Turbo: Super Stunt Squad
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: Monkey Bar Games
Release Date: 07/16/2013
Movie tie-ins have a long history of being absolutely terrible. If you were to compile a list of the hundred worst games ever created, a significantly large percentage of them would be based on some sort of summer blockbuster. However, recent years have started an upward trend. Movie tie-ins don’t have to suck. Some of them can even be unique and interesting. Take Toy Story 3 for example. While it wasn’t as polished as it could have been, the game included a sandbox mode that was incredibly fun and interesting. Alice in Wonderland was a fun platformer with a killer art style. Then there’s the Lego games. Basically, a movie tie-in doesn’t have to be approached with nearly as much trepidation these days.
Turbo: Super Stunt Squad manages to set all that back fifteen years.
OK. When you think of a movie about racing snails, you’ll probably thing the movie will suck. After that, you’d expect any game made of the movie would be a racing game. It’s just logical. However, Monkey Bar decided to mix things up a bit and turn the game into cheap clone of a Tony Hawk game….from the PSX era. While I can applaud them a bit for taking the game in a different direction, it still seems like a missed opportunity. There’s a reason the Cars game was a racer, and there’s a reason why the game for The Incredibles featured the heroes battling bad guys on an island. It just makes sense.
There’s no story to the game whatsoever, but this is bit of structure. When you start the game, you pick a snail, pick a level, and get to work. Only the first stage is unlocked at first, with the others becoming available when you clear a certain number of objectives. Once a stage is unlocked, you’re free to play it instead of an earlier one to earn more objectives. When all stages are unlocked, all that’s left to do is replay each stage to get all of the remaining objectives. It’s not a complicated system, and offers a degree of freedom to tackle things the way you want. That being said, there’s no payoff whatsoever. There’s no satisfaction of beating the last level, no ending to watch, no anything. At a certain point, you’re just done.
The game comes with two different ways to play. Time mode is where you’ll have three minutes to complete as many objectives as possible. When the time is up, you’re done, and you’re free to start the level over again or pick a new one. When an objective is cleared, it’s crossed off your list and you won’t have to clear it again. However, certain objectives only become unlocked when you’ve cleared other objectives. That’s not really a problem, except the new ones won’t show up until you replay the level. So, if you grab all the level one flags, which can take half a minute at most, you can’t make an attempt to get the level two flags. You have to either end your run or wait for the time to expire. That’s just stupid. It’s even worse with the score based objectives. I could easily nail all of them in one run, but I’m stuck earning one at a time because of this design choice.
There’s also a freeplay mode. This lets you explore the level at your leisure, though you can’t complete any of the main objectives here. Sure, there are a couple of special objectives to complete in this mode, but they’re just simply about exploring every nook and cranny in order to find tomatoes. The benefit here is that you can at least figure out how to get to certain parts of each level.
You’re also free to play the game in co-op with a friend. Why you would do that to someone you like, I don’t know.
Visually, this game is from the stone age. The level are large, empty, and featureless. Sure, there are plenty of things lying around, but they’re all pretty much large, rounded, monochrome objects that are just bland to look at. There’s no heart of personality to be found at all. The snails generally feel lifeless and animate poorly. Only Smooth Moves seems to have any life in him. There’s incredibly little to interact with, as objects are pretty much bolted to the floor and don’t move no matter what you do. If you bump into that pebble, all that’s going to happen is you’re going to stop. It’s really weird that a burrito has the same feel as a solid wall.
On the aural side of things, the game is equally lifeless. Generic tracks and repetitive voice clips are pretty much all you can expect out of this game. It doesn’t sound bad or anything, but it’s just not at the level a forty dollar game should be at in 2013. I’d expect this level of quality out of a PSX game. You know, back when voices in games was really just getting started. It’s a sad state of affair.
