Starting up the engine of Cars Race-O-Rama for the first time I wondered what the point of this game could be.

After all, it’s three years since the Disney Pixar animation about talking race cars came out so it’s not like the game is timed to coincide with a new movie release.

Plus this is the third Nintendo DS game based on the film, and there is surely only so much juice that THQ can squeeze out of the Cars tank.

After playing it I’m still at a loss at to what purpose this game might serve but at least explaining the concept of the game is easier.

The concept of this game is the same as every other generic, casual racing game you’re ever likely to play, only this one has a Cars theme.

It’s about speeding around a series of tracks, trying to win the various races and challenges that come your way in order to unlock new tracks, characters and upgrades.

Controls are as simple as could be – it’s A for accelerate, B for brake, the d-pad for steering left and right, then other button pushes for drift, jump and using special abilities such as boost.

That’s about as complicated as Cars: Race-O-Rama gets, making it ideal for younger players and far too shallow for more mature gamers.

Your Local Guardian: Cars Race-O-Rama

Youngsters will also get a buzz out of being part of a Cars story, this one involving Lightning McQueen and Chick Hicks preparing their students for the Race-O-Rama Exhibition.

Chick and his racers are out to become the number one academy in Radiator Springs. The story plays out on 20 tracks spread across locations such as beach, city and desert.

As you race around you can collect wrenches. When you have enough of them you can go to the market to purchase items for Lightning such as magnetic tyres which stick to certain tracks and inflatable tyres which help him float across water (although aren’t all tyres inflatable?).

Also during the game you can customise more bits on Lightning like his wheels, rims, spoiler and paint.

For a game clearly aimed at kids Race-O-Rama boasts a decent amount of content.

Aside from the story mode there are other events which can be unlocked, such as beat the clock and drift challenge.

There is also multiplayer action via local wireless.

Your Local Guardian: Cars Race-O-Rama

The graphics in Cars Race-O-Rama are functional but certainly not fantastic. For me they lack some refinement and don’t get near reproducing the standard of the movie.

The cut scenes between races are pretty decent but the quality drops when the action goes back to the track. The cars look slightly blocky while the backgrounds seem to be a little grainy sometimes.

While they are not terrible, the graphics aren’t the best I’ve seen. The shortcomings wouldn’t be so noticeable if the racing moved at a rapid pace but there isn’t a great sense of speed in the game. I never found myself on the edge of my seat or saying wow at any point while playing.

On the positive side, the game does boast respectable draw distances and there is quite a lot of scenery around the edges of the tracks.

The courses are well designed with some nicely varied layouts. One thing I like is being able to take alternate routes to the finish line, although there isn’t too much incentive for doing this as the difficulty level is on the easy side, again in keeping with this being a game aimed at a younger audience.

Audio in the game is good, with a light twangy soundtrack which fits in well with the overall tone. I especially like how the cars taunt one another as they race around.

With only one or two exceptions the Nintendo DS has been a barren wasteland when it comes to finding a decent racing game to play.

While Cars Race-O-Rama does little to change that scene, it does at least provide some throwaway light-hearted fun for fans of the movie.

Of course it’s nowhere near the standards of Mario Kart, the leading race game on the DS, but it’s still an OK game. If you know any kids who are fans of Lightning and co then they should enjoy putting this through its paces.

Verdict: 6 out of 10 – Not the best but equally not the worst racing game on the DS, a slightly above average movie-based game with an impressive amount of content for a kids’ title.