Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Disney/Pixar: Cars

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Electronic Theatre ImageIn Japan, sales charts are frequently dominated by Role-Playing Games and quirky titles, whilst in America, Action and Sports games rule. Back in Britain the Sales Charts show a disturbing trend, despite a history of shocking production, mediocre porting and little relevance to the source material going as far back as the infamous ET for the Atari 2600 back in 1983, the British public love their Film Licences. Being arguably the kid’s film of the summer, Disney/Pixar: Cars was always going to have a related game, on every platform ever. PSP games are regularly cut-down versions of the home console version, complete with extra soul crushing Loading Times. However, Disney/Pixar: Cars is hoping to break that mould, and with the GameCube and NintendoDS versions receiving decent reviews, let’s hope THQ can pull-off the unthinkable, a decent PSP Film Licence.

Disney/Pixar: Cars is, unsurprisingly, a film about cars, so predictably Disney/Pixar: CarsElectronic Theatre Image for PSP is a racing game. A far cry from the likes of Gran Turismo, Disney/Pixar: Cars is a story-driven Arcade Racing game with very child friendly controls. Players must race around fairly simply designed tracks, each representing various locations from Radiator Springs, the setting from the film. However, unlike the home console versions, Disney/Pixar: Cars for the PSP does not follow the plot of the film. Instead the story revolves around a group of street racers coming to Radiator Springs and challenging the inhabitants to several races. Hardly Oscar winning stuff, but it does set the game up for several races against other town residents before a head-to-head against one of the rogue street racers. Initially Disney/Pixar: Cars allows players to choose between Lightning McQueen, Sally and Mater for the Story and Grand Prix Mode, before unlocking extra Tracks and characters as the player advances. Several of the cars are, unfortunately, identical in their speed and handling though, despite their different Character Models.

As stated, driving the vehicles in Disney/Pixar: Cars is very easy. Braking is rendered obsolete by the incredibly useful Power Slide, initiated by pushing the R Trigger, which allows a player to turn easily around basically every corner in the game. To gain a short burst of speed, the player has access to a Boost with a constantly recharging meter. This allows the player to drive at almost WipEout-esque speeds for prolonged periods, something that certainly increases the fun-factor of the game. However, despite the lack of challenge in the actual driving, there are a few good ideas that help make Disney/Pixar: Cars slightly more taxing than the drivingElectronic Theatre Image set-up would suggest. Firstly is the idea of Drafting: basically, by positioning yourself in the Slipstream of another vehicle, your Boost meter recharges, whereas the leading car’s meter decreases, very useful for keeping the leading car from Boosting and allowing you to attain a speed advantage. The other is the liberal amount of short-cuts that can be taken on every Track and knowing the best route can become essential in later Missions. Nevertheless, these shortcuts add a surprising tactical element to the game and at the very least, show a level of polish not frequently seen in the average tie-in title.

Disney/Pixar: Cars is no graphical masterpiece, but it’s hardly sloppy. All of the Car Models are reasonably detailed and the Lip-Synching is fairly impressive, especially during the well animated Cut-Scenes. On the other hand, the tracks are fairly bland, with predominantly brown and green textures and little in the way of distinguishing features. The overall presentation of the title is also of an above average standard. Unfortunately there are a few physics and Collision Detection issues, namely the fact that hitting any object at high speed usually results in an unrealistic change in direction. Disney/Pixar: Cars features Voice-Acting from the cast of the film and uses them the good effect in-game, although admittedly they will start to grate eventually. The game also features lively music from the film which gives the game an official and well presented feel.

Shockingly, Disney/Pixar: Cars is actually quite a good game. The Story Mode is challenging enough to keep children and adults alike interested for a decent amount of time and the range of unlockables and Ad-Hoc Multiplayer should help prolong the enjoyment. Due to their simplicity, the actual driving mechanics will become boring for experienced gamers after prolonged play, but should entertain children for quite some time. Disney/Pixar: Cars for PSP is unlikely to dominate proceedings on a console already saturated with Racing titles, but if all Film Licences were used this well, in a game of this standard, perhaps the strange spending habit of British gamers would be at least partially justified. 

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