Like all Leapster titles, Cars is geared towards teaching children a particular topic through video game format. Although Cars succeeds, it is not the system’s strongest title.
All aspects of this game are built around driving one of the cars from the movie. Like all Leapster titles, the game leads the player through visual and audio narration, much better suited for youngsters. The gameplay is quite simple; control a car and answer simple spelling or phonics questions.
The D-pad is used to steel, accelerate, and brake the controllable vehicle. The big “A” button jumps and the “B” button uses a specific action for the game being played. For example, one track will have the player drive through a track and hit a car from behind in correspondence with a letter in a word. The player must hit these cars while steering through a winding stage and collecting gold coins. In another stage, the player honks the horn (“B” button) to pick the right answer to the question at hand.
While I may be thinking a little too deep in this review, but ramming a car from behind and honking at them might seem like it is giving the child the wrong impression while driving. Instead of hitting another car, couldn’t the player simply drive through a hovering letter or tap the right letter on screen? While this game is still non-violent in every way, shape and form, it still seems like it might give a young child a bad impression.
Because this is a game based around cars, all the action is built through driving a car. However, the game does have floaty controls and a weak sense of speed. In one of the stages, the goal is to reach the finish line as fast as possible while avoiding hazards such as oil spills and crates. But the track twists and turns from time to time. Even though the game does not let the player drive off the road, it still penalizes players for touching the edge. But when traveling at top speed, the most fun speed to drive at, it is nearly impossible to stay on the road. This means that the player will have to slow down, make the turn, the speed back up again. It just seems like the player should always travel at top speed due to the fact that this is a children’s game. And even when traveling at max speed, the game still seems like it is moving way too slow.
Another slight trouble about this game is the control scheme. The game box states that it is ideal for gamers ages 5-8 (K-2nd grade), which the game is probably best suited, but slightly younger gamers, or gamers with smaller hands might have trouble playing Cars. The D-Pad must be constantly used in conjunction with the face buttons, and with all the twists, turns, and constant deceleration and acceleration, I think it might be hard for some younger gamers to grasp.
While I understand there are different versions of the Leapster home console system, I believe the most popular would be the handheld unit. With this said, playing this game on higher difficulties may prove to be a little inconvenient…not because the game is too difficult, but rather it just takes too long to complete one stage. It took me just under 15 minutes to complete one stage on the medium difficultly going the max speed. This same stage could easily take over 20 minutes for a younger gamer. In this time, batteries could die, or if playing in a car, a destination could have been reached. With no in-stage save option, higher difficulty stages might be a little frustrating.
Although it seems like there quite a few negative aspects of Cars, it still winds up being a game perfectly suited for Leapster. Although I feel that there are better titles for the system, it might be a great purchase if your young’un was a big fan of the movie. This theme alone could very well please younger gamers.