Cars: Mater-National Championship
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a kid's racing game based on the Disney/Pixar film Cars and that it feels quite commercial. Dozens of locations and characters from the film are featured in the game, and there is even a pamphlet from Mattel stuffed in the packaging that advertises toy cars from the movie. The game itself is polished and very accessible to kids, providing simple controls, plenty of guidance, and customizable skill levels. Kids of elementary school age ought to be able to play without encountering many problems.
What's it about?
CARS: MATER-NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP is the second game based on Disney/Pixar's popular animated movie Cars. Players drive around spacious levels looking for challenges, which are designated by floating icons in the environment. Many of the game's activities are basic races that take place on diverse courses with a healthy variety of jumps, obstacles, and tight corners, while others are better categorized as mini-games, like one in which the player engages in a game of tag with a computer controlled car. The game has excellent value thanks to a lengthy story mode that offers rewards for placing first in every challenge (which means players will spend plenty of time racing levels over again), multiple difficulty levels that range from extremely easy to surprisingly tough, and split-screen two-player racing.
Is it any good?
There's little not to like about Mater-National Championship. On the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 it approaches the same level of quality in animation that Pixar presented in the movie. Car models are loaded with details and lifelike reflections. They also emote in remarkably believable ways thanks to their wonderfully expressive eyes and mouths. But, most importantly, they're fun to drive. The controls are simple and responsive, and the (mostly) wide open courses are a pleasure to cruise through.
There's not much of a story in the main mode, but that matters little; you're provided a basic reason for each race and that's enough to motivate you to press your thumbs to the metal. Earning prizes such as new cars, paintjobs, and artwork when you're doing well is just the icing on the cake. Beware, though, that in order to unlock everything in the game you'll likely need to revisit a lot of events. Cars: Mater-National Championship is relatively easy to play and finish, but beating the game to perfection will take both skill and dedication.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the concept of a world populated only with living cars. Where would they come from? Who would make them? What would a car's home look like? They can also discuss the game's themes, which include competitive camaraderie and sportsmanship. How important is it to win? Have you ever allowed a friend to win a game you could have won to let him or her feel good about his or her performance?