Review: Turbo Super Stunt Squad (Xbox 360)

TSSSCoverTurbo Super Stunt Squad
Genre: Shameless Movie Tie In
Developer: Monkey Bar Games
Publisher: D3Publisher
Release Date: 7/16/2013

My knowledge of the movie Turbo is limited. I’ve seen the trailers and know it’s about a snail that gets sucked into a race car and somehow become half snail, half nitrous fueled vehicle, which makes me wonder how many parents are going to wake up with snails clogging their engine blocks. When the game came in for review I thought it would probably be a racing game – I mean, the game is about a snail that’s trying to compete in the Indianapolis 500 so that would make sense, right? Instead Turbo Super Stunt Squad resembles a popular skateboard video game franchise. In fact it copies the formula of that franchise so closely it should’ve just been titled Turbo Hawk’s Pro Snailer.

While I haven’t seen the movie, this isn’t really a requirement to play the game. The game uses characters from the movie and uses levels that are inspired by locations of the movie. There are six levels, each one a different store in the mall or a part of the Dos Bros Tacos restaurant. Aside from characters and locations from the movie, there’s no narrative or story to connect the different levels to each other or to the movie that it is based on.

Graphically the game looks alright on the 360. The textures of the characters and levels are simple; the most impressive part of the graphics would probably be the shiny reflections off of the characters’ shells/motors. Nothing about the graphics or effects will wow anyone, and the game especially suffers if you try to compare how it looks to the movie, but what’s there works.

turbo3The background music and sound effects are also serviceable but not attention worthy. The characters have some quotes they say with voice actors that resemble the famous actors who lend their voice to the movie. These quotes are contextual to what is going on in the game, but there’s typically only one for each kind of action so you’ll hear the same few quotes over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until you just mute the TV or have a mental breakdown.

As mentioned, the game borrows heavily from Tony Hawk Pro Skater, which is an odd choice to make since it’s about racing snails. Still, if you’re going to borrow ideas for a fun game for a children’s movie, Pro Skater isn’t the worst idea. I still enjoy THPS and the recent Xbox Live Arcade remake shows that even if it has aged, the core mechanics of that game are still enjoyable.

For those unfamiliar with that series, here is how Turbo Super Stunt Squad works: each stage takes place in an enclosed area, in this game it is a location in a mall such as a beauty parlor or a hobby store. That stage is filled with different ramps, jumps, and rails that the player does tricks off of or onto for points. There are also objectives within the stage, like items to collect, hidden objects, and location specific goals like grinding across the top of a filing cabinet to open it. The objective have to be earned within a time limit – in THPS it was two minutes, in Turbo it is three minutes – so it’s always a race against time to see how many objectives you can complete.

That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Before you get your hopes up, let’s talk about the questionable design decisions that are made in this game that takes a solid formula and screws it up.

First off, there’s no manual. It says to check the D3 website under manuals. I did. There’s no Turbo Super Stunt Squad manual listed on their website. There’s a tutorial, but it’s garbage. I completed tutorial objectives without knowing what was going on since what was described to do and what I did were two different things but I completed the objective anyway. Once I didn’t hit a button or touch anything and I passed.

This might not be so bad if the game was easy to figure out how to control. However, it isn’t. I was able to understand the controls pretty easily because it controls nearly identically to Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Any kid who hasn’t played that game, though, might be left wondering what the heck to do as there are actions that aren’t self explanatory. I had someone unfamiliar with THPS try to play it and she didn’t understand what was going on.

turbo4The game uses most of the buttons on the controller. Left joystick is to move, right trigger is to give gas to the snail to move forward, the left trigger to brake. A button is for jumping, B for one kind or trick, X for a different type, Y to slide/grind and the upper left bumper to use a special speed ability when not airborne, and doubles as a special trick when airborne. A quick up/down motion with the left joystick makes the snail wheelie (aka nosegrind/tailgrind). The game scores points through the player doing tricks, like jumping off of a ramp and doing a trick. This starts a combo meter that ticks down between tricks, doing tricks before it runs out fills it back up again and increases the bonus of the score combination. This is pretty forgiving though, so it’s fairly simple to link together multiple tricks for high scores once you are able to get the hang of the controls. Tricks also fill up the separate special meter.

A skateboard game with this kind of game design makes sense because it takes place on a skateboard. Grinding, kick flips, and grab tricks don’t makes much sense with a snail because they can’t grind, maybe slime across and object at best. The game calls grinding sliding, but since the character is a snail, it’s sort of sliding everywhere, isn’t it? A balance meter pops up, which works if a character is on top of an object and balancing their weight. What are the snails in this game balancing on, their bodies? I’m not sure how the game refers to the kick flips and grab tricks (no manual), hopefully not as kick and grab tricks though because the snails aren’t kicking or grabbing anything. In fact, it’s a pretty big stretch to call any of what happens when you press the buttons as ‘tricks’. When you jump in the air and press up and B with Turbo for example, he looks up and over his shoulder. Is this really a stunt or trick of any kind?

Also, while it may be appropriate for a game about snails, the sense of speed or momentum in this game is sorely lacking. When not using the special speed ability, these snails move at a snail’s pace, crossing the floor leisurely, barely gaining air off of jumps, midair turns are made slowly on a horizontal axis, etc. I don’t know who thought that there needed to be a Tony Hawk style of game only with a character that controls like a vehicle with gas and break pedals, but in execution it’s a very bad idea. It’s weird complaining about speed in a game that features snails, except the size of the levels and the time limit makes it frustrating to complete the objectives or collect items in the levels. For a Super Stunt Squad, they’re not so Super.

Which brings me to the next odd design decision. For a game that should be child friendly, it’s a game that’s terrible for kids. The time limit given the speed of the characters should be at least five minutes long, at that length it would make doing more of the objectives possible, without the amount of frustration involved. There’s a free play mode, except that has a completely different set of objectives, though it’s worth playing through just to figure out the best way of navigating the levels without the time limit hanging over your head. With controls that aren’t explained and are complex enough to be not self explanatory, level design that has jumps that are large enough to make it difficult to cross without the special turbo ability, or that just go into walls, along with the speed and time limits I can’t imagine any child enjoying this game.

turbo5Since we’ve covered that the game isn’t Super, and that there aren’t really any Stunts, what about the Squad part of the game title? That part at least isn’t misleading as the multiplayer mode is one of the best ways to play this game. If for some reason you decide to buy this for your child, I’d highly recommend playing with them in the two player mode. If you do the game splits the screen vertically and keeps track of the completed objectives separately, however any of the collected items obtained counts for both characters. This makes it much easier to collect needed items as you can use the three minutes to split up and look for them and which makes the game much more enjoyable to play.

There are only six levels to play through, though given the size and number of difficult to complete objectives, it would likely take an average player many annoyed hours to complete them all.

Turbo Super Stunt Squad is not the worst movie licensed game I’ve played by far, or the worst budget game. The game, however, is a mess of bad design decisions that feel disconnected from each other, like whoever worked on the speed of the characters didn’t talk to the level designer and those guys didn’t talk to the person who set the time limit. It’s like a puzzle made of pieces that don’t quite fit together, but screw it, the puzzle sort of looks like the picture on the box it came in. Even at a cheaper price than most new console video games Turbo Super Stunt Squad is not worth the price.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Turbo Super Stunt Squad is the kind of game you buy your child if you want them to play outside more.



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