Based on the enduringly popular toy line of miniature cars, this racing game puts players in a sort of stuntman game show, where they'll strive to complete courses in fastest times and perform the most impressive stunts. The game show competition consists of three kinds of events: Mini-games, Races, and Stunt Challenges. Mini-games usually involve collecting icons in a limited amount of time. Races take place on one of 12 tracks, and players compete to finish first. The game's 24 different Stunt Challenges reward players for performing a variety of daring deeds from behind the virtual wheel.
Just as every red-blooded kid growing up did I had Hot Wheels cars. I remember being fascinated by the cars that my friends and relatives had instead of the cars that I had. The cars from my youth might not be around anymore but the Hot Wheel legacy is still going strong today. With my son growing up I'm paying more attention to the ads for the new Hot Wheels cars and tracks. The tracks today are no longer just a few pieces of plastic stuck together over your furniture to make a track. Now there are "monster" tracks or "insane stunt" tracks that I only dreamed about when I was a kid.
Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Challenge looks to bring the fun and excitement of Hot Wheels racing to your PC. While it exceeds in giving the player the opportunity to use the Hot Wheels cars that are available it doesn't exceed from the gameplay aspect. The game is based on an extreme game show where you're competing in the show. You have a host, Ryan Storm, which introduces the action before the race that will remind players of a kid's cartoon show. Ryan is the atypical tough, cocky and full of attitude character that comprises not only cartoons but also video games. Ryan's introductions are similar before each challenge but I'm sure younger gamers will enjoy them. During the races Ryan will even coach by offering suggestions for parts of the track. The voice acting of the Ryan character was well done and his comments weren't very repetitive.
The main part of the game focuses on the events of the Stunt Track Challenge: the Stunt Challenge, races and Game Breaks. As I mentioned earlier the game is played out from a game show type setting where you compete in the show by racing in the three different parts of the Stunt Track Challenge. The Stunt Challenge (as the name suggests) has you competing to score the most points on the stunt track. The Stunt Challenge goals differ for each track but usually revolve around driving through a particular area to score points. But you can also score additional points by perform stunts during the Challenge. The race part of the Stunt Track Challenge pits you against 5 other drivers. The Game Break mode allows you to earn decal tokens that can be used to modify the appearance of your cars. There are a total of 6 "episodes" that you can compete in. The episodes range from "Jurassic Jam" (where you race in a prehistoric setting) to "Lava Land" (where you compete on a volcano).
In order to advance to the next event in the Stunt Track Challenge you will need to finish in the top three. This is standard rule for many racing games but this might cause some concern with a few gamers. It seemed no matter what car I used during the challenges I would always finish 2nd or lower. Each episode had one character that would usually finish 1st during every event. You do have the option to try each event over before you compete in the next event but this became very repetitive. Finishing in the top three wasn't a challenge but finishing 1st felt impossible. You will earn additional cars and unlock the next episodes by finishing within the top three. Finishing first in all six of the episodes will unlock the special Stunt Track Challenge Gold Car.
The racing action is where the game seems to suffer. I remember one of the biggest complaints I had with racing real Hot Wheels was my car falling off the track. That same complaint is still in this game. I found myself falling off of the tracks over and over again. It became a point where it wasn't fun anymore trying to finish a race; it was a test of will to see if I had the patience to finish the race. How the cars handled is the biggest culprit for this problem. These are Hot Wheels, not actual racecars, so the cars would accelerate at a rapid pace and turning the cars was never as responsive as I would expect from a racing game. You will find yourself going 200 miles per hour and then have to make a series of tight turns only to have the car fall off the track. Another issue was that a majority of the courses do not have walls to keep your car on track. Taking a corner at break neck speed only to slide off the track I guess is fun for some gamers. I found myself trying to maintain a steady pace not to fall off of the track which always resulted in me finishing 2nd or 3rd instead of coming close to finishing 1st.
