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Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged review: surprise hit gets a sequel

The previous game was a guilty pleasure, can this one build on its cult classic status?

Published: 24 Oct 2023

It's fair to say that 2021's Hot Wheels Unleashed was a pleasant surprise. Usually kid-focussed licensed tie-in racing games are about as appealing as a visit to your proctologist, but with its combination of photorealistic die-cast toys, rollercoaster circuits and a moreish car collection mechanic it cemented itself as a cult classic.

Two years later, the sequel Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged takes the racing to more varied locations, including an arcade, a mini-golf course and a gas station, and makes a selection of minor tweaks and changes to the format, some more successful than others.

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Where the rubber hits the road – or more accurately, where the plastic wheels hit the plastic track – the biggest change is the addition of a jump button. In theory, it adds greater depth to the racing experience, but given that one of our biggest criticisms of the first game was that it was far too easy to fly off the track, adding gaps that now require a well-timed press of a jump button to clear them just adds more opportunities for frustrating, race-ending tumbles to terra firma.

There's an assist option to have the game automatically take care of jumping, for teary eyed kids who have just seen their favourite car skitter off the track for the eighth time, but in general this is a game that demands exacting levels of coordination for something aimed at people too young to tie their own shoelaces. Of course this isn't a problem if you're an unashamed grown adult playing the game, and there'll likely be plenty out there. Probably plenty of ashamed ones too.

A new open-map Waypoint mode is a perfect fit for the oversized environments, and evocative of afternoons spent running diecast cars around the living room carpet. Now there's also the option to tune cars, though it's pretty simplistic: don't expect to be tinkering with camber settings by bending the little metal axle like a paperclip.

Ultimately Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 is a by-the-numbers sequel, with only minor tweaks and a handful of new environments to explore, albeit more imaginative ones than the first instalment. While the game's likely too tricky for the kids that its Saturday morning cartoon story cutscenes are pitched at, if you're like us and are a grown adult who maintains an embarrassingly large collection of toy cars, there's definitely some fun to be had here...

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