I was initially attracted to this game when I first saw it on the Coming Soon list. It’s natural for me to find upcoming Switch titles to keep an eye on through it, sure, but there was something about Car Quest that felt like it was my kind of game. It might have been its surreal nature; this definitely doesn’t look like any other car game I know of. It looked like something bolder and more creative.
It even has a story of some sort! The King of Blocktaria – aka the floating head seen in the screenshots – has summoned the car to his realm. Something happened to the realm, causing it to feel empty and dead and the King to lose his memories of it all. As the car, you search for artifacts to build the atmosphere back up to where it once was. That’s it, really. The story doesn’t really develop from here aside from small tidbits and info about the places you visit. The king’s a lot more into making puns, anyway; he’s not exactly the kind of person you’d think is a leader, but I digress.
I definitely cannot knock Car Quest‘s aesthetics. As the concept itself seems surreal enough to work, the graphics consist of otherworldly terrains that get livelier the more you make progress. This is essentially the driving force behind the appeal of the game. For every artifact you collect, you see a piece of the environment unravel before your eyes. The king is also very well animated; he reminds me a lot of the Aku Aku head from Crash Team Racing except with far more expressions. The general attention to detail to the way Car Quest looks makes the visuals the best part of the game.
For the most part, Car Quest relies on soothing atmospheric music pieces. While probably not the most memorable soundtrack I’ve ever heard, it does allow the player to take in the world around them. Impressively, the king has fully voiced lines, complete with ones they clearly didn’t have to put in there but did anyway. Fun as he may be, though, I feel like he takes away from the atmosphere around the player. I mean, it isn’t like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had someone breathing over your neck the whole way through.
Car Quest is a basic game. You drive to an artifact to unlock a path that reveals the next one. The cycle repeats, but every rare while, some element like block pushing or a changing water level would make things a little more interesting. Unfortunately, what little the game does to provide for gameplay is nowhere near the kind of captivating stuff that can keep it fresh for 8-10 hours. So what does the game do? It pads it out. Oh boy howdy does the game pad it out. I kept pushing forward to see if anything would drastically change, but nope. It’s the same old meandering song and dance. Naturally, the game would make it so you have to constantly backtrack, adding to the tedium.
That’s not to say there weren’t any level-specific problems; the one part where you push sheep to an area is particularly infuriating because the sheep refuse to cooperate and you have to do it FIVE FREAKING TIMES. More importantly, the game lacks two crucial features: A map and a way to exit levels you already played. You better have paid attention to the camera shot showing the next artifact placement! If not, you could potentially spend hours running in circles, especially if it happens to be in a not-so-obvious route. And if you go to a level you already played? You have to beat the entire level all over again if you want to exit. After accidentally going into the ice level again when I thought it was a new area, I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. My patience ran thin.
It’s a real shame because there was a lot of potential to this game. I thought it would be a unique spin on car games by mixing it with an abstract adventure setup. Yet, Car Quest painfully lacks any ambition in its execution. Instead, it stretches out to an absurdly long length by simply reusing established elements over and over and over again. I think if the game was cut down by 6-8 hours and if the king wasn’t present, this game would be better by default. It’d be able to capture its atmosphere fully, and there would be just enough to work with for the game to end without feeling too long. As is, it’s massively bloated by containing things that only seem to exist to annoy the player rather than help.
Review copy provided by Ezone