Every now and again, I get excited over a game’s title and headline caption which make my imagination wander before I see screenshots, a trailer, or dive into the game. And sometimes when I do finally play that game, there’s a very hefty disconnect between my expectations and reality. Unfortunately, this was the case for Car Quest on Nintendo Switch.
Car Quest enticed me with the promise of an epic adventure built on exploring, collecting, and just general discovery across colorful worlds all while in my sweet ride cruising around. The reality is something more along the lines of a family road trip across the desert when you’re 8 years old. Nothing to see, very little to do, and parents that won’t stop talking.
When you first enter the game, you’re approached by a holographic representation of an Easter Island head talking to you in a soothing British accent. He explains he’s lost his memory, which adversely affects the world called Blocktaria around you. To help jog his memory and bring ‘life’ back to Blocktaria, you’re tasked with collecting artifacts in the form of basic shapes that look like they’re from Tetris. It’s with this system, that’ll you quickly find the game’s repetitive and bland progression.
From the beginning of the game, to hours in, I found myself in the same monotonous loop. You’re told and shown an available artifact to go collect. You’ll proceed by driving around the level’s various pathways until you reach the artifact shape. Upon grabbing it, your holographic friend will chatter a bit and you’ll be shown where the next artifact is, and then off you go to collect that one. Intermixed in this chore are some portal doors that you can unlock and enter via collecting the batteries strewn about on the level. This was no challenge to enter any door as the batteries respawn frequently, and I was able to save up hundreds of them in no time. Entering into most portals only repeated the same find artifact-collect-find artifact loop. Repetition in games is no always a bad thing when the core underlying mechanics are fun and entertaining. Neither is the case here.
Now I’ve enjoyed my fair share of ‘walking-simulator’ games. The Witness and Firewatch are benchmarks for the genre. Stagnate or simple gameplay can be easily ignored in return for gorgeous visuals and an engaging plot. Unfortunately, the presentation of Car Quest is just as lackluster as its core gameplay. The world is offered up in basic geometry, with a repeating checkerboard pattern applied to everything, and then color shifted primarily dependent on which portal door you’ve gone through. Having been in game development myself for over a decade now, utilizing the checker pattern along with basic geometry generally is for placeholder art, and Car Quest ultimately never felt as though it had a visual identity of its own because of this.
The car didn’t fare much better for me. In a game utilizing a vehicle as its controllable hero, I had higher expectations that it would be more presentable and that driving around would feel fluid, fun and responsive. However again, the game really came up short in both of these categories as well. The car’s visual is that of an exaggerated muscle car, but because of a lower poly body and wheel travel, you’ll often see your wheels cut right into the cars body. It’s attention to this detail that shouldn’t have been overlooked really given how much you focus on your car.
Car handling felt sluggish and unresponsive. This, coupled with a strange low gravity setting to the game, left me with a droning driving experience. Instead of feeling as though I was in a muscle car with some life to it, I felt as though I was stuck in a lethargic mini-van, as it was neither fast nor fun to navigate the levels at any time. The game offers a drift button that tries to spring a little life into the vehicle, but never did I find a useful or required time to apply that feature.
Everything about Car Quest created a fatigued atmosphere for me. From the soothing music, to the lax voice over and subtle engine noises, coupled with slow and sluggish driving and monotonous collection, it was a game that legitimately had me starting to doze off. As I originally stated, when I read the title and description, I thought I was prepared to travel to distant lands on that epic road trip adventure. After several hours of driving, I was more than ready to park my holographically created car in the garage forever.
Car Quest Review
Final Thoughts: AWFUL
Car Quest led on a promise of an epic adventure, but with highly monotonous gameplay, coupled with a visually dull world, and car handling that felt less like a sports car and more like a boat, there just were not enough redeeming features for me to say it’s worth $9.99. You’re better off not buying this car from the lot.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.