Car Mania for the commute rage-a-holics in all of us

Posted: July 15, 2009 in Time Management

Every morning and evening I wallow in the exhaust-filled air of the commute to work, and on most days here in the city by the bay, traffic is blows big time. Well Origin8, the devs behind the great Sentinel TD games are back at it and this time instead of managing defenses against alien forces, you’re dealing with another evil force, your fellow commuters. Car Mania falls in line with the great well-rounded presentations I’ve come to see in its other games, and the gameplay is no different. The addictive gameplay, unlockable modes, and terrific visuals make this highly recommended.

Directing traffic is only one component of the Car Mania. An added element of challenge is that you must direct all sorts of vehicles to a matching color destination. Sounds easy huh? Believe me, you will find yourself cursing as if you were stuck in traffic after you see some of the jams you create. The game looks and feels polished all the way down the car honking sound effects and hokey soundtrack.

In terms of vehicle management, Car Mania has 3 game modes: Survival, Road Rage and Time Attack. Survival mode is unlocked and depending on how many happy drivers you accumulate, this will unlock Road Rage and Time Attack. There are also 3 different roadways for your managing pleasure—New York, Freeway and Central. New York is unlocked to start with Freeway and Central unlocked after meeting the minimum happy driver scoring requirement. What the game does is maintain a running tally regardless of mode or road (see what I did there?) of happy drivers so you know exactly how many more are needed to access the unlockables. Each of the tracks offers something different—New York is about managing through city streets while Freeway almost looks like toll booths for a bridge on ramp. By far my favorite is Central because this involves a locomotive barreling through town so you don’t need me to tell what happens with other vehicles that stand in its way. But Central requires a few hundred happy drivers before you can completely unlock this road.

The controls are literally the easiest you will ever use. Tap on a vehicle and drag a route with your finger to the desired destination. An arrow will appear on the roof of the vehicle showing the direction and an outline of the path will appear on the roadway. Tap it again to stop a vehicle and once more to start it back in motion. That’s one of the things that many vehicle management games have done extremely well is making the controls as easy as possible. A bigger arrow will appear at entry points to indicate where the next driver will appear. I will say that on occasion my finger would inadvertently tap the wrong, but that could be due to the size of my fingers which I always thought were dainty anyway.

A key element in the game is the Rage Meter. Drivers want to keep the moving and the longer they sit and wait, well, they get angrier. Sending them to the wrong destination or having them crash as in real life have the same effect, and obviously won’t make drivers happy ones either. Visually, the explosions are lively, and nothing beats a locomotive running through a number of vehicles in its path.

In Car Mania, obstacles abound and as in real life consist mainly of slow moving big rigs that block traffic, speedsters that move faster than everyone else, and motorcyclists that are difficult see. But you also have road construction which can create its own set of traffic havoc. You get rid of those through multiple taps, but they can cost you valuable seconds and draw your attention away from more dire troubles.

In Survival, the objective is see how long you can keep traffic flowing. Depending on the road, the challenge will ratchet up significantly. For example, with New York, the task involves guiding vehicles to one of two specifically colored destinations. But once you get to Central, the destination points increase to four, not to mention nightfall and a locomotive. In Time Attack, you’re tasked with guiding as many vehicles to the right locations within a limited time frame. Of the three, Road Rage takes on a different flavor where the objective is to create as many crashes as possible before the rage meter is full. It’s not as easy as it sounds because unlike drivers in the other modes, these apparently took driver’s ed classes and are brake happy. The incessant honking as you try to crash cars and raise the Rage Meter can be irritating so thankfully you can turn off the sound at any time.

In terms of gameplay, it’s solid for what it is, and has a strong addictive quality to it. I call it Car Mania’s rubbernecking effect. It’s similar to when you come upon a car accident, and you can’t help but take a peek. OpenFeint aside, the game has plenty of replayability, and like many of the vehicle management games available, it’s designed with a pick-up-and-play mentality. The one thing that differentiates Car Mania from the others for is the overall presentation which feels very polished.

Car Mania is definitely one you’ll want for the amount of polish and gameplay you’ll get out of it. It’s a well presented game that you can whip whenever you’re actually sitting in rush hour. Just don’t be the one driving.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (offers good variety in terms of roads and unlockables and an addictive quality; polished graphics and animation and well presented)

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