When it comes to arcade racing, few can argue that the likes of the classic Micro Machines titles from the 90s or even the likes of Mashed from the 00s are right up there in the list of brilliantly fun experiences, especially when it comes to gathering a couple of players around the console for a few rounds. Super Toy Cars is looking to make the jump from the Wii U to take up that mantle, pitting high-powered toy cars with weapons against each other around a number of tabletop-style courses.
Initially, things look promising enough. A decent selection of vehicles is on offer, so you can play as everything from a VW Camper-style van through to a Formula 1 car. For single players, a career mode is in place which rewards you with currency that can be spent on purchasing new rides and upgrading the ones that you have. On top of that, local multiplayer play is available for up to four players. The default camera is a standard "chase"-style camera although, for those that enjoyed that Micro Machines experience back in the day, a top-down view is also in the mix if you choose to use it, although it isn't necessarily all that usable in reality.
Sadly, that's about the end of the list of things that we could call plus points. Super Toy Cars is unfortunately plagued by a number of relatively basic problems that really put a dampener on the fun that you'll have with it.
The main issue is to do with the game's physics. As you move further up through the list of cars, you'll feel more and more as if your vehicle doesn't have any sort of connection to the road surface. Every car feels way too light and this will undoubtedly cause you to careen into the edges of the track, flip and roll over jumps and simply drive into obstacles that you should have been able to avoid given the speed that you're going. This problem is exacerbated by the hit-and-miss "reset" system that drops your car back on track in the middle of the road when you come to grief. There are times where you can clip the edge of a piece of scenery in a manner that should just alter your course a little bit but you'll be instantly reset, losing you a bunch of time. Then there are other times where a crash causes you to be facing the wrong way and the game thinks that there's no cause to reset you, so you have to manually reset with the Y button.
During a race, drifting fills your boost bar and fortunately, the developer has included two ways of controlling your drifts. The reason we say that this is fortunate is simply because the default model – where you hold the handbrake to drift – is absolutely unusable. Any time you try to perform a longer drift with this style of play, the car does indeed drift but then also slows down to a halt, what with the fact that you've got the handbrake locked on and all.
The alternate "tap the handbrake to drift" model is the one that you'll all but have to use if you're going to get anywhere, especially given the bizarre difficulty spikes that the game contains. In one career race, your car will be massively overpowered and you'll be able to win easily, with the next race in the same set all but requiring you to either change your vehicle or upgrade it to the hilt to be able to even get into the top five. With that said, there are a couple of mid-range cars that – when upgraded - you'll be able to win all but the last couple of races with relatively easily. We managed that feat within just a few short hours. There is an attempt at some variation on racing in career mode, with time trials and eliminators thrown in to mix things up, but events manage to feel much the same as one another, nonetheless.
The main cause of this feeling of similarity is that there are only four location types in the game, each featuring multiple track layouts. The only real standout from this short list is the sweetshop setting, mainly due to the fact that it's clearly had more care and attention put into it than the rest. Sure, you get to race around a table and through a toy room, but there simply isn't enough going on to really set the levels apart. Look all the way back to the previously-mentioned Micro Machines and despite the near 25 years since it first launched, you'll probably remember the billiard table track complete with playing card ramps and corner pocket transporters, or the breakfast table with the orange juice oil slicks and Cheerio lane markers. Maybe you'll remember the school room – mainly due to the amount of times you fell off the bridges made of rulers. There's nothing even remotely close to being as memorable as that here.
That isn't to say that on the visual side of things the track design is the only problem, given that the game features lashes of screen tearing and frequent framerate dips. These aren't the only technical issues that should be mentioned either. During our time with the game, we were repeatedly told that we'd won upgrades for Ford GTs and Marussia F1 cars, even though all of the in-game cars are fictional. Sometimes, where the "zany" messages such as "Ouch, that had to hurt!" appear on screen after you've been teeth-gnashingly reset yet again, you'll see unprofessional placeholders such as "Message Text" appear instead. That's pretty much unforgivable.
Still, if you persevere and fancy playing the game with a few pals, you can. Up to four can gather round for split-screen action but you're looking at basic single races only, with no tournaments or other race types on offer. There's also no online play of any kind to be had. That's a bit of a kick in the teeth, especially when you consider that the PC edition has online multiplayer lobbies. Then again, if we're talking about missing features, the Wii U version had a track editor which hasn't made the jump to Xbox One, either. Multiplayer is undoubtedly where the game comes closest to shining, although it isn't going to even come close to other kart racers in terms of quality. Weapons are poorly balanced for a start. One of the very limited selection of forward attacks – the billiard ball – is so slow that most cars can literally just speed away from it, meaning that it's absolutely useless in practice. The reverse attacks – mines, oil slicks and ejector pads – are also far too weak for what they are, even though the clever picture-in-picture reverse camera that shows when you deploy them is a nice touch.
At the end of it all though, it's almost preferable to drive into a mine than it is to barely tap the edge of the track and have the game decide to reset you for the tenth time in a three lap race. That pretty much says it all.
Super Toy Cars is a seemingly rushed and unfinished port of a barely average game. It never set the world alight on PC or Wii U thanks to some pretty dire physics and a lack of interesting locations and this Xbox One version is identical in design to those versions – warts and all - but doesn't contain the track editor or online play. It also features a number of relatively basic technical issues that sap the fun out of things. Beach Buggy Racing would be the main competition on Xbox One and even though that game is a little bit of a by-the-numbers affair, it's still massively preferable to this.