Super Mario Kart Review

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At time for a new title courtesy of MyNintendoRewards! Super Mario Kart is one of those games that is so iconic you are almost afraid to play it. After all, the game was a living legend for a while but since then we have gotten many more Mario Kart games, all of which have improved on this one’s formula. Still, it’s a game that needed to be played and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that you will still enjoy it. The game holds up mighty well and is a good game to add to your virtual collection.
There is no plot of course and there are really two main modes for single player. They are the Grand Prix and time Trial. For multiplayer you also have races and then even battle levels which is cool. There is a reasonable amount of content her all things considered and local multiplayer always ensures that the game will retain a considerable amount of replay value.

For the grand prixs there are 4. The cups have become iconic at this point as you always see the Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special cups kick in. While most of the newer games limit the cups to 4 races each this one goes with 5. That’s likely because each individual stage is quite short here. For that reason all races are 5 laps each as opposed to 3. A lot of the levels will seem familiar to you if you’ve played the newer Mario Kart games since they usually pay homage to them by including the levels in the games. This one definitely thought of a considerable amount of creative levels. In particular I liked the Boo stages as well as the Bowser ones. Those are definitely very atmospheric while racing.
Naturally this wouldn’t be a Mario game without having a dynamic soundtrack as well right? The level themes are all quite solid and have held up pretty well over the years. No expense was spared here. Then the graphics are also pretty bright and nice for its time. They’ve also aged well and it’s never hard to see where you’re going. At most pipes may appear to be farther than they actually are but that’s why you can’t trust the rear view mirror.

I would have to say that this is probably the most difficult Mario Kart game that I’ve played as well. Mainly this is due to the controls which are naturally a little rougher than in the newer games. I couldn’t quite understand the drifting feature all too well as my car would go too fast. Ultimately when I had to turn I would either slam on the brakes or let go of the acceleration button. There are workarounds like that but of course you will lose speed so be careful. Since you need to win the first 3 cups to unlock the last one failure is not an option! Harness the access points that the Wii U gives you and you’ll be fine.

Aside from the Grand Prixs you will probably spend most of your time in multiplayer mode just enjoying a bunch of racing games. You’ll likely want to move on to the newer ones at some point, but it’s also nice to just experience the game in its original form. There is also Time Trial mode, but there isn’t a whole lot to do there. I suppose if you really enjoy the levels a lot then that is a good way to play them and also to hone your skills.

Naturally there isn’t a whole lot of other things to say about the game. It’s a really good way to spend 4-5 dollars though. You really can’t go wrong with that price and while the MyNintendo Rewards can certainly be a little larger, they have gotten better than where they were. Since obtaining points is rather easy thanks to their apps, you are basically guaranteed a 50% off deal on any game from the list that you want. When you see a good game on the site just be prepared to snag it!

Overall, Super Mario Kart isn’t just a game, it’s a racing game! It’s a title that really changed the genre as we know it and is still regarded as one of the all time greats. While I tend to really enjoy racing games like F-Zero which have no items so it’s just you and your boost, these can be a lot of fun as well. Double Dash will always be the best Mario Kart but this one certainly keeps up the quality that you would expect from such a storied franchise. If you haven’t downloaded it yet then I recommend doing so.

Overall 7/10

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City Connection Stats and Records

No stats I’m afraid. They just didn’t really do that kind of thing back in the day. Fortunately the Wii U has one stat at the ready.

Play Time 2h 1m

City Connection Review

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I realized that I had a ton of coins on MyNintendo Rewards and they were all about to go to waste so it was time to make a move. I don’t buy digital games all that often, but when I do you can bet that they will be quality titles. Well, City Connection isn’t all that good to be honest and it’s not very well known for a good reason, but the actual gameplay is fairly unique. With modern tech it probably could have even been very good. As it stands, the game is very forgettable and won’t be remembered as well as something like Mario or Legend of Zelda.

The game starts you off right away as you drive through town. The levels are all on what is essentially 3 screens worth of ground to cover. You have to drive on everything to make the stage all white which clears the level. The stages typically have 3-4 levels of height to go through and you will have to dodge the cops and an evil cat as you do this. All you can do is drive back and forth as well as jumping. Once you master the controls you will also find that jumping and then changing directions is incredibly handy. The game is rather fast so it is very difficult not to bump into anything. One bump costs a life though so be careful as 3 bumps means that you are out.

