Usually the cunning idea lying behind a cutesy cartoon arcade racer is the ability to present fun in its rawest form. Every gamer worth their salt knows that the genre has been defined and championed by Mario Kart, and few other games have come close to touching the sheer entertainment offered by it. Apparently Akaei thought they knew just how to inject this kind of hilarity into the PC with Toon Car. Oh how wrong they were... Under no circumstances should a game ever feel like it's a chore to play, yet Toon Car is like doing the washing up, ironing and hoovering, all rolled into one sickly mess. It's apparent from the very start that the proceedings could become extremely irritating extremely quickly, simply from the mannerisms of the grating host character. It's not often that you can form a grudge against a game simply by accessing the preliminary menu screens, but here at least Toon Car succeeds admirably. The game structure itself is exactly as you would expect from the genre, with single race, practice, championship and multiplayer modes on offer. However, in order to access even the first tiers of the championship, you must first earn a license. To pick this up, you are presented with one of the game's tracks littered with giant traffic cones, all of which you must knock over whilst completing three laps within a time limit. This does little to prove your proficiency within the race environment though, simply because it's a completely different experience.
And it's all downhill from there. Once you are finally granted access to the championship you can choose one of the game's uninspired cartoon characters, which you could be forgiven for not caring less about, since none of them seem to have any merit over the others. Then it's on to the racing. It's during the first race that the full impact of just how dull this game really is hits home. Each race usually falls into a pattern of beginning at the rear of the grid, steadily gaining ground on the other racers before taking the lead by the end of the first lap, then maintaining your position for another lap and a half until you get shot in the back of the head and sent completely off course moments before you cross the finish line. This utterly hair-tearing sequence of events is apparently the game's attempt at being cunning and fiendish. Unfortunately it's neither. Various random power-ups are available during the race, many of them spinning your car round and forcing you in the wrong direction. They're not a fun way of causing your opponents disadvantage, just irritating, much like the rest of the game. It's not even as if Toon Car is a construction of style over substance. It's not stylish, entertaining, funny, charming or even cute. The graphics are utterly whimsical by the standards we have come to expect, and have more in common with your average shareware download than a professionally produced arcade racer. The sound is also less than impressive, with characters yelping repetitively as they race, while the music is a "zany" loop which is only marginally more pleasant than perforating your eardrum with a power drill.
Toon Car is an unfortunate attempt at filling a market hole on the PC, and it fails miserably. Quite how a game could be such an extreme opposite of fun is astounding. I played on just to see if I could squeeze any enjoyment out of it whatsoever, but I'm not convinced Toon Car was made with any sense of what your average games player wants.
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Thrust Twist + Turn, Test Drive: Off-Road 3, TrackMania Nations ESWC, Space Interceptor, Woody Woodpecker Racing, TOCA Race Driver 2, World Racing 2, V-Rally 3
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