Sponsored By: Pyroman
Time Spun: 38 minutes
Crazy Taxi Review
Nobody makes games like this anymore. Even No Goblin doesn’t make games like this, which makes it all the more impressive that making a game like this is exactly what No Goblin did.
Kooky Limo Review
The 1980s produced some of the most fun movies ever made. I choose those words carefully, and purposely avoided words like “best” or “finest” or “cinema” because the 1980s didn’t, necessarily, produce the finest cinema, but it did produce some darn fun movies.
I’m talking about a specific type of fun movie, too. I’m talking about movies with patently ridiculous plots and with premises that were, in all respects, impossible. Movies like Mannequin or Revenge of the Nerds. Of course we understood that nothing in those movies could happen, but what’s the point of fantasy if it isn’t, well, fantastic?
“No,” you might argue. “I want my fantastical worlds to be fully grounded in mundane realities and represent the world as I see it.”
That kind of thinking is how we get crap like Mean Girls and Erin Brockovich. Screw that. I want a movie where a robot gets hit by lightning and achieves self-awareness then walks in on Ally Sheedy having a bubble bath.
Video games could learn a thing or two from that era of filmmaking. Seriously, game developers, you have a palette that literally lets you create any. Thing. You. Can. Imagine. And what do you make? Military shooters in a million shades of earthtones? No wonder everyone went librarian-poo over Deus Ex: Human Revolution. At least orange was a new color, even if it is suspiciously close to brown.
But there is a developer who understands, and they made a game that was patently absurd and completely earnest. Roundabout is an arcade-puzzle-driving game featuring a silent protagonist who pilots a limousine that drives like a boomerang smeared with Crisco. From the first level, your limo spins in place, waiting for you to start, and it doesn’t stop spinning until it explodes.
At which point you get an achievement, respawn and spin again.
The puzzles are straightforward: Drive your clients wherever they want to go while avoiding collisions, which is hard enough to do in a normal limo, let alone one that spins like the world’s slowest Frank Lupo chase scene. You get points for speed, accuracy and not dying horribly. This is harder than it sounds, because the levels are built around the idea that a very long thing is spinning it’s way through town, and you need to be very aware of the locations of all four fenders at all times.
Fortunately, you don’t lose points for hitting pedestrians. This is good, because there are a lot of pedestrians and they all seem to end up hit.
So as a premise, the game already has the “This is fantasy, let’s lean into it” tickbox filled in. Where it really excels, though, is the story. The story is told entirely through full-motion-video, which is what happens you you make a cutscene without computer-generated graphics, and with more than one actor. There’s a colorful cast of characters, all shot on a shoestring budget but with some of the finest cheese delivery since milkmen went out of style. They hop into the back of your limo, say some funny stuff, and you’re off to the next level. It’s a wonderful example of camp done right, because not one of the actors winks, nods or nudges to suggest that this is all a bit of a larf, eh? Eh? Wot? Wot? No, they all play it completely straight and let the writing do the work of reminding everyone of how silly the story is.
Oh, and did I mention the game takes place in the 1970s? It’s easy to forget, because there’s a conspicuous absence of what I like to call “period slang” overload, which is when a writer feels the need to remind you of the setting by constantly having the characters say “swell,” “mod,” “groovy” or “fresh” every twelve seconds, depending on the decade. No, Roundabout gives you credit for knowing the setting by showing you boxy cars, wide lapels and a soundtrack that’s so wick you could make candles with it.
There’s a lot to love about Roundabout, but you have to love the ridiculous in order to love the rest, and I do so love the ridiculous.
I’ll probably keep on truckin’ just to see the rest of the cutscenes, but not long enough to three-star all the levels. The gameplay is interesting and humorous enough to sustain me through one play-through, but even the prospect of adding wood-paneling to my limo in the customization menu won’t hold my interest much further.
Is it the Dark Souls of revolving shag-wagons?
As the kids of the seventies would say in a completely different context, Roundabout is tough. It’s simple enough to complete a mission, but getting the highest rating on any one level is tricky, because you need to balance speed and accuracy to complete the level under time and without taking damage. So far, it’s all I can do to keep the wheels on my limo long enough to get where I’m going.
Fortunately, you don’t need wheels to make this car go.
It’s not Dark Souls tough, but it’s a challenge right enough. Call it three grooves out of five.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta spin.