The game has roughly 5 levels before it starts looping back to the beginning forever and ever. There is no story or ending to be found so watch out or you’ll be playing old levels. I was nearly done with beating the game a second time before I realized this. It’s rather disheartening since it means that the game was really slapped together without a care in the world. I only made it through the game because of the save points that you can exploit with the Wii U. Prepare to save it every other second here as cars will teleport out of nowhere and the cat likes to move around as well. The cat is invincible so just don’t mess with him. He will chase you if you stay on any layer of the stage too long so do a lot of jumping. Of course, when you jump you are vulnerable as a car can easily jump out of nowhere to intercept you so watch out for that.

You only counter to the cars is that you can fire back with some oil bullets. This won’t work on cars that teleport though so watch out for that as they aren’t fully materialized into this plane of existence. Again, I like the concept of having to paint a whole town. It’s sort of like De Blob, the execution just wasn’t on point. The Police Cars just seem unfair with how they teleport around and there is almost no way you can win without the extra save points. There isn’t any incentive to win either since the game has absolutely no replay value or even a real ending to congratulate you on a job well done.

There isn’t much to say about the graphics either. They are just really old and I suppose you can’t fault the game for that. It’s all right I guess, but probably one of the worst animated games that I have seen in a while. The little screencaps after each level are okay if not for the fact that they reuse them very quickly. Those couldn’t have been very expensive so I think the game could have added many more of them. There is really only one theme in the game so you better enjoy it or that will hurt the game as well. It’s not bad, but there isn’t any real personality to the theme either so it’s just there. It’s kind of like elevator music in that respect. This game needs a modern reboot to help restart the franchise.

Overall, I can’t say that the game is very fun. It’s unique and is good to play for a few minutes, but it’s not a game that I would recommend spending money on. It just isn’t worth that kind of attention and I’ve seen free games that had a lot more heart and depth to them. If you really want a good challenge then I guess this could be the ticket for you, but there are better options out there like Ninja Gaiden. I’d never heard of this game before I bought it and I can now see why.

Overall 5/10

MotorStorm Stats and Records

Stats Time!

Total Points 530/2340

Ticket 1 60/60
Ticket 2 90/90
Ticket 3 90/120
Ticket 4 90/120
Ticket 5 60/60
Ticket 6 40/60
Ticket 7 –
Ticket 8 20/120
Ticket 9 50/90
Ticket 10 –
Ticket 11 30/90
Ticket 12 –
Ticket 13 –
Ticket 14 –
Ticket 15 –
Ticket 16 –
Ticket 17 –
Ticket 18 –
Ticket 19 –
Ticket 20 –
Ticket 21 –

MotorStorm Review

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It’s time to look at a racing game that I have had on the backburner for a very long time. I’ve always been a big fan of racing games although admittedly the one drawback to the genre is that the CPU racers can seem a little cheesy at times. On the other hand, it’s a little hard to see how to nerf that. It’s very hard to make the computers appear to be fair or they may seem too weak. Still, this one doesn’t do a bad job of it. I do think that the star requirements to unlock the various worlds are a little steep though so don’t count on unlocking all of the different tickets (worlds) unless you are prepared to play this game’s levels over quite a few times.

The gameplay is probably obvious from the cover but it’s a racing game. You try to drive to the goal as quickly as you can and lead the pack. Each race is 3 laps and the duration varies, but most levels are roughly 4-5 minutes. You have a boost which you can use quite regularly but give it a little time to recharge or it’ll overhear and effectively blow up. That’s really the only gimmick here as it’s a normal driving game otherwise. That definitely works for me. I don’t mind the boost and if anything it can be fun to have. Racing games with items have their place as well considering that Mario Kart Double Dash is probably still the best racing game. At the same time, sometimes it’s great to just hop in the car and use nothing but your skills to reach the end.

The main mode here is the campaign. There are a series of tickets which grant you access to a group of races ranging from 1-4. Winning each race will give you some points depending on if you placed in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Gain enough points and you unlock the next ticket. There are 21 tickets, but to unlock all of them you will need a significant amount of 1st place finishes. Most likely you may get around 10 tickets unlocked, but of course if you are willing to put in the time you can go farther. There are also free races and the like to play through.

