Splash Cars tries to add some colour to the world, but is as deep as a puddle.
Do you remember that movie Pleasantville, the 1998 movie with a hell of a cast? Two teenagers get trapped in a black and white TV sitcom world, but their modern ideals start to add colour to everything, much to the chagrin of the older generation living there. I quite liked it, if I recall correctly, which is exactly why I was interested in Splash Cars. Here, your exciting racing car drives around a dull grey world, bringing colour wherever you travel whilst the police try to stop you in your tracks. It’s a pretty simple, but rather neat, premise, but how does it actually play?
Splash Cars is split into a number of different levels featuring a grey isometric landscape of varying sizes with some houses, trees, and other features. Your job is to drive around, leaving a trail of colour behind you, covering as much of the stage as you can before your fuel runs out. You’ll need to pick up fuel to keep you going, and power-ups to help you deal with the police chasing you, as well as coins and blueprints to unlock new features later. If you cover enough of the stage to reach a given threshold, you’ll unlock rewards and new levels to enjoy.
The police will try to smash you off the road, making your life more difficult whilst other road users will undo your good work by turning the road grey again. In a neat twist though, if you drive near them, they’ll become colourful too, and actually assist you. Often, a good first move is to go and claim a few nearby cars to make spreading the paint more effective. There are also power-ups to collect that will, amongst other things, stun the cops, turn you into a larger car, or even make you into a tank that fires paint spreading shells.
Other pickups include fuel to extend your play session, coins, and blueprints. The latter two are used to buy and paint new cars. Because this is built as a mobile game, each stage is rated out of three stars based on the coverage you achieve by the end of your run, with each star unlocking the ability to buy cars, new levels, or bonus coins. Mercifully there’s no way to purchase these with real money on the Xbox version I played, but I expect those monetisation models are in place in the mobile version.
Those mobile elements don’t stop there though. Splash Cars feels like a game designed for phones right from the off. The huge menu buttons clearly designed for fingers, the ludicrously simplistic control scheme — you can turn left and right and nothing else — and the very short playtime are all aspects you’d expect to find on your phone games. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as this is a very inexpensive game, but it is worth noting that you’ll get those slow progression unlocks and that there’s a requirement to grind for coins.
The visuals are nice, with the colours really popping as you cover the stage, and the cars each look unique thanks to some nice designs and fun paint schemes. The perspective is a little annoying as you can’t see collectables or police behind buildings. The camera zoom level also makes it very hard to find any fuel pickups, which can be very frustrating when you’re running low, especially on those larger levels. I did like the overall art style though.
In terms of sound, things are less enjoyable. The cars have varied engine sounds which is nice, but the sound of cops bashing into you over and over again got old very quickly. Then there’s the single music track that loops ad nauseum, even more irritating due to the fact that it’s quite grating to start with.
Splash Cars is enjoyable enough, but only in very short bursts. It doesn’t take long to realise that there isn’t a huge amount of substance, and what you’re doing in the first ten minutes is exactly what you’ll be doing in two hours’ time. The need to grind and hope for lucky item placement to be able to finish some of the more challenging stages is irritating, but the short playtime does make jumping straight back in a not too unpleasant prospect. If you’re eager for a mobile game on your TV screen that’s fun for ten minutes at a time, then you could do much worse, especially due to that low price point. No need to splash out here.