Developer: No Goblin
Release Date: 18th September 2014 (Steam)
Roundabout is a game all about defying expectations. Many have assumed it to be a Crazy Taxi knock-off, others see it as a top-down racing game. Admittedly, these are obviously the kind of people that skim over press releases but even I went into it envisioning a vastly different experience than the one I received. At best, I was hoping for an entertaining distraction, adequate visuals and a virtually non-existent plot stringing some simple levels together. Never once did I expect I’d be playing one of my favourite games of the year.
My first correction came with the introductory cut-scene, one so funny I genuinely laughed out loud. It wasn’t a one off either, the laughs kept coming with brilliantly shot live-action videos set in the 70s with a pure B-Movie sense of humour. It’s cheesy, sarcastic and ridiculous in every way you’d expect with some great characters emerging from the story. I would dearly love to detail the oddballs that grace the backseat of your limo and their bizarre requests but it would detract hugely from their comedic effect. It’s a certain thing that the adventures of the beautiful and taciturn Georgio Manos will remain ingrained for years to come.
It should come as no surprise really, with the development team made up of some of those responsible for Destroy All Humans, Rock Band and The Gunslinger. It’s the gaming version of watching Mighty Boosh with all the irreverence, silliness and kooky characters.
The second misconception is deconstructed sometime during the first level; the gameplay is anything but derivative or fleeting. If you’ve played either Kuru Kuru Kururin or Cyro (and let’s face it, most people haven’t) then you’ll know roughly what to expect. In all three games, your avatar is an ever-rotating object that you must guide through devious courses, trying to avoid touching the sides. In Roundabout’s case, your avatar is a luxury limo and the course is a sprawling city that’s free to be explored at your leisure between missions. You have no control over your rotation so all the weaving between obstacles is nowhere near as simple as it sounds on paper.
You’re allowed a few bumps between checkpoints before your vehicle is a flaming wreck but a single ding can prove fatal when it ricochets you between object. You need precision at all times but there’s always that nagging temptation to rush when you can see the end ahead. There are also several collectibles off the beaten track that are used to purchase bizarre accessories for your limo. You know deep down that they’re purely cosmetic, but you’ll rarely resist the allure of the occasional detour so you can drive around with waffles and ice cream on your roof.
It’s surprisingly difficult, though rarely frustrating. Navigating could have been a nightmare if not for the very fair checkpointing and bitesize nature of the missions. It almost feels unfair to dub it a casual game, if you want to 100% the game then you’ll need patience akin to that needed for a Super Meat Boy playthrough. You’ll also be best off utilising a gamepad; keyboard controls are certainly adequate but having tried both saw me never returning to the latter option. There’s a slight delay in movement with keys which proves sometimes fatal, an annoyance that can convince you the game is unfair – fortunately not the case in this instance.
The third and final misunderstanding I approached the game with was believing it would possess simplistic visuals. There’s an impressive fidelity to the artwork; crisp and colourful surroundings really relay the 70s setting overlaid with a celluloid fuzz. Even when you’re mowing down pedestrians and reliving Carmageddon, it’s all cheery and comical. I had to double check the requirements at one point which only confirmed the graphically intensive nature far outweighed my expectations. You’re not going to need a heavily-modified rig to run it but it’s attractive enough to sate even the more graphic-frenzied gamers.
Putting all the factors together you get a near perfect package; there’s a lot of hilarious content that’s both addictive and unique. I’d be very surprised for Roundabout to not have a place on my top 10 games of the year, which is a bold statement I wouldn’t make lightly. It’s also one of the few times I’d say the deluxe edition provides far better value than standard – offering early builds, videos, screenplays and the incredible first person Georgio Cam mode all on top of the traditional soundtrack. Any doubts you could possibly have evaporate within the first minute of play and by the end you’ll be enamoured.