Days of Thunder Review—It’s Better Than the Movie, at Least


One of the ways I like to impress people that I meet (well, women that I try to pick up) is mentioning that I was in a Tom Cruise movie. It’s one of those things, like having beaten up an NFL player or being bitten by a shark, which while perfectly true, isn’t as impressive as it sounds once you hear the details. In this case, that movie was Days of Thunder, upon which this game is based. Not only was the movie terrible (and a flop), I was simply just in the crowd scene filmed for it at the Daytona 500.

If you haven’t seen Days of Thunder, consider yourself lucky. It tells the story of an up-and-coming young NASCAR driver by the name of Cole Trickle, played by Tom Cruise in the movie. Though it came out 20 years ago, the license seems to have been dusted off to make a stock car racing game without the exclusive and expensive NASCAR license.

All pics taken by my camera, sorry about that

All pics taken by my camera, sorry about that

Still, it’s about as serious an attempt at a stock car racing game as Days of Thunder was as a movie, which is not very. It’s essentially an arcade racer. It’s also a port of an iPhone game, originally done by Freeverse, but brought to the Minis platform by Gameshastra, though they didn’t publish it. So, with that, if you go in with very low expectations, as I did, it’s mildly entertaining, though overpriced.

You can race by picking either a track or a circuit. The latter mode is pretty much the game’s main mode. It consists of several races in a row and tells a story in between races. It more or less follows the movie, but deliberately campier, which is about the only tack they could take, really. And instead of Tom Cruise, it’s a blond guy (presumably the license did not include his likeness).

Every time you finish a circuit, you unlock the next one, which features harder and longer races and tells even more of the story. Along the way, you unlock tracks and cars for the track mode. The racing is all on oval tracks, but there are some slight differences between tracks. Not much, but they’re there. There really isn’t much difficulty in maneuvering around the track, except that your car doesn’t corner that well. Much like in NASCAR, the real problem is getting around your opponents.

That's Tom Cruise, all right. Oh, wait...

That's Tom Cruise, all right. Oh, wait...

The actual racing is really more demolition derby than NASCAR. When I started playing, at first I thought to myself, “Finally! Someone has created worse opponent AI than Gran Turismo!”, but then I realized the drivers were actually trying to ram into me, not just blindly doing so (like in Gran Turismo). As if this weren’t obvious from the way they pursued you at times, it’s mentioned in the story of the game, where it’s explained the other drivers are trying to take you out because you’re such a rising star.

Other than just bumping back into your opponents, you have one weapon of sorts at your disposal. When you are behind an opponent, your “drafting meter” goes up. Once it is full, you press the R button, and you both suddenly get a burst of speed and become invincible, so you can ram into the opponent cars and take them out (each one displays a damage meter) without damaging your own car.

The yellow bar on the top right is your damage meter.

The yellow bar on the top right is your damage meter.

This doesn’t seem to take them out permanently, alas. Like you when your damage bar goes to zero, the opponent cars only suffer a brief delay, though while you get delayed 5 seconds, they seem to be penalized even less. So it’s really best to try to avoid contact altogether. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, as the AI is out to get you. When you are really damaged, you need to stop at the pit to get your car fixed.

The game seems to get glitchier the more you play—sometimes you don’t finish in the right place (for instance, third instead of first), but quitting the game and starting it again seems to fix it. It also could be related to sleep mode, which seems to be a trouble spot for a few other Minis as well.

As there is no score in the game, there’s no high score table. But there are achievements. Most of these are gained by just playing the game, rather than trying to do something special, and they don’t seem to have any other sort of effect other than saying you’ve earned them.

And the green/red bars on the other cars are their damage.

And the green/red bars on the other cars are their damage.

The graphics are pretty much PlayStation 1 quality. Better than that in some places, worse in others. The background picture of the sky, for instance, is blurrier than an Impressionist painting. The frame rate is smooth, though, except for a brief amount of chugging just before the race starts.

While the sound effects are nothing to write home about either way, apparently the reason the game is so big is because of the soundtrack—it’s got real recorded music. Extremely cheesy 80s-style rock music. Sort of like a supergroup comprised of the drummer from .38 Special, the bassist who played for Kenny Loggins, guitar by one of the Bacon brothers, and vocals by a wedding band singer. In other words, it’s far more listenable than Nickelback, and it fits the game beautifully.

One of the dozen or so achievements. Whee!

One of the dozen or so achievements. Whee!

The movie Days of Thunder was inadvertently ridiculous. Really more awkward and painful than funny. This takes the ridiculousness even further, deliberately, so the end result is actually quite funny in places. The gameplay really isn’t remarkable, but it’s fun in a mindless way. It’s also got a decent amount of content.

Still, it’s also got a high price tag, so you don’t get much bang for the buck compared to full-fledged titles that are only a little more. And, the glitches take some of the fun out of it. Unless you were one of the other 100,000 people in the movie and thus get a perverse pleasure out of Days of Thunder, or you are desperate for anything vaguely NASCAR-related, give it a pass.


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10 Responses to “Days of Thunder Review—It’s Better Than the Movie, at Least”
  1. Ofaliss says:

    I’m glad I sprung for Top Gun instead of this! Which isn’t saying much, because even that is mildly entertaining at best. At least with Top Gun, there are cool moment that put you in the… DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANGER ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE! :D

  2. JeremyR says:

    Since I had to use my camera to get the photos, I also did a gameplay video

  3. OpenEmotion says:

    Doesn’t look like my bag, baby ;)

  4. Tyrael87 says:

    apparently, the game freezes on both OFW and CFW when selecting the Select Track mode. the game just stops working just before starting the race. they won’t probably fix that though.

  5. ChaosRandom says:

    Is this the same version thats on the Live arcade? Cause that game sucked pretty bad. I hate that too, cause I’m a Nascar junkie. Pass on this one.

  6. drzombiewilde5000 says:

    Whats with all The Tom Cruise Minis? Whats next, a Rainman, Eyes Wide Shut, or a Taps game?

  7. JeremyR says:


    I never had that problem (and I tried it again just now to be sure). But it wouldn’t surprise me that it happens, as I said in the review, it can get pretty glitchy at times


    Heh, yeah, I noticed your Jr. avatar on your forum posts. Haven’t played the XLBA one, but this is based on the iPhone version. So probably a lot worse.

  8. Tyrael87 says:

    @JeremyR: the problem is, it ALWAYS happens… you’re probably lucky. good for you.

  9. volcane says:

    Sounds fun – I’m going to get pick this up when it arrives @ the UK PSN.

  10. mayhem13 says:

    To me this was always a movie for people who did not know or care about Nascar but liked Tom Cruise. To be fair, I liked Days Ot Thunder growing up and to this day, I’m not sure if Nascar drivers really do ram each other or not as they did so happily in the movie “he rubbed ya and rubbing’s racing”. I also love “dropping the hammer” even though I don’t really know what that means or then apparently going faster. I did play the xbla version and it does have alot of ramming and voice over work by the actor who played Rowdy Burns. Its kind of like a Nascar game for people who don’t like Nascar games. Expect unlike the movies, you got better racing games out there already for people like that.

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