Yaris was the first in what promised to be a whole new genre of video games -- the free adver-game. Free XBLA titles had been done before (see Aegis Wing), and obvious marketing games were nothing new (see the Burger King series), but this was the first game for the 360 that was been released free in order to promote a product.
The product in this game is Toyota's Yaris, a car that is being marketed toward the younger generation. The main game features various versions of the car in a single player racing game, with one major modification to the cars... They all have a rather awkward tentacle-like weapon coming out from the hood. That's because as you're driving through the twisted, apparently zero gravity tunnels (very F Zero-esque), you're attacked by hundreds of various monsters all trying to stop you from reaching the finish. These poorly-made monsters range from flying MP3 players to fat guys on bikes to giant rolling 8-balls.
Of course, there are helpful items on the way, too, with shield pickups that recharge you, and coins which allow you to upgrade your car. Other random objects are placed on the track, like barricades and bumpers that damage your shield when hit. There's also the stereotypical racing game "boost" arrows that give you a temporary boost in speed when driven over.
With such a strange concept, it's obvious this game wasn't meant to be taken seriously. Still, it's hard to hide the fact that this game is just bad.
The controls of this game are absolutely horrible. You push up on the thumbstick to accelerate, and down to decelerate. Left/right moves you around on the track. But the problem is, everything is "automatic". By not pushing anything, your car will maintain speed and automatically turn for you at curves. But with a control system like that, it's hard to tell how you'll come out of a curve (because every turn in the game is 90 degrees), and impossible to aim for an item that is in a turn. The only glimmer of redemption lies in the firing system. It isn't great, but it's at least functional, with the right stick moving the aiming reticle and the right trigger firing.
And you'll certainly be doing a lot of that. Even during those few moments when there are no enemies on screen, it doesn't pay to do anything but keep the fire button held down and wait as your automatic car rolls forward. Points in this game are earned by shooting down enemies and picking up items on the track. Stronger enemies are worth more points, although weaker enemies often come in swarms which can earn some bonus "swarm points" if the entire group is taken out. However, the points in this game have no purpose whatsoever, except for meaningless online leaderboards. It really makes so sense--if anything, the lap times are the focus of the game.
Even with the game's complete lack of physics concepts like momentum (you stop moving left immediately after letting go of the thumbstick, for example), the game can be moderately hard at times. However, that quickly changes, once you realize that the entire top and bottom of the tunnel can be driven over. Also, the enemies spawn in entirely predictable patterns; you'll recognize everything by the third lap of your first runthrough of a track. Mixed in are a few haphazard boss battles, which are really more tedious than anything else--they always occur after beating a track, and you have to race a few more times around the track while shooting at the boss to kill it.
Different weapons can also be randomly dropped from enemies and picked up. You start off with a simple gun that fires once about every second, but some of the other weapons include a "Gatling Laser" and a "Shield Discharge" which do exactly what you'd think. The weapons can be cycled with the bumpers, although only a certain number of weapons can be held at one time. There actually are different uses for the different weapons, although for the most part it's beneficial to simply use one gun and never change.
There actually is a bit of an upgrade system, with hundreds of coins spread throughout the different tracks. You can use these coins to purchase upgrades for your car, such as new paint (purely aesthetic), upgrading the wheels, increasing weapon capacity, or even using a different model of car. Unfortunately, trying to get upgrades is annoying in itself. If you want plenty of coins, you'll probably just end up playing a certain track over and over again to slowly earn money (the "oval track" of this racing game, if you will).
There is a sort of online multiplayer mode, and you can either race against another player or with them in a coop mission. However, this really doesn't change anything about the game. You'll race on the same tracks, with the same respawning enemies. At the current moment, the game's online mode is pretty much dead; I've found it near impossible to get a random game going.
Helping to top it all off is the game's poor presentation. The models in this game are poorly done, and while I'm usually not one to complain about bad graphics, these just make me want to wince. The sound and music department also made a bad showing. The same 45 second long techno song plays everywhere: the main menu, the loading screens, and during actual gameplay. It doesn't even loop seamlessly; there's an odd half a second-long pause as it restarts. Sound is practically nonexistent, which is probably good as they probably would have messed that up even more had they tried any harder on it. Your car runs completely silently save for the firing of your gun, and most enemies are completely silent, which is just as well, because I do not wish to hear the death cries of hundreds of flying MP3 players and rings of fire.
Finally, even the achievements of this game are laughable. Although there are a few good ones (like reaching a certain max speed or completing courses below certain amounts of time), some are just ridiculous. There is the "earn a million coins" achievement, with is tediousness defined. Then there are the horrible ones which need to be done in a single session, such as "race every track in one sitting and finish the final track at full shields." Or "collect every weapon before turning the game off." Achievements like these really have no place in modern games (we can save now for a reason), and there was no reason to create them.
It's easy to tell that the developers of this game simply did not care, and that it was rushed to simply meet a marketing deadline. When it comes down to it, the fact that this game is free is its only redeeming factor. (Keep in mind, though, that's it only free because of the blatant advertising.) Yaris is no longer available for download, but if for some reason you have it and have never tried it out, don't bother. This game is a complete waste of time.