Conquering all of the races will take a significant amount of time so the game has a lot of replay value. In general, I feel like racing games are often very good at this. You really get the value that you’d expect from a game like this one. The sequel looks pretty interesting as well, but at the same time I do think that the racing genre is often one that you don’t want to overstay your welcome in. Best to take it slow and simply enjoy the races that you’re in.

One thing that the game does to make itself stand out among the crowd is by having a full soundtrack. It has a wide range of lyrical songs and they are all loud, fast paced titles that really make you feel the intensity of the race. I can’t vouch for the lyrics of the songs, but at the very least the beats are pretty solid. The developers understood what kind of music would be really fitting for this genre. The graphics also look pretty good although there isn’t much to say about them. They look like what you would expect, but aren’t any better or worse than that. They are simply standard and I’d say that this is good enough.

Another area where the game did a good job was with making each vehicle feel different. You can play as a car, buggy, motorcycle, or a large truck. My favorite one is easily the motorcycle as you really zoom by there and the turns are really smooth. Of course it is sad to get completely knocked over if another vehicle so much as touches you. That’s the price for being light though and I’m used to it from playing Sheik in Super Smash Bros. It does make the campaign a little harder though since every other race has you switch styles so it is hard to get used to any one version. It’d be nice if they had separated them from the start so you could take your time and master each one.

The crashes are definitely a lot of fun in this game. Some racing titles certainly give more emphasis to the crashes than others and this is definitely one that had a lot of fun with the animations. You crash in slow motion and seeing the driver get slammed out of the car never gets old. Occasionally you do have to wonder why the cars are so weak though. Just going too fast on a muddy surface will cause you to tip over. The worst situations are where you don’t blow up though. At the very least you want to be eliminated right away so you can respawn. Sometimes you will simply be stuck upside down so then you have to try boosting to blow the car up intentionally. However, this takes so much time that you may as well give up the match at that point since you won’t really have a chance at first.

Finally, I enjoyed the level designs quite a bit. You have a lot of freedom to explore here. The levels are huge and there are many different paths to take. Part of the fun is picking a path and hoping that it is the optimal one. There is no way to find out except for trial and error so it encourages multiple playthroughs. I ultimately prefer linear tracks, but this makes it feel a lot more like a real outside race. I can certainly appreciate the attempt here since MotorStorm doesn’t exactly feel like a friendly Mario Kart kind of exhibition here based on how violently everyone crashes. It’s a bunch of races to the death for sure.

Overall, MotorStorm is pretty fun. The gameplay is really good and it’s just fundamentally a good game. There is nothing weak about it and there is a lot of content to stay busy with. A story mode would be nice, but I can’t say that it was expected. If you are a fan of the racing genre then there is certainly no good reason not to buy this game. It just has everything that you could possibly want with it. The game isn’t very forgiving though so prepare for a lot of tough competition from the computers. You may not win the races in one try, but find the fastest route and eventually you will be acing the competition. It’s all about practice, practice, and more practice.

Overall 7/10

Donkey Kong Barrel Blast Review

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It’s time to look at Nintendo’s biggest mistake when it comes to the racing genre. A DK racer practically writes itself and just has a ton of potential. It’s a shame that the game squandered this so readily. Motion controls are what hold this game back and while it was an attempt by Nintendo it completely backfired. Sometimes just because an idea makes sense in concept doesn’t mean that it should be implemented. This is most certainly one of those times.

There is no story mode of course but we do have a few different tournaments at the ready. There are 4 main tournaments and 2 bonus ones. The bonus tournaments allow you to pick your own stages to have a tournament with friends and another one allows you to randomize the stages. Both are handy when playing with friends but you don’t get a trophy for clearing them so there is no single player incentive. The main tournaments start out at 3 races and eventually go to 5. There are multiple difficulty levels but you are forced to start with Rookie so I just stayed at that level. Even then the game is surprisingly difficult. You have to stay at top speed and use a lot of boosts if you want to come out on top here. Of course, the Mario Party luck factor is around here so sometimes you’ll just get blasted by other racers behind you which is out of your control. Not much can be done about that.

Each racer is using a pair of drums instead of a car. It is for this reason that instead of accelerating like normal you must beat the drums to keep going fast. You have to make the motion of hitting the drums constantly to stay at peak levels and just hit one drum to turn. Hit both at the same time to jump and hold down on the Nunchuk to activate your boost. Your boost is the most important skill that you have here. It can change a whole race and just know that you can extend your boost by hitting enemies or normal barrels. If you time the boost right you can keep it going for a very long time. Just focus on the combo and don’t use your boost unless you see something to bump into.

