Cars: Fast as Lightning is a fun, family racing game starring Lightning McQueen and his piston-powered pals. The slot car-style racing element is a real blast, though there's a city-building part of the game which tends to distract from this too much.
Get outta town
Just like in games such as Simpsons: Tapped Out, Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, or Ice Age Village, Cars: Fast as Lightning invites you to rebuild the town (in this case Radiator Springs), constructing buildings and pits for the various characters. The stuff you build eventually earns you coins and XP, and the cars that cruise around the roads can complete tasks to earn more stuff.
Somehow this city building part of the game feels out of place in Cars: Fast as Lightning. It's almost like the developer Gameloft has seen that this format is popular and tried to shoe-horn it into the game. What it actually does is provide an unnecessary distraction to all the fun that's to be had on the race track, racing and designing courses. Sure, you don't have to spend all your time tending to the city, but if you don't you'll find it hard to proceed through the races for want of game currency to upgrade.
Another thing that puts the brakes on Cars: Fast as Lightning is its energy system, made infamous by racing games like Real Racing 3 and Angry Birds Go!. This restricts the number of times you can race a car before having to either wait a few minutes or spend gems to keep going. Energy (oil cans in this case) can be won by completing challenges in the town, but again, it all breaks up the action on the track.
There's a multiplayer mode in Cars: Fast as Lightning, where you can invite your buddies to race on your tracks, which is good fun.
As you'd hope for such a popular movie with youngsters, Cars: Fast as Lightning is very kid-friendly. All of the instructions on the tutorial levels are spoken by the characters as well as written, meaning that even pre-schoolers could pick the game up and start playing without too much bother.
The races are based on the slot-car mechanic of keeping your mouse button held down to accelerate then releasing it to slow down around bends. If you don't slow down enough your car will hurtle into the barrier, causing you to lose ground on your rival.
Pulling off tricks in Cars: Fast as Lightning is done by swiping in the designated direction as you enter an obstacle (a piece of twisting track or a bridge, for example). This feels a little too simple, and I think you'd get more satisfaction out of pulling off stunts if you needed to be a more strategic, such as swiping a combo or performing a more complex movement.
Cars: Fast as Lightning deserves a lot of credit for its use of the license. The game world really makes you feel like you've traveled to Radiator Springs.
Characters not only look like their 'real life' counterparts but their personalities really shine through in the game's dialog. Not only are all the catchphrases we know and love in there, but the interaction between the cars feels like you're watching the movie, and it's pretty funny at times.
The game features the voice acting talents of Owen Wilson, the original voice of the star turn, Lightning McQueen.
Stopped in your tracks
Kids will love Cars: Fast as Lightning. It manages to capture the magic of the movies and serves up some rip-roaring racing action with simple controls. Unfortunately, the racing element is very stop-start which makes it more of a game to dip into in short bursts rather than taking the wheel for hours on end.