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Friday, 2 March 2018

Review: Super Toy Cars


Review: Super Toy Cars

The toys you play with as a kid don't change, they just get fully rendered in 3D.



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Super Toy Cars
Eclipse Games | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1-4 Players (Local Only)
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman | 2nd March 2018

Developers Commentary by: Eduardo Chapresto - Eclipse Games

* Review Code Provided by: Eclipse Games *





Nintendo Play is joined by Eduardo Chapresto, Programmer and Founder of at Eclipse Games, for the included Developers Commentary.


Eclipse Games take on the racing genre with their second Nintendo Switch release, Super Toy Cars. Released today digitally for £8.09, do you mind admitting you still like to play with toys?

As 80’s children without the mod-cons of the current generation, it was easy to develop your own racing games. Bringing to life your toy cars, trucks and bikes, creating intricate tracks full of twists, turns and jumps by simply using whatever you found laying around the house. In 1991 Codemasters encapsulated this feeling, replicating our childhood imagination in the medium of video game with their smash hit title MicroMachines, developing a top-down racer that allowed us to bring our Matchbox cars to life and throw them around makeshift courses with reckless abandonment. A few games have attempted to expand on this theme and improve on the “Toy Racer” genre since then, though most have failed; Super Toy Cars is the next contender into the ring.

Super Toy Cars is a by-the-book arcade racer which, while it does have clear thematic ties and draws the most obvious comparison to Codemasters MicroMachines, also shares similarities with mid-90’s RC arcade racer Re-Volt, with big bright cars and arcade-like unrealistic car handling taking center stage. The title offers lovers of both titles the chance to recreate either look with both a top-down view or a selection of ranged views from the rear of your car, though arguably the game handles a lot better when played from the rear view.


Developers Commentary
Eduardo: MicroMachines was one of the inspiration titles, along with Super Mario Kart and Death Rally. I loved Death Rally when I was a kid and I thought that weapons worked pretty well there (thus the inclusion of the weapons in the game). I didn't play Re-volt when I was a kid but in the early stages of the game, when I was still working at GoBo I showed it to a colleague and he pointed how it was like a game he worked in a long time ago: Re-volt. I later knew it was a classic and it's actually quite amazing that I managed to discuss Super Toy Cars with some of the programmers of the original Re-volt.



Super Toy Cars Screenshot 3


Placing more of an emphasis on the single-player experience, the main career mode tasks you with driving through a series of 8 episodes, each one filled with 6 races that, when bested, reward you with currency to purchase new vehicles and upgrades and allow you to progress further through the game. The game contains 16 toy cars that range in style from an original style VW Beetle up to a Formula 1 car, with each containing unique stats which can be further upgraded in 7 areas to permanently increase their base performance. Each car controls completely differently giving you a reason to chop and change to suit the type of race you are about to compete in.

Though not loved by everyone, most arcade racing games usually feature an almost identical feedback loop, a way to keep the player engaged with the current race, whether they are winning or losing. Game AI is usually coded in such a way that if you crash and end up in last place, computer opponents will slow down allowing you the chance to catch up, while reversely speeding up the AI cars to give you some competition when you find yourself leading the pack in pole position. Super Toy Cars does not appear to feature this mechanic, or at least does not implement it particularly well, with the chaotic layout of the courses there are a few occasions where either a bad crash leaves you so far behind the pack that winning is impossible, or AI crashes mean that you spend most of the entirety of a 3 lap race not seeing any of the competition. This is not always the case, though is more prevalent at later levels when your car is fully upgraded and general game speed is a lot faster.


Developers Commentary
Eduardo: It's using a system that's halfway between not doing much with the AI and the rubber band you describe. When I was working on Pure (in Black Rock Studios) we came up with a system that's trying to do something like the rubber banding but not so 'in-your-face'. That's why you'll get some times that feeling of being left behind or going ahead (that one is easier to get if you're good at the game or have a better car), but most of the time you should have a fair and interesting race.

If you're interested in the subject I wrote an article explaining the system (which we called Race Script) for Gamasutra back in the day: Link . Of course, Super Toy Cars' implementation of the system is not as good as Pure's (I spent months only on the AI of Pure while I only spent a few weeks in STC), but I still think it's a good trade-off that works better than normal rubber banding.



