Cars 2

Can Pixar's least inspiring film provide the basis for its most enjoyable videogame?

There's certainly no shortage of racing games around these days, nor any shortage of sub-par games based on existing movie properties. Which is why I was initially rather wary of trying out this latest offering from Disney Interactive. Given the rather lacklustre nature of the film it was based on (easily Pixar's worst to date) and the stiff competition from other console racers vying for gamers' attention I figured the best I could hope for would be something to could recommend to undemanding children. How wrong I was...

Admittedly, Cars 2 doesn't rank up there with the upper echelon of racers, but that's because it doesn't really aim to. Instead, what developer Avalanche Software (also responsible for the surprisingly good Toy Story 3 game) has cooked up with this film licence is one of the better alternatives to Mario Kart currently on the shelves, only with missiles and guns replacing tortoise shells and banana peel. So, providing you're prepared to look beyond the cute characters and kid-friendly license there's a lot to enjoy here, no matter how old you are.

As you'd expect from any good Mario Kart-wannabe, Cars 2 is incredibly easy to pick up and play, yet offers enough gameplay challenges to test those looking to truly master its circuits. A large part of this comes down to the tricks used to power up your boost meter. Doing in-air flips is easy enough, but you're in for some real brain-teasing fun when it comes to driving backwards with reversed controls.

The more the merrier
Cars 2 doesn't just concern itself with racing either. Making the most of the film's globetrotting plot about automotive spies, Cars 2 also throws gamers into arena-style combat as you hunt down enemy vehicles and competing in team-based capture-the-flag variants. All of which brings up ones of the typical complaints that afflict all Mario Kart-style games - they just aren't as much fun to play by yourself as they are with family and friends. On your lonesome Cars 2 is all a bit pedestrian. But add another player and the experience is completely transformed, powered by genuine competition and the inevitable backstabbing that comes from controlling cute little cars tooled up with missile launchers an machine guns. However, here comes the games biggest problem - the complete lack of online multiplayer. If ever there was a game crying out for connected play, then Cars 2 is it, but (presumably due to its younger target audience) Disney has opted no to go down that route with this game.

Forget about this flaw though and Cars 2 holds up as a surprisingly entertaining and very accomplished Mario Kart clone. The presentation - fro graphics to audio - is absolutely top notch. The gameplay is robust, especially in multiplayer. And there are certainly enough challenges and gameplay variations to keep you coming back for more. While, the licence itself might put some people off, the overall quality of Cars 2 ensures that it's one game that parents really won't mind playing with your kids.

PS3 (version tested)/Xbox 360/Wii/NDS, Disney Interactive, £40 approx, On sale now