Splash Cars is not a racing game, but rather a simple driving game where you attempt to return colour to as much of the environment as possible by piloting a paint-splatting car around isometric (but polygonal) maps.
Your little vehicle automatically accelerates – and you can’t slow it down – so you need to think fast and steer it around the various scenery objects and evade the police while you attempt to paint a high enough percentage of the map to progress.
It isn’t a driving-focused game like Absolute Drift, initially not feeling like a driving game at all, but some cop-evasion moments as you slalom between trees carries some driving skill kudos.
However, its mobile game DNA is immediately evident. You know, the kind where you play for free, but then have to either buy coins with real money or watch an advert to get more coins.
Everything here is set up like that, yet microtransactions have been disabled for console, with no waiting and no adverts, which means it’s obviously geared towards something that just isn’t there. Oddly for the Nintendo Switch version, even the touch screen UI has been removed, so it’s all done with the buttons. Most odd.
Still, the game itself is pretty good in the end. It does take a couple of hours, mind, as early levels are extremely slow and boring. But soon you unlock faster cars and better power-ups, and start to notice the other vehicles in the stages.
Besides the cops, there are also small golf buggy-sized vehicles and larger lorries that trundle around, painting over what you’ve done. You can barge into them and destroy them, but the superior tactic is to drive close to them and paint them instead, turning them into your allies.
Do this early enough and they’ll set to work painting the map while you go for the more intricate areas. It works well and there is a nice sense of smugness when it all goes to plan.
However, these good feelings are negated a little by the progression system, which is also hampered by its mobile roots. The game wants you to revisit levels with better cars, which means getting all three stars on your first go can be literally impossible, which is annoying.
What’s also annoying is the way you can rarely 3-star a level without using the last gasp fuel booster, which costs in-game coins, unless you’ve earned a free one. If the game had been based on pure skill with progressively harder maps you could theoretically ace first time, it could have been quite something. As it is, it becomes a numb, grindy experience.
The game is over in some four hours if you plug away at getting all three stars, with a few cars left to unlock after that, plus the local multiplayer option. Supporting up to four players (apparently each requiring two Joy Cons even though you literally only use one stick to turn), this sees you get into teams and try to cover the map in as much of your paint as possible.
It’s reasonably good fun and runs impressively well considering the map has to be zoomed out to keep everyone on the screen, showing the whole level if you go to opposing corners. Not bad for a Unity game on this hardware.
Splash Cars really could have been brilliant if it had been designed with the Switch in mind, but as it is it’s overpriced for a free-to-play port even coming in at around a fiver.
Definitely don’t buy it as a driving game, but if you really do have far too much time on your hands, this will make the hours disappear in an increasingly pleasant manner, for an afternoon. No disaster, but probably destined to be forgotten.
|9th March 2022
|Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
Full disclosure: We purchased this game for review purposes. Here is our review policy.