Super Toy Cars Screenshot 2



Besides the normal 3 lap races, Super Toy Cars also features a selection of other modes, adding some creative variety. Elimination Mode sees the last place being dropped from the race after a set period of time, reducing the racer count one by one until only the winner remains. Time Trial awards the player for finishing the lap under the set time, while the similar Time Attack divides the course into checkpoints and requires the player to reach each checkpoint before the time expires, losing if the clock drops to zero. The final mode evade requires you to finish a race while avoiding mines that have randomly been placed on the track, this crazy mode is equal parts entertaining as it is infuriating as due to the speed of play it is almost impossible to slow your car down quick enough to avoid hitting a mine after you spot it sitting on the track.

Each race also features a selection of powerups and weaponry, though there use and effectiveness is debatable. AI opponents also tend to hold onto their powerups for no particular reason, only occasionally deciding to deploy them, and usually to little effect. Though these inclusions of these powerups are not a hindrance they just come across a little moot.


Developers Commentary
Eduardo: .( I'm not particularly fond of all power-ups, but I don't think they are completely useless either. I think there are power-ups that are a lot more useful than others. I like the fact that you can see which power-up you're gonna get and you can alter your course to get a power-up that may be particularly useful depending on your race situation. I also think it'd be good to have the option of racing without power-ups but right now it was too much of a hurdle to introduce in the game.

None the less we're now starting to think on whether to develop a second part and what changes to introduce there. Rethinking some power-ups is definitely one of the tasks we'll have to face. While some power-ups are quite useful or interesting like the missile and the 8-ball, others may feel a bit meh, particularly in consoles where we're not adding a camera to show what happened with the power-up (on PC you can see the power-up in a little window in the top left corner).


While the single-player mode is sat up in the driver’s seat, Super Toy Cars does also features 4-player split screen, hidden away within the games quick race mode. The multiplayer matches do not feature any type of customization options and also force the game to be played from overhead view only. The mode itself feels more like a late inclusion to the title and, for a game full of childish whimsy, the omission of a fully fleshed out multiplayer party mode full is a bit of an oversight, one that unfortunately limits the games overall replayability.


Developers Commentary
Eduardo: Implementing online multiplayer games is not easy or quick. It's actually quite a long and painful endeavour in my experience. Even for PC, where certification is almost non-existent, you still have to ensure the game works well with various players, identify and fix multiplayer bugs (which are considerably harder than normal bugs), etc.

That said, we're starting to consider developing an internal cross-platform online multiplayer library that we can share between different projects so that we can add with relative ease online multiplayer to future projects. We think online multiplayer adds a lot of longevity to games but, being a very small company, we really have to be smart about the battles we pick. Spending too much time on a feature for a game that doesn't provide enough return on investment may end up costing us dearly.

I know it sounds quite business-like but when your family's (and other's) wellbeing depends on that sort of decisions you really need to think like that.



Super Toy CarsScreenshot 3


The game features music from punk rock band “The Spin Wires” throughout. The tunes are well produced and effectively complements the retro mid-90’s vibe that this game gives off, though with only 4 tracks in total during the main game, even if you didn’t need to retry any of the games 42 stages you should still expect to hear the same songs on repeat quite a lot.


Developers Commentary
Eduardo: I want to clarify that there are only 4 songs that are voiced, the others are simply instrumental. That said, we have a small selection (less than 10 songs) and that's definitely something we want to change in the future, but at the time I didn't have contacts to fill the track list. I think that if I was to do STC again (or for a second part) I'd do things a bit different and I'd add more variation. This is something I've discussed for some time with Tyson (the lead singer in The Spin Wires and the guy that does most of the music for our games).


With some interesting track layout and large selection of vehicles, Super Toy Cars is an entertaining arcade racer and a welcome addition to the Nintendo Switch console. There is plenty enough content to keep you entertained during your initial playthrough though the lack of a solid and well developed multiplayer mode is sadly a missed the opportunity and one that hampers the desire to return to the title after you have bested the games main career mode.


Many thanks to Eduardo for his discussion during this review.



FOR THE WIN OR FOR THE BIN?



+ Graphically impressive car models.
+ Colourful backgrounds and level assets.
+ Varied selection of race modes.

- Limited opponent AI.
- Not enough emphasis on multiplayer.

Verdict: Above Average – Worth a Try



For gameplay footage of Super Toy Cars, see our see our 10 minute Dive In: HERE
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