eight-man race, to elimination, time trial and my personal favorite – an elimination round where after 15 seconds the player in last position is ejected from the race – are all fairly easy to overcome, acting as baby steps before upping the ante; how you respond to this gives a bit of freedom, as a few cars will have been unlocked to cater to your tastes: whether that be a brutish muscle car, or an elegant rally car. But if you’ve developed a keen liking for your weapon of choice, then an acquisition of a better engine, and buying weight reduction may give you that little edge in the forthcoming events.
The cel-shaded art style Eclipse Games has opted for is superb. I didn’t expect much, but the banquet you’re treated to is more than worth the change lying around your house. Everything has a nice thick line, giving it a cartoon feel while not sacrificing detail. A lot of detail has gone into the aforementioned vehicles, which are fantastic: shapes inspired by real life cars can easily be seen, but textures are superb; light bends and reflects off of the metal chassis, distorting what is surround the car, but also dull reflections of light coming off the plastics that make the grill and various bits of trim. They fit perfectly with the environment and Eclipse Games is offering a batch of paint jobs in the coming months which may include a vehicle editor – it’s clear that they’re pushing for a user-friendly game, offering freedom for players to be able create custom paint jobs on top of the ability to already create tracks and share through the Steam community.
Vehicle handling is easy to adjust to within a couple of races, an upgrade to what some may recall from the Dreamcast classic Re-Volt: offering a perfect game for parties with the four player split screen with much easier to use weapons, better handling, and less cruel AI.
Super Toy Cars trips over a hurdle in one of the elements of the racing, and that is the ramps: getting up them is fine and you’re often teased to boost up them to reach the coins and add to your funds. With longer air time, the more the boost meter is filled. Fill the meter, and you can let rip: drifting around sharp corners is crucial to building the meter up, much like in Burnout. When coming to land, it can result in one of three events taking place. One such event is you land carrying all of your momentum, barely slowing down and putting you in line to win on the final straight. The second, less favourable outcome is that the car inexplicably slows down, as if hitting a brick wall. The most displeasing aftermath when bringing the nippy vehicles back down to earth is going through the floor, the rear of the car sticking out like an ostrich with its head in the sand before respawning back on the track, losing all momentum you may have gained beforehand. Resolving this issue – perhaps by having the cars possibly bounce depending how they land – may be an idea to bring in, as remote controls cars I drove in my younger years were often unpredictable due to the nature of rubber tires and light plastics.
Also included are a few camera options, with one particularly standing out: the top down view makes evokes memories of Micro Machines, with the camera rotating very little and only panning up and down when going up and over jumps. The other two are the regular close-up and far camera views, which appeal more to me; but every so often I’m inclined to go retro to please my inner child.
Weapon pickups are the order of the day, covering the range of offense and defense capabilities – including a forward firing missile, laying down ink and mines, and a boost which, rather than just giving you an instant release of speed, fills up the boost bar so you are able to create a combo of power using this and any boost you have acquired by drifting and jumping. A certain element is taken from the fabulous Blur: rather than displaying your power up at the top of the screen, it sits at the rear of the car – so that it isn’t taking space that could be used to show the lush graphics. After Blur, it’s my preferred way of displaying weapons, due to how it offers a far cleaner look.
With a soundtrack supplied by The Spin Wires, which fits to the cartoon style without resorting to child like music, the ears are not left neglected either – but it seems that there are a very limited amount of sound effects which slowly become repetitive: such as the explosion of the mines, which can be heard every 5 seconds in the evade events. When being overtaken or overtaking yourself, which happens a lot, the same beeping noise of cars becomes a little monotonous. It’s not a game breaker, but we would like to see a little more variance, especially with the horns; the cartoon nature and the variety of cars provide the opportunity to have various horn noises: deep ones for the larger vehicles, and high pitched ones for the smaller, nippier cars.
Overall Super Toy Cars offers a fantastic experience for an exceptional price. Even at this early-access stage, there are only a few gripes – but these are not game breakers. With a little tinkering – and with the plans Eclipse Games have for the next couple of months – it’ll be a shame if anyone passes on this, as they’ll never realize how much you can get for so little.