For the unfamiliar, Turbo is a DreamWorks animated film about a snail that can go fast. I have not seen this film, but with a premise like that, it’s easy to draw conclusions as to what sort of inevitable video game tie-in you might see developed. Who among you didn’t guess a Mario Kart-esque racing game starring characters from the movie? Well, developer Monkey Bar Games wanted to shatter your expectations, though not necessarily in a good way.
One look at the release date of both the game and the movie, and it suddenly becomes clear what tragedy befell Turbo: Super Stunt Squad: rushed production. The experience feels like an unfinished title; a small part of what should have been a much larger game. A racing game may have been a cliche choice for this license, but it would’ve resulted in a more enjoyable end product. Instead, we get a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater clone with tight time constraints and poor handling.
Let’s start at the beginning, since the alarm bells go off as soon as the tutorial. While it and the digital manual are adequate in explaining the controls, they do a poor job of explaining how to play effectively. With each new lesson, you are told what buttons to utilize to complete the task, and then must perform it before moving on. However, the instructions are vague, and more often than not following the directions as given will not yield ideal results. Many lessons I completed purely by accident, because doing what was asked was not working, so I had to resort to driving around wildly.
There are a number of objectives to obtain in each stage, but a great deal of them require pulling off tricks in order to complete. You can guide your snail with the left analog stick, and rocking it back and forth will allow you to do a wheelie, which has to be balanced to keep from wiping out. You can use the analog stick to do this, or the motion controls in the Wii U gamepad. Depending on whether you’re on the ground or in the air, the face buttons will allow you to jump, slide, and do various grab and aerial tricks. Doing tricks awards points, as well as builds up a special meter that offers a burst of speed when full.
The concept isn’t bad in theory, except the controls aren’t all that responsive, and the game is way too restrictive to make any meaningful progress. The main game is split into two modes: Timed and Free Play. You only have one stage available to you at the beginning, and must unlock the rest by completing objectives. These include finding collectibles, performing specific tricks or jumps, or simply scoring so many points before time runs out. The problem is that you’re only given three minutes. This is particularly frustrating when you’re doing the collection objectives, since you must grab them all in a single three minute session. If not, the level resets, and you must collect them all again. Some are incredibly challenging to obtain, which is quite the head scratcher when you consider this game is intended for kids. There were numerous occasions where I had to spend time building up my special meter in order to gain enough momentum to make certain jumps, a process which is particularly time draining in and of itself.
Free Play allows you to roam around as much as you want, but the amount of objectives is extremely limited, and the ones that are there seemingly were crafted to waste as much of your time as possible. I remember one that wanted me to collect 200 flags, but they were the same handful of flags that just kept respawning in the same areas. If you do manage to stick around in these modes long enough to complete the objectives, you can unlock items to customize your character. Each of the five playable characters can be outfitted with new shells, additional tune-ups, paint jobs, and stickers. They also vary statistically from one another, so said tune-ups help make up for their individual shortcomings, such as their speed, jumping, or ability to do tricks. Yet another requirement needed to succeed.
Both Timed and Free Play modes can be played with two players, with both trying to complete each stage’s objectives. There’s also an option from the main menu for players to create challenges to be used in the Two Player Challenge mode. Sadly, this doesn’t amount to much more than choosing a bunch of pre-configured jumps on each stage and deciding which order to play them in. The Two Player Challenge mode then pits you and your companion against each other to perform tasks and see who has the better score by the end. Players take turns in doing so, meaning one controller can be used for this if need be.
Turbo: Super Stunt Squad doesn’t push the limits of the Wii U hardware, though the character models look decent and seem true to their movie counterparts. The stages themselves are neat recreations of such things as a taco joint and a salon, along with everyday objects that look massive compared to the stature of the snails you’re controlling. Unfortunately, the stages feel empty, with nothing but the players inhabiting them. It’s a lonely experience, with the one-liners from the snails and the upbeat soundtrack doing their best to try to carry the presentation, though the repetitive nature of their quotes will begin to grate on your nerves after awhile. Oddly enough, enough care was given so that the music tracks could be changed mid-stage with the directional pad, which is the one tolerable aspect of the whole experience.
The Wii U version doesn’t appear to have much that can’t be found in other versions. As mentioned earlier, wheelies can be controlled using the gamepad’s rotation, plus there are a Chet Icons that can be scanned by using a button on the touchscreen. There’s also a camera button that can be used to save screenshots of impressive jumps that you do. Other than that, the gamepad’s screen can be utilized for keeping track of your current objectives or be used for off-TV play. There’s really no incentive to pick up this version over any other. No five-player support, no touchscreen mini-games, no nothing.
The forty dollar price tag being asked for by Turbo: Super Stunt Squad might be a budget price compared to other Wii U titles that release brand new, but it doesn’t seem budget enough. It’s quite obviously a title meant to capitalize on the hype of the movie it’s based upon, but what’s here is so bland, it doesn’t feel like a finished game. The presence of a two-player mode takes away the sting slightly, though anyone asked to flounder with you in the game’s empty locales may be offended by the offer. It’s unfortunate, but any potential that could have been earned by a premise of rocket-powered snails slipped away, even if it was a licensed game.
Short Attention Span Summary
If you’re wondering if Turbo: Super Stunt Squad may be worth your time, you need only look upon the scores of licensed games that already exist in the world in order to find your answer. Monkey Bar Games attempts to take the characters of the movie and let them goof around in a gameplay setting not unlike that of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, though with harsh time restrictions and rocket powered snails that don’t appear to move all that fast. You spend the bulk of your time doing objectives (read: busy work) in order to unlock the next stage and having a second player only eases the discomfort slightly. As a fleshed out mini-game it would be perfectly acceptable, though it’s hard to ignore the feeling that this should have been apart of a much larger game. If you happen to come across it, douse it with salt.