For me, racing games are like pop songs: yeah they can be fun once in a while, but I’m super picky and almost always regret giving them a chance. But then, Car Quest isn’t a racing game. Car Quest is a game where you’re a sentient car working to restore Blocktaria to its former glory. How does a car save a world, you ask? By driving around and finding over 100 artifacts to unlock new areas and bring life back to this distraught world, of course!
Blending fun driving, exploration, a few racing tricks, puzzles, and a bunch of memorization, Car Quest is a game unlike any I’d ever played before.
Title: Car Quest
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by developer via Indie Gamer Chick‘s #Indieween2018
Interface: Handheld Switch console
Available on Nintendo Switch
Buckle-up for an epic road trip through a colorful world of puzzles and adventure. Use driving skills and puzzle solving abilities to find missing artifacts and piece together the broken world of Blocktaria.
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a racing game. In fact, I don’t think I’ve truly enjoyed a racing game since Super Mario Kart on Super Nintendo! So when Indie Gamer Chick did her most recent event and gave copies of Car Quest (provided by the developer) away to those that requested them, I expected a mediocre game at best. Imagine my surprise, then, when I ended up putting over 8 hours into the game and getting upset whenever my Switch made me quit playing due to low battery power. I ended up liking it so much, in fact, that I decided to write a full-blown review of the game.
Car Quest throws you into a mysterious world where you’re a car, trying to rebuild things the way they once were with the help of one of the residents, a floating head named Lord Blockstar. His memory is missing as much as Blocktaria itself, and as you find artifacts and bring more of the world back you’ll also restore his memory in the process. Artifacts are small little golden puzzle piece-lookin’ things that you drive into to pick up. This is often easier said than done; you typically aren’t shown exactly where they are, and even when you are they may require hitting a ramp, moving things around, driving over spots on the ground in a certain order and amount of time, or even driving up a wall to get them.
The world starts off small, but as you find artifacts the world slowly opens up. This was what kept me playing, especially once larger areas of the world started opening up. It begins with a small little area, but by the end of the game there’s a lake, various buildings, multiple levels of roads, and much more. I loved that you weren’t just opening up a random map with obstacles, you were rebuilding an actual world and even filling it with life! By the end of the game Blocktaria turned into a very active, full world.
In addition to the world of Blocktaria you’ll end up going through numerous portals on your journey. These each have a battery cost to enter, and then another battery cost to exit once you’ve gotten the final artifact inside. These are more unique locations to explore and are usually themed, like a beach with a crashed pirate ship, an arena with walls you can ramp up, or a desert with numerous secrets. While these are cool, and I loved that the game saved my progress perfectly the one time my battery died in the middle of one, the battery cost is mildly annoying sometimes. Batteries are easy to pick up, they’re scattered everywhere, and they make a cool little sound whenever you grab one, but toward the end of the game I found myself having to run around picking up a bunch of batteries before I could progress. This wasn’t a big deal and just took a minute or two each time, but it got a little frustrating sometimes, especially the one time Lord Blockstar kept telling me to hurry up and do a certain spoilery thing but I needed to run around and grab 30-ish batteries first.
Movement is about what you’d expect out of any game with driving: you can accelerate, reverse, turn, boost, and drift. You’re given the option to accelerate or reverse using either the A and B buttons or the triggers, which is definitely good since the drift button is the right button and trying to hold the right button AND trigger at the same time isn’t easy. The drift button is also used for boosting: you just have to hold it down for a bit until sparks start to fly and then releasing it boosts you for a good few seconds.The controls were another of the things I really enjoyed; even though handling is far more important than speed, I still loved trying to squeal around corners and do tiny donuts. The sound effects were perfect, making every move so much more fun. On the downside there’s no “look” button and the other joystick does nothing. There were so many times that I wished I could look around a corner or down to see what I’d land on if I dropped, but the only way to move the camera is to move yourself.
Unfortunately, there’s one final complaint, and it’s easily the biggest. Every time you get an artifact the camera moves to whatever changed, and then moves back to you. Between showing the direction and showing you what exactly happened (a wall lowering, a rectangle or square getting cut in half to turn into a ramp, etc), you’ll probably have little problem figuring out where to go next. However, if you pause the game, quit playing for a while or just accidentally look away while it’s being shown, it’s WAAAAAAAAY too easy to get lost and not know where to go next. Heck, as the game opens up more it’s often difficult to even remember how to get to a certain place, and sometimes locations can look similar. Around a quarter of the way into the game I realized I could take a screenshot of what changed, and then I could flip back and forth to make sure I was in the right place. Even using this method I had to reach out to the developers on Twitter twice to ask what I needed to do. Sometimes there were actually two artifacts available at once, and it happens so rarely that it always took me by surprise. Sadly when there was a second one to find at the same time there’s no warning, and you’re forced to look pretty much everywhere since there’s not much of a hint. Being able to press a button to see a screenshot of where you’re headed would’ve been terrific, or an option to see a compass that points at the next artifact you need, but I understand this would make the game easier and quicker to play.
Car Quest is a wild ride and a test of your patience and memory, but it’s still an enjoyable game overall. I had fun rebuilding and exploring, and the bigger Blocktaria got the cooler it was. The physics and movement were fun, even when a good portion of the game is spent carefully driving around corners or driving all over looking for what changed. And hey, if you keep notes and take screenshots it’s a good game to take on the go since each artifact essentially works as a perfect save point.