Cars Race-O-Rama (Wii) - Review by Chris



Released to box offices worldwide in 2006, Cars was not your typical Disney Pixar animated movie. Whereas before their films had been pre-occupied with the living, through either animals or humans, Cars took a similar route to Toy Story and gave the spotlight, as the title suggests, to a set of talking cars. Having been a success in 2006 at the box office, the inevitable game release was also met with the same enthusiasm by kids and has since seen one other game released carrying the name, that being Cars Mater-National. So here we are again with another game carrying the license and with the film's sequel not due until 2011 at the earliest, it's one that doesn't have to be confined by the restrictions of adhering to a script. But does this make for a roaring good time or does it simple limp into the garage?


The story goes that racing hero, and star of the film and other games, Lightning McQueen has set up his own racing academy to teach students the art of racing in the run up to the big Race-O-Rama competition that is coming up. It isn't long before McQueen's adversary Chick Hicks turns up, though, to boast about his own academy of racing, one where the students aren't necessarily taught to play fair when it comes to the races, and so a confrontation starts as Hicks vows to shut down McQueen's school and steal all of his students and become to best racer in all of Radiator Springs. It's not a particularly spectacular story but one that gets the job done of housing all of the content on the disc. With there being no film tie-in to go with the game, it would have been nice to see the developers take a chance and add some excitement to the story but it seems that even without the film tie-in, developers have had their hands tied in sticking to the tried and tested formula so as not to upset fans.

Previous games have attempted different styles to house the gameplay. The initial game went for a more open world structure while Mater-National went for a more compartmentalised setup and in the end, Race-O-Rama gives the best of both. You'll get to drive around 8 hub worlds that house all of the races and mini-games you'll play through, 3 of which are brand new locations exclusive to the game. To progress from area to area, you'll need to complete a series of gold events before talking to Mack and being driven to the next location, with the inevitable confrontation with Hicks in the Race-O-Rama competition showdown.

There are over 30 gold events to play through from start to finish but the problem is that if you simply play the gold events you'll be finished in a few hours as its never difficult to place first in a race. The hub worlds do provide you with alternatives to help increase the length of the story mode but the reliance on mini-games shows that the developers really had little to go on when making the game. The mini-games themselves range from drifting competitions, which use the new drifting mechanic that the game has implemented to score a set number of points within a set number of laps, to photo opportunities, where you'll have to hit a jump and strike a pose for the cameras, to the Guido kart races, which make use of some of the vehicles from the Cars short film A Cars Toon and gives you the basic of setups but litters the tracks with power-ups for you to use ala Mario Kart. The provide a nice alternative to the short run of the main story line but these themselves never offer more than a fleeting moment of respite and soon you'll be forced to go back to the gold events as the number of mini-games per hub world is limited to a few. They do, however, offer you the chance to unlock various modifications for McQueen, such as bumpers and spoilers, as well as helping to unlock extra characters for use outside of the story mode but the modifications don't improve the statistics of the car whatsoever and so are merely decorative.

The actual racing is lively enough, with your opposition putting on a forceful show to prevent you from getting to the top spot. You'll be bumped and spun around if you're not too careful but the developers seem to have forgotten to allow the same physics to be applied to your opposition when you apply that form of treatment. It does make it a little one sided but once you've gotten used to the routine, getting through the pack unscathed is easy enough. Outside of the story mode, you have access to all the typical race and mini-game modes and these can either be played in single player against the game's AI or with a second player in split screen action and with the short story mode, you'll spend more time here due to the more extensive options on offer.


The developers have given you one of two choices for the controls: you can control it with the Wii-mote and Nunchuk, for a more traditional setup, or you can make use of the motion capabilities and use the Wii-mote on its own, or with the Wii Wheel shell if you so please. Both setups work well, although the more traditional setup with the Nunchuk does provide a more precise experience in comparison to the motion controls which can at times feel awkward. The Wii-mote on its own works but the controls are overly sensitive so if you take your eyes of the game for a second while turning, you'll have to be prepared to pull yourself out of the barriers. Likewise, the game offers you the ability to make you cars jump and with the Nunchuk setup, it's easy to pull off because all you have to do is press a button but with the Wii-mote on its own, it requires a flick upwards, ala Mario Kart Wii and its stunt mechanism, and it's not always recognised. It's a slight frustration but seeing as the jump function is a commodity and not something that you'll be using very much, it doesn't matter much. The other main problem with the Wii-mote only setup comes from the drifting. You access it by pressing and holding down on the d-pad and then turning but it's so awkward to pull off thanks to where it is placed and because of the sensitivity of the controls.


Throughout development, the Wii version was never thought of or taken as the lead platform, with assets being transferred down across all platforms and it shows. Tracks lack any of the charm of the films and lack any imagination to give you any sense of joy racing around them. The kerbs and various terrains that you'll race across also have the strange ability to not affect your speed whatsoever so you can race across what looks like gravel or sand and still be carrying the same speed you had when you left the track. The towns and cities that act as the hub worlds for the various events and mini-games are large and open enough, sporting a good level of detail and some good lighting effects, but are devoid of any life making them somewhat pointless as there is little placed throughout them for you to do or see. The game also suffers from some frame rate issues on occasion when the camera shows too much of the expansive environments and lighting effects. It doesn't halt the game but it's definitely noticeable, especially so when using your boost. The cars are the best of the lot, though, looking exactly like their movie counterparts and being animated extremely well, although the lip sync for the cars' voices is off.


The actors from the film haven't been brought in to reprise their roles as the various vehicles so instead, impersonators make up the cast list. And for the most part, they do a good job but if you've seen the films, you'll be able to tell that the voices don't quite match up. The same speech fragments are reused over and over throughout the races and it's something that can be irritating as there's not change between the races other than the order they may appear. The music on offer isn't going to win over many fans and doesn't really attribute much to the atmosphere that they game should exude. Country music twangs make up the majority of what you'll hear and it just doesn't feel lively enough even for a kid friendly IP.

Final comments

Cars Race-O-Rama isn't a bad game but it's far from being taking to the top of the podium. The racing just feels lacklustre compared to other titles and the quick run time will not do much for people looking for something a bit more extensive in the winter break. Young gamers will love it, though, so long as they enjoyed the experiences and exploits of McQueen and Co. in the films and will love seeing their heroes take to the screen again in well produced car models. Older gamers, on the other hand, are best advised to look elsewhere as there's little here that'll appeal to them.

Pro: Plenty of options outside of the story mode, cars models are well done, voice work is good even though it's not the original cast
Con: Story mode is over before you know it, frame rate issues, general lack of excitement from races
Final score: 6.1


There are no comments yet on this article.
You could be the first one!

Post a new comment

To place a comment, you need to be logged in.
Register or log in.
Boxart of Cars Race-O-Rama (Wii)
Platform: Wii
Genre: Racing
Developer: Incinerator Games
Publisher: THQ