There are a lot of games that can be called painful while you are playing them, but there aren’t many which you can say that in a literal sense. Your wrists will be absolutely exhausted after playing this game and I am convinced that it wouldn’t be healthy if you played this game long term. You can even expect some neck and back pain if you were straining a lot and too rigid while playing. Naturally the trick is to simply not play too hard but that’s easy to say until one of the computers passes you. Then it’s back to hitting the drums as quickly as you can.

When it comes to the graphics then this game finally gets to shine. The character models are definitely on point and are appropriately high quality. The levels all look great and there is a lot of variety to be found here. Whether it be Jungles, Volcanoes, or even Space DK has you covered. The final level in the game is the hype space one and it is as cool as you may expect. I was pleasantly surprised at how much effort Nintendo put into some parts of this game, but maybe I shouldn’t be. In theory this was supposed to be their next big racer. The stage themes are pretty solid as well even if they aren’t all that memorable. I suppose you can’t have every game be quite as legendary as Mario right?

Aside from the tournaments which won’t keep you busy for very long, the game has other modes at its disposal as well. One of those is the challenge mode where you attack various missions and see if you can accomplish them. The missions are actually reasonably difficult as you can easily lose a stage if you’re not entirely sure how to approach it. Take one wrong shortcut and it’s time to retry. Between the various unlockables and the main tournaments, I think you’ll find that the game has a reasonable amount of content to back the pricing.

All of this is only if you can get past the gameplay though. None of the other stuff will ultimately matter if you wrists simply can’t take the pressure. The items are fun though and if you use them right they will help you take a break. Build up some good boosts and just use it when you know that you’ll be able to keep it going for a while. During this time you don’t need to beat the drums. You have other items like armor and missiles but you have to keep shaking the controllers during this. Interestingly enough, the descriptions in the game say that you can stop shaking once you’re at max speed, but they must have meant that you could stop shaking for a moment because after that the car will immediately start slowing down again. So much for that I suppose.

Overall, Barrel Blast really could have been a good game. It had a lot of the right pieces in place like the animation, soundtrack, and array of content to keep you busy. The one area where it went wrong was with the controls and you’d think that this wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s just so drastic that it ends up bringing the whole game down with it and that’s the unfortunate part. You actually feel like the game isn’t healthy to play. If you want some exercise for your wrist and don’t think that it will end up having a detrimental effect instead, then I suppose you may want to give this game a chance. However, if you’re playing this game in the first place because you want to relax while cruising through the levels then this isn’t the right game to add to your collection. There is nothing relaxing about constantly beating the drums.

Overall 5/10

Power Drome Stats and Records

Stats time!

Characters 8/12

Championship Stats Bronze, Silver, or Gold

San-Kei Open Pre-Season Qualifier Gold
Core Worlds Cup 2 Silver, 1 Gold
Imperial Diebak Silo Complex Speed Challenge Silver
Khalid’s Midnight Run Gold
Cholo Turbines Trophy 3 Gold
San-Kei Eliminator Gold
Soomis Speed Challenge Silver
Jannek Classic 1 Silver 2 Gold
Gabriel’s Ship Yard Challenge Gold
Mata Wai Eliminator Gold
San-Kei Speedway Exhibition 1 Bronze 2 Gold
Mata Wai Invitational Gold
Imperial Diebak Eliminator Gold
Empress Yei Memorial Trophy 1 Gold 1 Silver
Amran’s Raceway Challenge Gold
Mata Wai Speed Challenge Gold
Wirethrow Industrial Chips Shield 4 Gold
Gainward Prospect Festival Cup 1 Gold 3 null
Clanton’s Gutter Run Challenge Gold
Cayn Hughes Testimonial 3 Null
San-Kei Outfield Eliminator Gold
Imperial Diebak Speed Challenge Gold
Core Worlds Master Cup 1 Bronze 3 Null

Best Lap on each stage
San-Kei Spedway

Power Drome Review

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Power Drome is one of those PS2 games that you likely have not heard of before now. If you do know it, then that’s pretty impressive. I got the game because of how the gameplay looked and I definitely am a sucker for futuristic racers. They tend to be a lot of fun and this one is certainly no exception. The single player mode is unrelenting but at least this helps add to the length of the game. The multiplayer is where you will spend the majority of your time though.

