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Cars: Mater-National Championship

Score: 91%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Tantalus
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

The storyline from the from the last Cars game on the Game Boy Advance (I played it on the Nintendo DS) continues over into Cars: Mater-National Championship, and cars from all over the world come to race Lightning at his new headquarters, and race track. The graphics in Cars: Mater-National Championship are a tad on the weak side. The colors are fun, and the tracks are 3D-ish, but the background is a bit pixely a la Spiderman: Friend or Foe.

The sound in the game is great. I am pretty sure they use the same voice actors from the original Disney Pixar movie, but don't hold me to it. They sound enough alike that it doesn't matter either way. The racing sounds are well done, and the music isn't annoying like in some games that are marketed at kids. I did get a little sick of the cars that I passed talking to me. "How ya doin'?" and "You hit me!" got so obnoxious after a while. If they wanted to go "Like, omg, you are so fast!", I wouldn't have minded that overly much.

Oddly enough, there is no background music for when you explore Radiator Springs. I don't know if they just got lazy, forgot about it, or thought it wasn't needed; but I have to say... I missed the background noise. You still get race and car noises, and the car characters still talk to you, just no fun music.


Cars: Mater-National Championship is a smidgen repetitive in its execution, but it is aimed at a slightly younger crowed. This in mind, I don't think they would notice the repetition. The newest edition to this game has new tracks, competitors, and different ways to play. There are new environments to explore, and you can do so as Lightning McQueen. There is a lot of adventuring you can do in this game besides the actual racing. For whatever reason, it reminds me of the "Konquest" sections to the newer Mortal Kombat's.

There are twenty some odd mini-games that add a great deal of replay to the game. There are only about seventeen tracks to the game, and some of them are a bit like the preceding ones. You can play as fifteen different Cars characters, some of which require unlocking. You can start out racing in the single-player Story mode or scope out the arcadish Challenge mode. You can even synch up with up to three of your buddies and go for a multiplayer mode if you play the game on the DS. This is all assuming your friend's parents want to buy them a Nintendo DS and Cars: Mater-National Championship.

The unlockable features and the mini-games save Cars: Mater-National Championship from a bit of suckage, I think. It would almost be like adding a racing segment to Bratz: The Movie, but who wouldn't love crashing into one of the Bratz as they ask you how you are?


Cars: Mater-National Championship is very much a children's game in its difficulty. The game can be beaten in less than five hours, and the racing seems to be very rubber-band like. That is, if you get too far ahead, everyone catches up, but if you are really sucking it up, you are propelled forward like magic! Again, not really a bad thing for the young ones. At least having them win will keep your hard-earned investment in the Nintendo GBA or DS from going into the trash. The Easy mode is about par for anyone that has never touched a video game before, or is under the age of twelve. Anyone older or more experienced than that is going to want to up the difficulty level or get Mario Kart.

I get the feeling they didn't think anyone with either qualification (older than twelve or an experienced gamer) was going to touch their game. There are only three opponents in Cars: Mater-National Championship, which made me yearn for Burnout. This frustrates older games, but makes the kiddies feel right at home, I would imagine.

Game Mechanics:

Cars: Mater-National Championship works great if you have never played a really good racing game. If you have, you might find the controls way too basic, dull, and static. The boosts really don't seem like the do much, and once you get the tilts and power slides down, there is nothing left to master. You can fling yourself into walls, and off cliffs and the game is very forgiving. I want to explode into one thousand pieces and be propelled into space when I crash, damn it all!

This simplicity of controls is great for kiddies. Nothing too complex to make them break their brains and come running to mommy/ daddy/ aunt/ uncle in order to receive help. The D-pad is used to cycle through options and for steering. (A) accelerates and (B) sends you flying backwards. Even your grandparents would have an easy time of figuring that out. Maybe you could hand them this game while you program their new DVD player you got them for Christmas.

Cars: Mater-National Championship would be a good gift for a younger kid in the family. It is a fun little game, I just had problems with the easy level of difficulty. The mini-games are great and extend the gamepley quite a bit, but this is definitely a beginner level game.

-Phate Kills, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Field

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