OK. So all I can figure is that the developers were in fact going to create a racing game at first. Maybe something went wrong. Then they switched it to a skateboarding game. Or maybe someone on staff was sitting on some really old code and felt like busting it out. I don’t know. What I do know is that this game controls like a racing game, but is meant to be played like a skateboarding game. This causes an incredible amount of problems.
For starters, you can’t reverse. If you bump into a wall or something, you’re just going to have to turn around. You can’t pull out. To make matters worse, the snails turn like a big rig truck. The turning radius is huge, and you’re just as likely to bump into another part of the wall as you are to actually get away. This is bad enough, but when you play the timed mode, it will cost you precious seconds every time.
Also, some genius decided that there was no need to use all of the buttons on the dualshock. They figured that making use of the controller was stupid, and thus put a whole heap of functions on the poor L2 button. This button is used to break, to perform tricks, and to hop over pipes. So, lets say you’re heading up a half-pipe. Perhaps you want to perform a trick. If you’re too early, you’re just as likely to stop halfway up the pipe or head over it. If you are in fact just trying to hop over the rail and continue on, a fraction of a second too late on the button will have you performing a trick, dropping back down the rail, and headed in the opposite direction of where you wanted to be. This call could have been avoided by making use of the other shoulder buttons. They’re there for a reason people!
Even the buttons that only have one function suffer from input lag and/or awkward timing. I’ve put some serious time into this game, taken some jumps dozens of times, and still I can’t get the timing where I want it. If you don’t hit that jump at the exact right time, you’ll likely hop over the ramp or way undershoot your goal. This can get annoying when making that jump is the only way to access a significant portion of the level.
Speaking of the levels, they’re a study in bad game design. Ramps, jumps, and rails that you need to take often lead you right into a wall or other obstacle that will stall you completely. The levels are often designed to have numerous vertical levels that can only be accessed by taking a specific route. This is bad because if you fall, you’re going to have to redo everything you’ve done so far just to get back to where you’re having trouble. It’s unforgiving, and a real pain when you’re on the time limit. You only have three minutes to complete objectives, and I usually can only knock off one if I’m lucky.
Speaking of the objectives, they’re just as insipid. The game has an obsession with making players find things in groups of five. Also, they love to make four of those five fairly easy to nab, while making the fifth in some nigh on impossible location. Many is the time when I futilely attempted to grab the last doohickey only to fall short and run out of time to try again. As I said before, subsequent objectives are locked until you complete the first objectives and then restart the level. The worst offender are the character tokens. If you collect these, you’ll unlock the ability to customize your snail with some colors and stickers. Once you’ve gotten them all, you unlock the ability to earn real upgrades. This requires you to find five more thingamabobs for a tiny boost. That’s just stupid. You have to unlock the cosmetic upgrades before you’re given the chance to earn the practical ones. It’s especially bad when you consider how much easier earning the cosmetic enhancement would be if you had a better equipped snail. On top of that, you have to collect all of the level one upgrade parts (split across each level for each snail) before a single level two upgrade is available, and you have to earn these separately for each character. It’s just evil. If you want to fully upgrade you characters, that means you’ll need to play each level a minimum of four times with each character, and that’s assuming you hit the objective each time. You’ll have to play each course dozens of times in all likelihood.
So, what we have here is a poorly designed, poorly controlled mess with terrible structure and inane objectives. Your big reward for moving forward is unlocking more inane objectives to complete. Imagine if a torture victim were rewarded for surviving said torture by receiving even harsher torture. That’s what playing this game is like.
Short Attention Span Summary
I hated every second I spent with Turbo: Super Stunt Squad. There isn’t a single thing about it that I like. The worst part is that the game functions on a practical level. It’s not broken or unplayable. Everything is just so poorly designed. Playing the game is an exercise in frustration and self hatred. I get that a budget priced game can’t be held to the same standard as a AAA title, but if you cost two-thirds the price, you should be able to at least deliver two-thirds the quality. This game “achieves” something like one one-hundredth of that.