The graphics for Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Challenge are decent but unremarkable. The video segments for Ryan Storm were grainy and disappointing. The racing action moved at a fast pace but the frame rate would stutter occasionally. The car models looked good but didn't have the polish and detail of other racing games. However the graphics for the different stages were adequate with each stage having their own unique look based on the theme of the "episode." Each stage had its own theme and special effects based on that particular theme. For example you might see a large spider and have to jump through a web on the "Spider Alley" stage. Younger gamers will have no problems with the graphics but older gamers will probably notice the graphics lacked the extra coat of luster other racing games have.
Since this is a Hot Wheels game then I need to discuss the cars. The cars included in the game are based on current Hot Wheels cars. You have three different car types that can be selected during the Stunt Challenge series: Sports, Muscle and Heavy. All of the cars can be modified to your liking before each episode or in the Garage option. There is a wide assortment of colors that you can choose for the cars, along with different wheel and decals. You can unlock more decals and wheels as you progress farther in the game. You will also earn more cars by finishing in the top three after competing in each episode. You earn a different car based on if you finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd after each episode. For the hardcore racing fan there isn't an option to tune each car. All of the changes made are cosmetic.
Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Challenge is a decent title that will probably please younger gamers. The decent graphics, original track designs and the Hot Wheels cars will make this game worthy of their attention. However the touchy controls and lack of options will leave hardcore racing fans looking for their classic collection of Hot Wheels. The game does offer some additional modes besides just the episodes based on Stunt Track Challenge. There is an arcade mode that allows you to race on any of the tracks that you unlocked during the Challenge mode. Also included is an online multiplayer mode so you can compete against other gamers (however there was no one on when I tried connecting). The additional modes are nice but not enough to make this game a must own title.
Racing games are all about the experience of driving a car. Having to start a race over and over again because you fall off the track is a not an awarding experience. Always finishing 2nd or 3rd because the computer is always in front no matter what happens isn't my idea of a great gameplay. Hot Wheels' fans should enjoy the cars included and the ability to customize their appearance.
The graphics are decent for what I would consider a children's title. The cars look like Hot Wheels and the stages are as wild and crazy as Hot Wheels fans could imagine. But the framerate drops and lack of detail on the car models and stages just won't cut it for older gamers.
Most of the sound effects and music in the game are overshadowed by the voiceovers of Ryan Storm. The voice acting of Ryan Storm was well done and I didn't notice much repetition of his phrases during a race. The only exception to this would be when I had to start a section over again because I fell off the track. All of the sound effects for the cars were similar to each other and the music wasn't anything that will grab your attention.
Finishing 2nd or 3rd all the time is usually a sign of one or two symptoms. Either you're a decent driver or the computer just wants to win no matter how good you are. Being patient and unlock additional cars will help in finally being able to finish all of the episodes in first place.
The Hot Wheels franchise isn't new to the gaming world. There was a solid Hot Wheels title released for the Playstation 1 that I enjoyed tremendously. However with Stunt Track Challenge it seems the luster has been dulled on the franchise. Having the game based around a game show is a nice idea but it's only an idea that will attract younger gamers. You can race through the game in the arcade mode, but you have to unlock the tracks and cars in the Stunt Track Challenge mode. The game tries to throw some variety in the mix by having the Stunt Challenge mode included but the track designs are frustrating. I don't expect to fall off a track in a racing game no matter how extreme or insane the design. Each episode has the same format: two races, two stunt challenges and two Game Breaks. The only differences between each episode are the graphics for each stage, so you get a sense of deja vu after two episodes.
The game allows up to two players to play the game at the same time on one PC. One person can control their car by a controller while the other player controls their car by the keyboard.
Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Challenge is a decent title that will appeal primarily to Hot Wheels fans. The car customization and track designs are the biggest attraction for Hot Wheels gamers. The controls and lack of depth, compared to other racing games, will disappoint rabid racing fans. The Hot Wheels franchise is all about the cars and creating your own dream tracks on your own. This title comes close to fulfilling part of those ideas but close isn't good enough for everyone.
People who downloaded Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Challenge have also downloaded:
Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Driver 2, Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Driver, Hot Rod: Garage to Glory, Heroes of the Pacific, L. A. Rush, LEGO Stunt Rally, Le Mans 24 Hours, Lego Racers 2
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