Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged (Switch) Review
I was surprised by the original Hot Wheels Unleashed when it came out on the Switch. It was a fun racer that ran pretty well, with plenty of Hot Wheels cars. Coupled with the novelty of having tracks set up in real-world environments, I really enjoyed it. Now we have the follow-up game, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged. Does it have enough oomph?
The Hot Wheels Race Team has been called in by Professor Tanabe. He’s accidentally unleashed giant creatures on the city and needs the help of the race team to take them down with the power of racing. There is a whole thing about them needing to shrink the giant beasts down to hot wheel size, then shrinking the team and their cars down too. It’s all a bit silly, but it’s unintrusive.
The story mode feels similarly structured to the original, with a map to select your next race and some diversions along the way. However this time it is more linear, to the point of blocking progress if you can’t beat the one challenge. It felt like a pretty big step backwards, especially when some of the challenges have very strict times.
You won’t just be competing in ordinary races, there’s also elimination, drifting, waypoint and time trials. The ordinary races are good, outracing your opponents isn’t always easy, but it’s simple in what you need to do. I wasn’t a fan of the other modes being necessary to progress, particularly around Elimination with rubber-banding CPU racers nipping at your heels no matter how far you break away from the pack. Especially after racing for several minutes, staying in the top group, and then one tiny bump can ruin it all! It’s not even just in elimination that small setbacks essentially wipe out your chance at victory.
I had a few occasions where I would be sent spinning comically into the air from nicking the corner of a track, or new obstacles suddenly knocking me off the track. No matter how well I was doing, as soon as I held down for a respawn, I would wind up in last place as the pack would all be so close together. Waypoint isn’t that much of a fun mode either. You’re given an arrow indicator to follow as you have a fairly open environment to chase down checkpoints to the end. It only seems to click if you follow the path you’re expected to follow, making all the open areas a bit of a waste.
The boss battles for each section of the map have you speeding through a track to hit a target on the track to do damage to the boss meter. Initially, you can miss one target and still get to the next one within the time limit. If you don’t make it in time you have to start over, so it can turn into a case of track memorisation as the window of time quickly becomes so small any missed targets are going to end in quick failure.
One of the immediately noticeable changes in Turbocharged is that the old race environments are gone and replaced with new ones. Turbocharged brings in the backyard, gas station, mini golf course, arcade and dinosaur museum. These environments differ enough from the old group to differentiate the races from the previous game. The biggest change is the introduction of more off-road sections, where your cars will be going off the trademark plastic orange tracks and onto other surfaces. The first game also took you off the track. However, the new tracks and vehicles provided have taken it up a notch. This time around, you’ll need to really consider what car you’re using for the tracks that will have you off-road.
Turbocharged has also increased your car’s mobility and attack power through the ability to jump and side bump. The jump is often needed to leap over some obstacles or clear a gap that doesn’t have a ramp. The side bump is generally for charging into other racers, hopefully sending them off the track or into one of the obstacles. The changes that have happened to the tracks to make the jump button matter feels like it’s for worse. To perform either manoeuvre, you need to use a small portion of your boost bar, which can really mess up a race if you’re running too low on your meter to jump. In some cases if you don’t get a boost start you might as well restart as you won’t clear the obstacle.
Different vehicle classes matter in this game, with all rounders, drifters, rocket, off-road and heavy duty all having their purpose. Along with this, there’s a new upgrade system, where you can spend points to boost your vehicle’s performance. I mainly focused on upgrades around making the car more impervious to hazards. The other upgrades tended to have a trade-off, such as earning less boost meter for more speed. You can also customise your vehicle with the Livery Editor, here you can change up the paint job or decals. It’s a nice addition, it will really depend on how much you want to change your authentic Hot Wheel vehicle.
Different vehicle types, like Motorbikes and ATVs, have been added, but they don’t change up the game much. It is still a nice addition to expanding out the types of Hot Wheels available. There is a reasonably-sized roster of vehicles all up, with many familiar cars from the previous game and some other Hot Wheels collections added. In some areas, such as the pop culture vehicles, there seems to be less than last time. But if you really know your Hot Wheels cars, there are plenty of other cars to select from.
You still go into the store to purchase your new wheels and use your points towards them. However, this time, there’s no mystery bag option, taking some of the fun out of it when there are no good options in the store. As a result, it will likely take you much longer to fill out that garage as it will still sell you duplicates. You can unlock some spins for a chance to win a new car, although these don’t happen often, out of all the times I’ve used it, I’ve only won a car out of it once.
The original Hot Wheels Unleashed ran quite well on the Switch; fortunately, this is the case for Turbocharged. The cars all look fine, and the close-ups allow you to see all the details of these toys, just like in the original. Given that developers Milestone had already done an excellent job capturing these toy cars, it isn’t a big surprise to see that the follow-up continues the trend.
There’s also Online racing and split screen 2-player, precisely what you’d expect in an arcade racer. It’s always nice to have more racers to play with friends in the same room, even better when the racing is pretty fun.
Track Creator has returned in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged, full of Hot Wheel track pieces and modules to add to your creation. The Creator is fairly light on showing you what to do, but I was able to pick it up quickly. I will admit that I am not generally one for course/track editors. Still, there are plenty of pieces at your disposal for those who want to unleash their imagination and make some wild tracks.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged, like its predecessor is an enjoyable arcade-style racer. Developer Milestone continues to show they get how to incorporate Hot Wheels in new ways. If you spent a lot of time with the original Unleashed, then it hits hard to find the game takes some steps back, but if you want some new environments and tracks, then it might not matter.
+ New environments, outdoor tracks add more variety
+ Still enjoyable to race these Hot Wheels
- Some changes for the sequel feel like a step backwards
- Making it harder to get new Hot Wheels for your garage takes some of the fun out of collecting