Splash Cars PS5 Review: Splish Splosh

Bring some colour to the streets by painting with your car in Splash Cars for the PS5 (other platforms are available).

Splash Cars ups the ante when it comes to painting the town red – these cars dip into a palette that’s as diverse as a bag of Skittles. A simple and effective premise: restore each dull, dreary grey world map with a more vibrant one, using your wheels as the brush.

Developed by Paper Bunker and published by Eastasiasoft, this casual…racer feels like a mobile game with rogue-like qualities. A mobile game? Is that a bad thing? Not at all, but it’s very much a barebones experience with more grinding than a Dark Souls grinding party held at Grindy McGrind’s grindhouse.

The first tutorial level is more or less redundant, but it’s not needed as all you need to do in Splash Cars is steer. Your car will continually move forward without the need for pressing or holding a button. There certainly isn’t any breaks, nor are there weapons to show off. All you do is steer. 

Splash Cars out this week
Source: Eastasiasoft

Sounds boring, doesn’t it? On the contrary, I found it enjoyable and welcomed the grind. However, the grinding element can be pretty arduous later on. You’ll colour in a small suburban area in the early stages, driving through coins, picking up fuel and utilising the odd power-up, but the latter isn’t needed at first. All you need to do is restore colour to a certain percentage, then unlock a new vehicle and/or level.

Splash Cars is from an isometric perspective. The visuals look very nice and welcoming, and when the colour kicks in, the levels pop. However, the viewpoint is fixed, and there’ll be a time when you’ll get trapped behind a building without the scope to swing the camera from a different angle. Get caught by the po-po (this can happen anywhere), and you may as well write off the level.

The 5-0 in the game are incredibly aggressive and one of its flaws. You can typically outrun them, but the later police vehicles will be relentless in their pursuit and will continually ram you to the point where your car is 100% damaged. There’s no game over, but your vehicle will be significantly impaired and move slowly. Why is this important? Fuel consumption.

Without worrying about totalling your car, there is a time limit to the game, which is your fuel. Once you run out, it’s game over, but you can pay for a one-off continue that’ll increase in price each time you do it. Sometimes this can be the make or break as you run out of fuel and have completed 83% of the level when the requirement is 84%. This is a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s best to take the hit and exit the stage as you need the money for cars.

There’s a good selection of cars in Splash Cars that are unlocked through progression. They’re initially quite expensive, but through experience, the price drops. Cars are star-rated – the higher, the better, and usually they’re faster vehicles. The most important stat to look at is fuel capacity, as a slight increase makes the difference in completing a level. Ultimately, the armoured tank features the highest fuel capacity, but the downside is it takes damage and can’t drive down narrow paths – essential for level completion!

Without any actions in the game other than steering, the power-ups shake things up. These can be anything as valuable as the magnet that collects coins and fuel from a distance, invisibility to sneak past the cops, super-sizing your car, shrinking it, or getting a boost. Additionally, you can get ‘support’ from NPC vehicles by driving past them to colour them in, but note that if you don’t do this at the start of each level, if grey, they’ll undo all your hard work.

Splash Cars is a fun game up to the point where the police spoil it. Art imitating life? I find it a bit hard to say that this is a casual game as there isn’t the option to lower the difficulty or reduce the number of police. Other options available include a zoom cam feature and switching off the music (advisable – it’s the weakest element of the game, in my opinion). There’s also local play up for grabs where players choose sides: one for colour, the other grey. Overall, it’s enjoyable, but just be aware that it can be a bit of a grind (the custom paint jobs cost more than the cars), plus the police, well… eff the police.