There are 3 main modes for you to have fun in. Single Race is just like how it sounds. You pick a track and then test your mettle on it. You have multiplayer mode where you use the racers you have unlocked to have fun on all the tracks. Finally, there is the championship. There’s no real plot unless you count the quick level descriptions. You are trying to rise up the ranks as an up and coming racer so you enter many tournaments and even some 1 on 1 showdowns. Surprisingly the showdowns are the easiest ones and since you unlock racers that way, it definitely works for me. You can earn a gold, silver, or bronze medal based on how well you do.

The difficulty continues to accelerate more and more as you play through the championship. I beat around half of it with the main character before I had to switch to one of my unlocked fighters. Even then the final tournaments proved to be a little too much when it came down to speed. My opponents were just so much faster than me that it was scary. They would leave me in the dust as soon as the race began. The final stages also had a lot of turns so it was difficult to actually gain any ground on the opponents. You can drift in the game, but I found it hard to do reliably and without crashing so I ended up bumping into the walls either way. If I could turn better then defeating these later levels would be considerably easier.

Aside from accelerating and braking, you have two more gameplay additions. You can boost your way through the race by using up some meter. You do get a nice burst of speed, but it’s rather minimal and usually isn’t quite enough to let you get past the opponent. Alternately, you can use your meter to heal your car to prevent yourself from blowing up. This is extremely handy although your speed will take a nosedive temporarily.

The graphics look reasonably sharp. The level designs are good and the cars look high tech as they should be. I wouldn’t say that the graphics are anything to write home about, but they are bright and fairly colorful. You can always tell where you are on the track which is crucial. You do move at really high speeds which can make it tough to start turning on time, but they do have constant signs to let you know where you have to stop so it really comes down to your reaction times.

I’d say that the soundtrack was reasonably solid. Again, you probably won’t write home about it as there’s nothing amazing about it, but the music selection works well as background noise to the races. It’s certainly not slow music so it won’t force you to slam on the brakes.

This game does have some voice acting but it’s mostly just to show off how edgy all of the characters are. Perhaps they aren’t all edgy as I only played as two characters, but as part of their taunts they give the birdy. One guy slams his head on his car repeatedly and the girl shakes her fist at the other racers. I suppose this does seem to take place on more of an underground racing circuit so of course they don’t get along, but it’s almost funny to be doing this during a race. I guess they can drive these incredibly fast machines with one hand. That’s got to take a lot of talent.

There is a good amount of replay value to be found here. Unlocking all of the racers of course, but also clearing Career mode. Both should take a considerable amount of time unless you are a master at this genre. Even then you will still have to get used to this game’s gameplay in particular. Then multiplayer also unlocks a huge amount of replay value. Racing with A.I can be fun but it isn’t quite the same as racing against an actual person.

Playing this game reminds me of why we need more F Zero titles. GX still ranks as one of the greatest racers out there and the futuristic racing genre is just a lot of fun. I’d say that Wipeout does a better job of capturing F Zero’s essence than Power Drome, but as Drome only features a boost and no items, the actual gameplay is a little more similar. You can even boost ram into other cars to try and take them down for the count. Unfortunately it isn’t permanent though. I prefer when you are only given one life in a race. It increases the stakes and really reminds you not to get hit. It’s why F Zero is one of the only racers where I would actively target the other racers as I tried to take them out of commission.

Overall, Power Drome is a fun game. It does have a little more personality than other racing games with the characters being distinct and at least having some kind of career mode. The difficulty is a lot higher than you might expect, but with enough practice I’m sure you will be able to clear the game. At the very least, you will want to do it to unlock the extremely fast racer. If this game got a sequel with more of an actual plot behind it, then I’d be all for it. That would definitely have potential.

Overall 7/10

Cars 3 Review

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It’s time to take a look at the end of the trilogy. Cars had a good run as there aren’t too many Pixar films that have gotten two sequels. That being said, while the final installment is pretty solid, I’d still say that the original Cars is the best one. This film just had one thing that went against it, but it was a fairly big thing, the ending.

