A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a massively multiplayer online game based on the Disney / Pixar movie, Cars. It is free to play, but certain enticing features require a monthly subscription to unlock, so kids are likely to want a subscription after trying the free game. It is also a browser-based game which means that there is no software to download and install but can be accessed using an internet browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome. While there is chat in the game, it is either from a drop down menu or filtered so that kids who are chatting can only use words approved from a "White List."
What's it about?
This massively multiplayer online game places you inside the world of Disney/Pixar's Cars as a animated vehicle. Young players create and customize a car avatar and then explore the familiar areas they've seen in the movie, as well as other new expanded areas of this online world. You can play mini-games, go on quests, and race. The majority of the mini-games are racing games on various different tracks around the world, but there are also other mini-games played with characters from the movie where they ask you for help performing various tasks. You might deliver produce, find a specific part or plant, or assist in paint jobs. Another feature of the game is decorating your yard which is basically player housing - and inviting your friends to view it. Eventually, kids will be able to build their own race tracks.
Is it any good?
Disney has created a very simple racing game by using the mouse to lead the car, i.e. where your mouse pointer moves, your car will follow. These controls make it simple, even when reversing or making a three-point turns. Voice-overs assist with instructions and chat limitations create a safe world for young gamers. Although not ESRB rated, Disney uses the same safety features found in their other online worlds such as Toontown Online and Pixie Hollow Online.
This is not an educational title but younger kids can still benefit from the hand-eye coordination practice, item matching, and memory games. Kids who enjoy the Cars world will be happy exploring the World of Cars Online. However, while kids can play for free, they will likely want a monthly subscription which enables them to do more in this world. Luckily, the monthly fee is reasonable at $5.95 per month.
Online interaction: With the free version, chat is limited to drop-down menu-chat (also known as Speed Chat). With a paid subscription, parents can enable Speed Chat Plus (which allows kids to type their chat - but will only allow words from a "White List"). These safeguards help to ensure that kids cannot harass or bully each other online.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sportsmanship. Why do you say "Good Luck" to another player before you begin a race or "Good Race" if you win?
Families can also talk about the amount of time kids spend online playing a game. Why is sitting for long periods of time not the best for your health? What is eye exercise? Why must we look at close things as well as things that are far away?
Families can also talk about whether this free game made you want to buy the subscription to get more stuff within the game. Why do we need more stuff?