It’s no surprise that movie tie-in games have always been a big deal on Nintendo consoles. Hearkening all the way back to the NES, but it’s also no surprise that movie tie-in games have always been considered just a “shovelware” title to quickly get some cash. For some games this is true, for others it is not. And that’s where Cars come into play.
The Cars games have always been considered to be one of the best movie games out there, with Cars 2 getting absolute praise unlike the movie. Now, with Cars 3 released this past summer, of course there is going to be a game to help sell it, but does it follow the same praise as Cars 2 got or is it just another shovelware cash grab?
Like its predecessors, Cars 3:Driven to Win was developed by Avalanche Software which, if you can recall, worked on the short lived toys-to-life series, Disney Infinity. After Disney closed its doors, not even two months later Warner Bros bought the studio with, fortunately, a vast amount of staff getting their jobs back as a result. Avalanche has proved themselves to make some quite entertaining games based off Movie/TV show IP’s, a prime example being Disney Infinity. So, it’s great to know that this game was in good hands.
From the very start and look of the game, you can tell that the models and even the tracks looked like they were ripped right out of Disney Infinity. My guess is that the team was already in mid-production of the Cars 3 playset when Infinity was shut down and that they used the engine, plus whatever else they could salvage from the game and brought it into here and for me, I kinda like that. I think of this game as the playset we never got. Everything pretty much matches it right down to the story.
The story is pretty much a direct sequel to the movie where the main protagonist, Lightning McQueen, is gearing up to race against his rival, Jack Storm in a rematch. (I would say spoilers but it’s a Cars movie, nothing really to spoil). Along the way, you race against different characters from the Cars 3 movie all while Chick plays the announcer on his own TV show. Now we can all agree that the story is pretty forgettable and Avalanche probably knew that too. It’s just your simple “I gotta be the best” plot and “everyone’s a winner” moral. Nothing really new, So I won’t dive into the story that much.
Now, let’s head to the main part of the game, gameplay. For a Switch game, the world of Driven to Win is quite nice. From the Sandy Beach to the Demolition Derby, everything is well designed, and it shows while you’re playing it. As you can see, this game is targeted for kids and fans of the movie or even Disney Infinity, some calling this a “successor” to it. As you play the game, you can unlock more characters to play as along with new tracks to race on. While this may sound like a Sonic and All Star Racing clone, each car doesn’t really have an advantage against each other. Each drive, play, and control the exact same way. Unlike other games where the ZL button is used for the gas and ZR is used for drifting, ZR is used to drive while the A button is used for drifting. While that may seem a bit off at first, it’s only a short amount of time till you get used to it. It makes sense for the switch version because of how the Joy Cons are made. While the controls may not be a major issue, you may get annoyed by the constant chatter of the cars during and after the race which can get pretty annoying for some, especially at the end when Chick straight up becomes a jerk if you got a lower rank.
This game is no hand holder. There are three modes you can choose from easy, normal, and hard. I played Easy mode the most but even on that setting the CPU’s are a challenge. Each track has its unique shortcuts, paths and obstacles. Like in Mario Kart or SASR, you can boost by drifting or performing tricks on ramps, hills, or, if you time it correctly, jumps. There is also little panels on the road where you can fill up you boost gauge from drifting to even driving backwards, which I’ll admit is pretty cool, but if you are personally having trouble playing, there’s a “playground” where you can learn how to master controlling the cars. Plus, you can play some side missions to unlock more stuff to spazz up your ride. The game also supports local and online co-op, which can sacrifice the visuals of the game at times. Plus these modes make the game a bit choppier and the framerate chug along now and then. It’s not really noticeable in some places, but if you’re playing in the Junkyard track where certain barrels will explode, expect a drop in framerate.
Overall, Cars 3: Driven to Win is a worthy successor to the Cars game series. While it may not be exactly on point with Cars 2, it does hold its value and Avalanche still has some juice in them. Cars 3 has a lot of replayability, plus it gives you quite a challenge on the tracks. Kids will probably be playing this game for quite sometime, but for others, it’s probably best just to stick to Mario Kart 8 DX.