The film starts off with Lightning McQueen in a big race. He is at the head of the pack as per usual but then he is passed by Storm, a new kid on the block. The kid claims that he used to look up to Lightning, but that the main character is just too old to compete nowadays. He throws a lot of age related burns Lightning’s way and the lead pushes himself too hard as he tries to catch up and ends up getting into an accident. This leads him to stay out of the races for a few months, but nothing can keep Lightning down for very long. He decides to get back into the races and to do that he will have to use the latest training tech. His sponsors were bought out by a millionaire who loves the high tech stuff, but he may not be quite as nice as the older guys. At the end of the day, Lightning is going to have to prove that he has what it takes to get back on the track and claim victory.

The theme of the main character getting old and being surpassed by new talent is certainly a tried and true one. Rocky is certainly well known for doing it. We even get a lot of training for Lightning as he tries to get better although the film fumbles this part a little. Lightning’s personal trainer, Cruz decides to follow him and she doesn’t believe that he has what it takes to go all the way. As such, Lightning spends most of his time helping her out instead of actually training. He doesn’t get much faster than he was so in a way old and actually ended up winning this time. Lightning looks good during the final race but he doesn’t end up winning so that’s too bad. It’s not like he got a clean win in the first film either but at least it was obvious he was going to win and the crowd reinforced this. In this film Lightning was only projected to make it to the top 10 before he tagged in Cruz. To be clear, the point of this part of the film is that Lightning couldn’t train as much as he wanted too so that was the film’s intention. I just say they fumbled the ball because the plot took a different turn than I had been hoping for. I wanted the hype comeback story where Lightning wins and then I’d be fine with him retiring. Having him put it all on the line one last time would have been exciting. Maybe Lightning would have been able to take 1st or maybe not. We’ll just never know. As the ending played I thought that Lightning and the trainer would both be competing but under different teams. That would have been neat.

The animation is as solid as ever. The film’s definitely does a great job with all of the car designs and I still crack up at their facial expressions. Throw in the grins and you are constantly entertained. The racing scenes look really nice and the music is also pretty good. The film has an actual soundtrack which is nice. Cars 3 definitely did a good job on all the technical levels. Even the way everyone says “Lightning McQueen” is a lot of fun. I don’t know why but they always seem to taking a jab at him with the way they stretch out his name but maybe I am overthinking it.

As expected the writing is also really good and is a considerable upgrade from the last film. It is just really great to have Lightning back as the lead. He does a great job of looking like the seasoned veteran you would expect him to be at this point. The mind games don’t really work on him at this point and he doesn’t take his training for granted. Even his depression phase was quite small and he snapped out of it very quickly. I do think it makes the initial teaser very misleading as the crash wasn’t nearly as bad as it implied, but it was a good misdirect. After all, the crash still did happen so it certainly wasn’t false advertising. It’s probably safe to say at this point that Lightning is one of Pixar’s best leads.

The supporting cast is solid as well. They brought back Lightning’s rival from the first film and he definitely does not like Lightning any more than he used to. In fact I’d say his aggression has only increased with age and he takes numerous shots at McQueen whenever he is on the air. His segments are definitely a lot of fun and certainly is a highlight of the film. What you have to respect the most about this guy is that he isn’t trying to put on some kind of act. He is straight forward about how he doesn’t like Lightning and I dare say that he is the most enjoyable character in the film. It just doesn’t get better than this guy.

The new villain is also pretty solid. Storm thinks that the younger cars are the ones who should be on top of the circuit and is always throwing insults at Lightning based on his age. He has a great design and his speed is certainly the real deal. The scene where he is training and passes a hologram of Lightning is a lot of fun as well. Jackson is arrogant and extremely confident. Those are definitely qualities that you always want in a villain and he pulls them off very well. We have yet to have a bad enemy racer for Lightning which is pretty impressive. All 3 opponents were fun villains. At least this one doesn’t play dirty til the end so he did win all of his races with skill.

Finally we have Cruz. I’m afraid that her character was a bit of a miss since the movie tries to portray her as a prodigy with the oblivious nature of Mater. This isn’t a good combo for many reasons, one of which is that these character traits really clash. You can’t be someone who really knows what to do on the track and also not have any real common sense for new roads. When she heads to the beach for the first time she has absolutely no idea how to drive. Cruz can’t turn and falls in every puddle. She is exaggeratedly bad at being a racer despite earlier scenes making a point of showing that she was great at the simulator. Then she is supposed to be a great trainer who is great at helping any car get to the next level. She individualized the training for each car based on which obstacles they had which prevented them from getting to the next level. Yet, she could not do the same for Lightning and instead seems to be trying to sabotage his chances of being ready for the race. Perhaps the angle that the film was going for was that she was such a big fan of Lightning that she really did think he was too old and didn’t want him to tarnish his legacy. That theory is a bit of a stretch though and either way it doesn’t really help her case. The part of her character that had the most potential was her dream of driving but even that is a little murky.

