Stack em’ deep, sell em’ cheap!
At first glance, you’d think a game like Motor World Car Factory was about a happy, utopian society in which everyone was devoted to the art and business of making excellent vehicles, as opposed to being a dystopian horror chronicling the rise of cars into sentient beings that processed humans for food in huge warehouses. And you’d most definitely be right about that.
Diving (Driving?) into the crowded enterprise management genre, developer and portmanteau fans Oh Bibi Socialtainment deliver a title that may initially seem to be trading in on the image of Tiny Tower or Pocket Planes. Certainly, the game plays host to a zany 8-bit ensemble cast. In truth, however, Motor World Car Factory is more akin to Kairosft staples like Game Dev Story. It’s a game that, on the surface, boils down running a business into a series of simple clicks, but which hides a surprising amount of depth in peripheral challenges, meta-data, and quirky tasks.
Make no mistake, the crux of your business is making and selling an array of cars. Choosing available vehicles – limited though they are at first – and “building” them one tap at a time, moving from one end of the pixelated assembly line to the next. There, they’ll be shipped off to the lot for sale, where you’ll be able to influence demand (cool-down time) by toggling the amount of features with which you pack the car, and haggling the price. A car sold is money in the bank, and one more step towards dealership domination as you earn the right to build and sell more models.
On one hand, the game’s bread and butter is sure to please completionists and those looking for some (very) light strategy. Seeing your roster of cars flesh out is admittedly satisfying – something owed in large part to Oh Bibi’s clever organization of the game’s 72 speedsters into “family trees,” each of which reward you for completion. Moreover, the cars’ designs deftly walk the space between being generic enough for the auto-impaired, and distinct enough for the collector, making Motor World Car Factory feel at times like a digital shelf of hot wheels.
Unfortunately, the experience suffers from a linearity that is far better disguised in the games from which Oh Bibi draws influence. The artfulness of a game from Kairosft or Nimblebit is the way it empowers you to feel so multi-talented just by completing an action that can best be described as “clicking.” The design and duties of your restaurant in a title like Sushi Spinnery, or the scope of your airline empire in Pocket Planes – both feel like big accomplishments achieved by balancing lots of work, while cleverly not having to do much at all. This is because the developers have taken great care to offer lots of things to do and lots of ways to do them, meaning that while process may repeat, the outcome never does.
This same care hasn’t been taken with Motor World Car Factory, and what might be sold as something simple and fun-filled on the lot, breaks down as soon as you’re on the highway of practicality. The game’s left-to-right repetition waned on me quickly, and for all but the most routine-obsessed, the process of “managing your factory” will prove to be a chore. Luckily, however, where the game may fail to inject variety into its central mechanic, it frequently manages to distract you from it with a host of unconventional trappings.
With every successful build, you’re introduced to a new mechanic that will become central to play, and at first, Oh Bibi hits you with the ordinary: upgrading workers to ensure faster assembly line movement, adding money-making structures like accessory shops to your back lot. Slowly but surely, however, the game’s facade of normalcy cracks, and you’re introduced to an unconventional world of odd side-quests, spontaneous mini-games, and mad science. Building a car suddenly becomes more interesting when you know you’ll be able to unlock faster models you can use in a drag race. Regular tours of the lot to collect currency are interrupted by zombie invasions that require you to tap rapidly to blast incoming enemies away. Pokemon rears its head as you’re offered the chance to breed cars in order to see new models.
All of this speaks to the game’s deceptive sense of originality, which bleeds into everything from levelling up – where you’re praised colloquially and effusively – to moments of dialogue. Where Nimblebit’s bitizens are are a slow burn style of comedy, hinting at absurdist back stories through appearance and name, Motor World Car Factory goes all in on slapstick, throwing you into a world full of hit men that work for car dealerships, rappers and movie stars who frequent the lot, and race car drivers that appear to be something out of The Princess Bride. The whole thing can get a little tiresome with its overt attempt to keep up with the pop cultural Jones’s, but proves more charming than grating overall.
Perhaps less charming is the game’s currency system, which feels at times packed with underhanded tricks. I’ve long since made peace with the idea that freemium games need err on the side of aggressiveness to monetize well, and keep users hooked, but first and foremost to the experience needs to be an organic sense of fun. This is frequently disrupted by side quests which ask you to pay coins or premium dollars for their completion, and which penalize assign the “wrong” quest choice to paying no currency. More egregiously, the game’s system of work and donuts – where each stage of the assembly line takes a certain amount of “work points,” and workers must be replenished with premium donuts – doesn’t seem to follow a set pattern, and can best be described as a system that gets harder to maintain the longer you play. This feels sleazy, and to my mind, violates the idea of establish a game world with consistent rules for how it treats the player’s wallet.
But ultimately, that’s Motor World Car Factory: a mixed goodie bag. A largely adorable game with lots to love about the zany world it offers you, which makes some unfortunate missteps in the way it values your time and money – or perhaps, doesn’t. So while it certainly doesn’t slide into my introductory vision of a car-driven Matrix world, this title is certainly no utopia. And at times, you may even feel like you’re being processed as part of…well… an assembly line.