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Yaris

An aura of decadence tends to pervade anything that’s free. When people are given a game without paying anything – their incentive to play the title is gone. This can create reasonably low expectations, meaning that there’s likely not going to be any middle ground. Aegis Wing happened to be a humble success, proving to be one of the best Live Arcade titles. While AW’s amateur developers seemed to have put their hearts into the game, genuinely catering to the hardcore gamer in all of us, it’s unfortunate that the same can not be said for Yaris.

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Intended as an “advergame” for Toyota’s latest line of subcompact cars, our attention is unfortunately averted elsewhere, as the hoods of the three cars are mounted with a mechanical tentacle, which fires off a few different forms of ammo. This is called a “mechanosymbiont”, something you will never hear of again.

The entire build of the game is conceptually derived from the “Special Stages” found in early Sonic the Hedgehog titles, in which players would race around highly stylized 3D half-loops of sorts, avoiding bombs and collecting rings. Considering that Backbone Entertainment, the development team behind Yaris, has also worked on three Sonic the Hedgehog titles, these similarities are more than coincidental.

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Spanning eight tracks, you’ll pilot the 3-Door Liftback, 3-Door Sedan, and 4-Door S Sedan. Of course, the doors have no bearing on the gameplay, but it’s an opportunity for a cheap selling point. Levels are littered with enemies that look like the ungodly spawn of MP3 players and AT-STs, a sort of demonic iPod that spouts flames and struts about on mechanized legs.” Opposition otherwise includes flying robots, spinning wheels of fire, and sumo-sized bikers on tricycle-sized bikes. Once shot down, enemies drop coins, which can be collected in addition to the pre-set trail of coins already on the track.

With these, the three cars can be upgraded with new paint jobs, wheels, weapon capacity, and shields. It requires a lot of repetition and retrying of tracks to upgrade to something which even stands a chance in the last four levels, in which the courses are flooded with more random enemies than ever.

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Playing with other people over Xbox Live or locally brings something else into the mix. With the face-buttons, you’ll be able to steal or give coins to the opponent, and repair or damage their shields, when you’re in the general proximity of their car. Nonetheless, multiplayer feels somewhat underhanded, despite being semi-functional.

Yaris might be free, but not even that can justify the space required to download the game. After all, what’s your time worth?

2 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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