When this plot was first introduced I figured that they were going to say that Sue wasn’t able to be a racer because girls weren’t allowed at the time or in her district. It would have been very disappointing for her and would have been a legitimate reason for her to have hung up the tires in place of being a coach. Instead, she was simply intimidated by the cars and quickly gave up. It’s hard to be sympathetic to her plight because it sounds like she never even gave it a second go. She couldn’t have been all that excited to be a racer if she gave up on her goal so quickly. At least for me, this twist weakened her story.

I should wrap up this section or it’ll start to be as long as the rest of the review! This is just my explanation for why her character was ruined out of the gate. Her personality and what we knew of the character completely clash with each other. She appears to be smart and competent in some scenes and not so much in others. You’d think that the film switched writers midway or at least made some big changes to he character. As for the other supporting characters, they were okay. We got a group of older cars who help Lightning get ready for the race with some motivation and a track for him to ride on. They don’t appear too much of get much of a role, but they seemed like solid characters. The other cars back home got their cameos in as well.

The only relatively weak part of the film is when the gang heads over to the underground racing arena where they fight a Magic School Bus homage. It’s not so much that this is a bad scene but it basically feels like filler and I didn’t care for any of the characters there. This was also during the phase where Cruz was pretty annoying. I suppose it was a good way of showing that Lightning is proficient in all kinds of races, but that probably could have been handled better.

Overall, Cars 3 is a good way to end the trilogy. If the story does end here, it’s not such a bad way to end off. Lightning still should have won the race and that would have solidified this as a great film and the best in the trilogy, but I suppose you can’t win them all. If you’re looking for a fun racing film with a good lead then you have come to the right place. What really makes Cars 3 so solid is the fact that the writing is certainly on point. It’s an enjoyable film even when not much is happening because the dialogue is good. That being said, the pacing is pretty quick for the most part. I would definitely recommend this film. It’s an all around solid movie.

Overall 7/10

Cars 2 Review

Cars_2-_2011
Cars 2 is definitely a sequel that never hit home with the fans the way that the first did. There are quite a few reasons for this, but the biggest one is that Lightning McQueen has been dethroned as the main character in favor of his comic relief sidekick, Mater. This is a huge downgrade and while Lightning still has a fairly big role, his scenes mainly remind you how great the film would have been if it had stuck to that.

The film starts off with Lightning McQueen finally coming back home in order to relax for a bit before the races start up again. He hangs out with the gang and looks forward to a good time. Unfortunately, Mater notices a car named Francesco mocking Lightning on a radio show and tries to defend him. Mater does such a terrible job that Lightning has to defend Mater and it forces to step back on the track in order to prove himself. Mater may have gotten Lightning into this, but it’s up to our favorite race car to get himself out. The only problem is that Mater is sacrificing Lightning’s chances to win at every turn. Can McQueen still pull out one last win?

As I mentioned, the film is quite good when Lightning is on screen. He has certainly kept his development from the first film and doesn’t regress in any way. He is now the experienced veteran that you would expect him to be and he even won 3 World Championships off screen. McQueen coming back to visit for a while instead of entering more races also shows what a quality character he is. When Lightning is forced to go up against Francesco, it is a very tense race because both of them are champions in their own right. It’s also a fun all star race because there are a bunch of other cars who are known from various other countries and are competing in this race. While it’s clear that the main two racers are far above the others, it’s a good way for the film to raise the stakes. It’s a natural continuation of the first film’s plot and Lightning is already established as a good enough character where you definitely want to root for him. While he’s not an all powerful race car on the track and Francesco is actually faster when going straight, Lightning pulls out everything he learned from racing in the town and that gives him a really good edge by the end. Then Mater’s bad advice makes Lightning lose the race and we’re reminded that this epic plot is only the subplot.

