By Dave Haldane
GAME NAME: Turbo: Super Stunt Squad
DEVELOPER(S): Monkey Bar
PUBLISHER(S): D3, Namco Bandai
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS, DS, Wii U
RELEASE DATE(S): 16 July 2013
Traditionally, movie-to-game titles have been lacklustre cash-ins; designed to earn quick sales riding on a movie's success rather than relying on a game's merits. Sadly Turbo: Super Stunt Squad is no exception to this rule and, whilst taking a different tack than you’d imagine, doesn't provide more than a passing enjoyment.
For a movie about a super fast garden snail who wants to win the Indy 500 you'd be forgiven for thinking a Turbo game would be a racer, however, it more closely resembles a BMX or skateboarding title. There are six levels each designed around an area from the movie (but no race tracks). Levels are themed open arenas with a range of jumps, rails and objects you can use to pull of tricks in order to earn points.
There's no story tying everything together so new levels are unlocked by completing objectives. Objectives range from simple things like getting a certain score or collecting objects, to more complex things like finding secret areas or completing checkpoint races. The objectives are quite varied and, in concept, designed quite well. There are also plenty to choose from so you won't encounter a problem where a specific one or two are preventing you from unlocking new levels. The problem is that many of the objectives aren't particularly fun or easy to achieve.
Which brings me to the core problem with this game; it's not much fun. The controls are finicky and the level requirements so precise you'll probably give up on many objectives as "just not worth the effort". The levels don't flow very well and are set-up like "runs" as opposed to an open sandbox stunt area. So, unless you execute a move perfectly, your run can be broken meaning a slow trip back to the start of that section to try again. This is exceptionally frustrating when playing in the main game mode as your time is limited meaning you only get a few shots per run at each objective.
A key part of this is the way the snails handle. They have very slow acceleration and turning speed meaning it can be quite tricky to line up the start of a run. Worse still they are extremely dextrous when performing stunts so the sluggish ground control feels out of synch. This is especially important when trying to chain moves together as, if you don't line a jump up pixel perfect, you're going to fail. This might not seem all that unusual for a stunt game however, combined with the precise level requirements, it fast becomes frustrating rather than challenging and is well above the tolerance level for the target market.
Each level can be played in two modes; timed or free play. Timed mode is exactly as it sounds; you have three minutes to achieve as many of the objectives as you can. The strange thing is that three minutes is more than enough time to complete any one objective. Sure you could try to complete more than one objective in a run but the whole idea of a time limit fast becomes redundant. This is even more apparent in co-op mode as the objectives are shared, the time limit the same but you now have two snails with which to complete objectives.
The second mode is free play which is described as the place to "perfect your runs and explore the level." It comes with a few unique challenges like checkpoint races and collectible gathering but, for the most part, is just an untimed mode with a few unique objectives. When you consider that the time limit in the main mode isn't overly intrusive I wonder if this mode was really required.
Presentation wise Turbo: Super Stunt Squad looks like something that should have released for the PlayStation 2. The main menu looks like it was whipped up in MS Paint and the levels themselves are filled with poor textures and clear polygon shapes. In contrast the snails themselves look fantastic. Musically the game's ok; it has a few catchy tunes but nothing that stand out as exemplary. The worst bug was that, when a lot was happening on screen, (or when playing co-op) there's significant slowdown. All in all though it's certainly not up to par with what a current game should be like and well below what I expect from one based on an animated movie! They have the technology!!!
Turbo's one saving grace is it's multiplayer. I'll be honest here; I originally put my hand up for this review as I figured my son would love it. It's co-op, he loves racers, it's based on a movie... a tick in every box right? The first thing he asked was why it wasn't a racing game like the movie. We then proceeded to play together for about an hour and had a blast completing objectives, cheering each other on and trying out all the different snails. After an hour the gloss had worn off and all it succeeded in doing was making him want to stop playing Rayman Origins and go back to Mario Kart 7. If you can't hold the attention of a 4 year old obsessed with video games for more than an hour, you're not doing your job.
That may sound like a negative, and I suppose it is, but before I played co-op I was having trouble getting motivated to play at all. Co-operative play with my kids actually made the game seem worthwhile.
Unless you're hunting trophies or achievements there's not a lot to keep you coming back. You can choose from four of the characters from the movie, however, there's not much difference between them. Each has a few specific objectives and custom paint jobs but, aside from that, there's not much else. Objectives feel more like a chore and stunts don't often give that sense of satisfaction they need. The game would certainly have benefited from a race or vs mode.
In summary Turbo: Super Stunt Squad is a clever idea but a strange choice for a movie tie-in. Performance issues and finicky controls make many objectives tougher than they should be and the lack of story means most people will get bored rather quickly. It's about half the cost of a normal game but, unless you're a big fan of the movie and just can't wait, I'd wait for this to be in the $10 bin.