Remember LocoCycle, the surprisingly terrible Xbox One launch title from the usually very reliable, Twisted Pixel Games? No? Well, I don’t blame you – the game was utter pants and despite its efforts to create a uniquely comedic racer built upon OTT mechanics, ridiculous physics and bizarre live-action FMV sequences, turned into one of this decade’s most disappointing and crushingly unfunny follies.
After that mess of a game, you’d think that developers would steer clear of the arcade racer/comedy FMV sub-genre (I guess it’s a sub-genre if there are two games – three if you include MegaRace on the Sega CD), but no, debutants, No Goblin have decided that there is life in the concept yet and, well, despite every shred of evidence pointing towards another turd-in-waiting, Roundabout, while far from perfect, somehow manages to deliver a ridiculous, sometimes funny and nearly always entertaining experience. It’s hardly the new Crazy Taxi, but this enjoyable arcade-style racer kept me thoroughly entertained for its ample running time with its purposefully terrible live action sequences (of which there are many) proving a surprising high point.
It’s rarely laugh out loud funny, but these 70s B-movie style live action sequences are so charming, that even the sections that fall flat somehow work within the confines of the games’ odd little universe. Playing as the apparently mute but very likeable, Georgio Manos, you are tasked with getting an array of (for lack of a better term), ‘wacky’ characters from point A to point B without blowing up your surprisingly delicate limousine in the process. Yeah, I know – so far, so Crazy Limousine – the big difference here though is that said limousine is constantly spinning as it moves, thus turning the whole experience into and a kind of fast paced puzzler in which you have to drag your ever revolving limousine through an array of craftily design gaps and corners. The game is essentially Crazy Taxi meets Kuru Kuru Kururin, and while it’s not quite as good as either of those games, it’s nonetheless a highly entertaining experience in its own right.
With relatively basic controls, the game is extremely easy to pick up and play. The only options beyond the core movement controls are the option to increase the speed of the limousine’s spin and the ability to briefly slow down time. You do unlock a jump move ala Crazy Taxi 2 later in the game, but given the top down perspective, it doesn’t have as big of an impact as it might in a traditional 3D racer. There are additional secondary abilities unlocked as your progress, but while they do serve to keep the gameplay feeling relatively fresh, they don’t have a massive effect on the core gameplay.
Completing a drop-off is rarely difficult, but getting anywhere near 100% completion for a single event certainly is – with strict time limits and clean runs amongst the many requirements, those looking to clear everything in the game certainly have their work cut-out. Saying that, even if you’re happy to simply complete events and pick up the occasional collectible, Roundabout is still a surprisingly content rich game.
With numerous secret items to collect, properties to purchase and mini-games to complete, there is certainly plenty to do across Roundabout’s numerous unlockable locations. The mini-games are far from fantastic and much of the collecting feels like collection for collections sake, but I tell you this much, there is something about the tightly contained world that makes picking up all of those random items a strangely compelling experience. I knew there was no great reason for me to go after them, but I simply had to purchase every property available, and naturally, to purchase those, I subsequently had to find and collect the cash littered about the city – I was caught in a downward spiral of collectible addictiveness and couldn’t stop chasing the proverbial dragon (my wife has since left me and I have lost my job).
Whatever your views on the mini-games and collectibles though, it really is the core game that keeps the experience ticking over. Picking up and dropping off characters is rarely anything less than fun with the live action sequences that bookmark each event proving reason enough to keep ploughing through the game. From Swedish tourists and local entrepreneurs to oddly charming lesbian encounters and even talking skeletons, nothing about Roundabout makes much sense, but then, when it’s as fun as this, it really doesn’t matter.
An utterly charming throwback to 90s style gaming, Roundabout overcomes its handful of technical issues, limited gameplay options and rubbish mini-games thanks to its brilliantly ridiculous story and solid core mechanics. It’s basically everything that LocoCycle should have been and a brave return to a style of gaming that for the life of me looked dead and buried.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.