The main plot actually follows Mater as he helps out two secret agents known as Holley and Finn. They have to stop someone from blowing up all of the cars in the Grand Prix. The two agents think that Mater is actually someone else since the actual agent put his tracker on Mater in a last ditch effort to keep the intel from the villains. The problem is that Mater isn’t very smart and the agent still did end up dying. It’s a rather brutal scene and it’s definitely a big contrast to the rest of the film. The whole movie is so light hearted otherwise and you’re not supposed to give the poor agent a second thought, but it still is quite sad. Mater could have saved him if he was a little smarter.

Again, this is where Mater will likely lose you. You’re supposed to root for the guy since he means well and by the end of the film he realizes that he has to get a little smarter. That would be fine, but the problem is that he is a little too over the top for you to actually buy into it. The film does wipe away his biggest mistake of making a mess all over the carpet with a plot twist, but he’s still just a really bad character. He certainly isn’t someone you can root for, that’s for sure. The plot is rather predictable as the characters naturally find out the truth about him at the end, but by then it’s too late. Mater is easily the worst character in this film and I took it personally right when he sabotaged Lightning’s first race.

The two agents aren’t bad though. Holley is doing her best to complete this first assignment as a field agent, but is having a hard time since Mater just thinks she wants to be with him and nobody is taking her seriously. It’s a pretty rough time for her, but she does her best to keep her composure and still
save the day with her gadgets. Finn is the other agent and he’s a veteran who has been in his share of fights. He definitely knows how to use hand to hand combat even though he is a car and while he is completely fooled by Mater’s act even more than the rest of the characters, he also ultimately decides to be Mater’s friend anyway.

The action scenes are fun and the homages to James Bond work well. See, the film’s humor isn’t all that awful. In fact, when Mater isn’t around it can actually be pretty enjoyable. It has a nice blend of quick lines and situational humor. It’s just that Mater makes everything dial it up to a 9. This wouldn’t even be a bad thing if he didn’t have to end up saving the day at the end. That’s really what makes the whole thing cheesy. A good example of an exaggeratedly unintelligent character is Knuckles from Sonic Boom. He pulls off the role because it’s not like he’s actually some kind of excellent secret agent or anything like that. In fact, things with him don’t even end up panning out all that well most of the time. It makes the whole plot feel a lot more natural and wholesome. Mater is just given way too much credit.

As far as rivals go, Francesco is rather generic. He’s really just here to fill in the role of the mean rival car. He doesn’t actually do anything past the role, but he doesn’t do anything wrong either. I definitely didn’t mind having him around and seeing more of him would have probably been fun. It’s just a shame that Lightning’s supporting cast is always around to embarrass him and hurt his arguments. Even Sally looks really bad in this film so I can see why Lightning just takes the pit crew with him and leaves his other friends behind. They’re not exactly morale boosters.

Some of the situations also seem a little forced for the plot. Lightning would certainly know better than to get off the road when Mater tells him too. This is for 2 reasons. One, Lightning can see that it’s a straight path ahead and since he knows that you should never turn in such a situation he should have just ignored the advice. The bigger reason is that prior to this Mater had already been rambling into the intercom as he chased after Holley so Lightning could easily put two and two together to know that Mater likely still wasn’t talking about him. There’s no way he should have actually ended up losing that race. Lightning McQueen had that in the bag.

Well, as expected the animation is still pretty sharp. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it looks better than the first film as to me they basically seemed equivalent, but they’re both of really good quality which is the important part. Pixar doesn’t hold back here and the character models for the cars are good. As we finally got some action scenes here as well, we got to see how Pixar would handle them. I’d say that they worked out pretty well. On the technical side of things this film certainly aged pretty well.

Overall, Cars 2 is a decently fun sequel to the original Cars, but it is definitely not quite as good. You can certainly tell that they chopped the quality down a few notches for this one and I don’t know what they were thinking with Mater. If the main character had been Lightning and his plot was the focus then this film would have been a lot more fun. Even the ending keeps the film from going strong as Holley’s personality flies out the window as she likes Mater for no reason (Again, the film is giving Mater too much credit even though most of this situation is his fault) and Lightning doesn’t even beast Francesco in the end. Was a clear cut victory too bold for the writers to pull off? Those mistakes are definitely regrettable, but at the end of the day you should still enjoy this film. It’s a fun enough movie to watch and the pacing is good so it flies by. It has a good amount of replay value and at least I thought the set up and presentation for the big tournament was great. Whenever the subplot is happening, the film is at its height.

Overall 6/10