Load Inc. returns with a sequel of sorts to their 2007 game Mad Tracks. Things on Wheels puts you in the driver’s seat of remote control cars, and it’s set within a massive home and its garden. Does Things on Wheel get pole position or drive you round the bend? Read on to find out.
The main mode of the game is the Championship race, featuring 20 tracks split over 4 episodes. Tracks have witty names such as Gran ToWrismo, Roswheel and Race Against The Machine which adds some humour to the game. Things on Wheels offers a mixed bag when it comes to the tracks. Some are straightforward, and do not feature many ramps or other obstacles; others are saturated with hurdles of various sorts, making it a challenge to stay on the track, or end up stuck in the scenery. A mistimed or uncontrolled jump can mean the difference between first and last place. Pressing the Y button to re-spawn works a treat but it will return you to the last checkpoint which can be several seconds behind, not ideal with several cars breathing down your rear bumper!
As you progress through the Championship mode, two new race types are introduced. Red Lantern is an elimination mode and Co-op modes partner you with a CPU driver, the driver that crosses the winning line first wins it for the team. The additional modes breathe some life in to the game making a good change from the usual races. Three difficulty levels are available and to be honest it did not feel like there was much of a difference between them. There may be a shorter time difference between you and your opponent but once you are in first place it can be easy to keep unless you really mess up.
Vehicles are available in three classes which are unlocked during the Championship mode: Vintage, Muscle and Sport, each with four cars with varying statistics for speed, handling and power. The cars do handle well in general once you get used to them, but players may be let down by what appears to be completely random collisions with inanimate objects. Hitting a object such as a chair leg can either stop your vehicle dead in its tracks or send it into a spin, you never quite know what the end result will be and it leaves you unprepared to reverse or start to turn.
Located around the tracks are power ups which remain static so you always know what will be where. Each time you drive over one your power meter is charged, up to three times maximum, which can be used at any time. Power ups include a useful turbo boost for your vehicle, an electric shock and ice which both essentially slow down the other vehicles and finally a bumper, best used in the air against nearby vehicles which can push them out the way often with hilarious consequences. The power ups are not that imaginative; they can be useful if playing catch up, but you will spend most of your time in the front of the pack so the majority are less effective.
The Championship mode can be completed in around three to four hours of play which is a decent length. However, once completed there is not much replay value as every track and vehicle is unlocked. The Arcade mode is your fall-back which allows you to race on any of the tracks with the ability to set the number of CPU drivers, number of tracks and race types. Some additional race types are available including an Endurance mode which lets you set a length of time with the aim to race as far as possible. A Qualification race allows you to set your best lap times which are uploaded to the global leaderboards. Finally, a Sandbox mode allows you to explore the outside area of the house at your leisure, it does provide a small distraction and allows you to test drive your vehicles but is otherwise pointless.
An online multiplayer mode allowing for normal and ranked matches is available. Unfortunately the lobbies were completely empty over the weekend I spent reviewing the game. I think it is safe to say that unless you have some friends with the game you will not be spending any time online. A split screen local two player option is available to play which works well, so you can at least experience playing against a human.
Graphics are done well and the detail of scenery, from bidets in the bathroom to moving train sets in the kids room, are quite faithful and what you expect to see. The cars all have their own body shapes and can be painted with a choice of neon colours, nothing spectacular but you can at least have your favourite colour on display. The audio is sadly lacking, music tracks are forgettable and add little to the game. Sound effects are not overly used and are quite basic, the engine noise of your vehicle for example is a whining noise which can become quite annoying after a while.
For your 800 :MSPoints: you get a fairly fun racing game with some great action packed races but the fun is somewhat short lived once you complete the Championship mode. The game is occasionally let down by poor collision detection and easy to beat AI, the lack of online players reduces the lifespan considerably. Achievement hunters will enjoy exploring some of the tracks to unlock a number of achievements and setting a pretty tough to beat time limit to unlock another, but once everything is done and dusted there is little to make you return to the driver’s seat.
You can download the demo or purchase the full version of Things on Wheels on the Marketplace.0