Are you sick of racing? Are you more interested in fitting your vehicle into the most difficult space possible? You are! Well, developers Happy Volcano have got a treat in store for you and to make things even better, the game of your dreams is going to be available from day one on Xbox Game Pass. Who said it was all bad news these days?
Join me as I power slide into the perfect parking position in the XboxEra review of You Suck at Parking.
Boasting one of the simplest control schemes possible this is a title that becomes very challenging, very quickly. Driving a highly customisable little car around the cute cartoony islands that make up biomes and solving parking puzzles is the name of the game here. Islands each contain ‘Landmarks’ made up of five different levels. The first level contains a small number of parking spaces to be mastered and this number builds as you work your way through each one to complete the landmark.
Completion of levels awards players with the number of parking spaces that they have beaten or ‘Unlocked’ and ‘leveling up’ points as well as numerous car customisation options. ‘Perfecting’ levels by completing them with the same number of cars as the number of parking spaces will open up ‘Mastery Islands’ later in the game.
All is not as simple as this premise sounds though. Each level is played against a set time limit which can only be extended by parking a car successfully in an allocated space. Although a generous set number of cars is available within each level, they have numerous restraints placed upon them.
Cars have no reverse gear (Reversing is for the weak!) meaning that if they drive into something their journey is over. If a car comes to a complete halt, it will never move again and fuel is limited so careful consideration has to be given to any routes driven as running out of fuel means having to abandon the vehicle.
Quick spawning of new cars is useful (especially with the clock counting down) but you can soon run out of them. If this was not tricky enough the level designers have come up with all manner of environmental parameters to make map navigation even more difficult as well as antagonists to try and stop you in your parking objectives but more on that later.
When you have defeated enough levels, giant cannons become available which will blast your car to the next island and more landmark challenges. When the chain of islands has been well and truly parked you have the opportunity to fire yourself to the next aptly named biome such as the snowy ‘Antarcticar’ (see what they did there?) and the difficulty increases within a totally different driving environment.
Got your License?
Considering that the controls consist of only acceleration, braking, and steering, it is surprising how skilled a driver I was able to become in a fairly short space of time – the little cars handle very well. The puzzle aspects of each parking space mean that not only do you have to plan a route to each one within the realms of the restrictions of the car (e.g. fuel-wise) you also have to work out how to get to each space as things are not always as they seem.
At the start of each level, you are presented with a map showing the required destination of several cars. The randomness presented here can be quite puzzling at times as some spaces are on islands only reachable from ‘Evel Knievel’ style ramps or matter transporters (to name just a few of the various options I encountered.)
Working out where to go is made much easier by the addition of a handy ‘Track Inspection’ tool which allows players to zoom in and work out exactly how each route works. Having tried to ignore this option and ‘wing it’ on complicated tracks I can assure you that it is worth your time and preferable to wasting your cars by driving them in totally the wrong direction.
As I stated earlier, environmental parameters change driving conditions. Icy tracks make traversal particularly interesting considering that you are unable to brake and come to a complete stop. Many of the tracks have open areas that can easily be sailed straight off into the sea as do the islands themselves. Collapsing floors, explosive rails, giant boxing gloves, swinging hammers, massive magnets, and spiked traps are just a small number of the dangers built into tracks that must be avoided on top of all the other challenges presented to players.
An Evil Streak
The developers have done a sterling job coming up with these ingenious challenges but they must also have an evil streak. Just when it looks like things could not get any harder, they introduce antagonists to contend with. Detection devices will fire missiles at you if you get caught in their beams, magnetic anti-shipping mines will track you en masse, random traffic will block your way or even worse knock you off a parking space, and machines will turn you into a giant ice cube if not avoided (although it is satisfying to slide into a parking space in that state.)
One set of levels is based around police cars that will bust you for driving through unavoidable red lights. It is a great test of driving skill and dexterity to outrun them, trick them into driving off a cliff, or get them to destroy themselves via environmental hazards. NWA tip of the hat ‘Honk the Police’ certainly has to be the best level name in the game and made me chuckle.
With over one hundred campaign levels available from launch the intention is for the game to evolve and adapt continually as time goes on with new content drops. Players who relish the challenge of improving completion times and getting into the top ten rankings of maps are going to love this experience. The same can be said for fans of difficult ‘just one more try’ games. It can be frustrating at times but fail, fail, and fail again eventually results in the satisfaction of completing a level. The big question is, Do you complete the easy spaces first or leave them until last? The only genuinely glaring omission is the lack of an “instant” restart button to get that elusive perfect run, but it’s a minor niggle.
Surprisingly wrecked cars count when parked properly and another touch I liked was the theme song which repeats the mantra ‘You Suck at Parking’ in a style reminiscent of the beginning of ‘Roam’ by the B-52s. It is almost hypnotic and brings a feeling of calm to a potentially rage-inducing experience.
Levels of car customisation are pretty deep and a ‘Parking Pass’ will be available for those gamers who are interested. Over fifty multiplayer maps are available from release but I was unable to test this for my review. Multiplayer ‘party’ lobbies are delayed for the Xbox version but it is possible to take part in eight-player online matches from release.
You Suck at Parking is a refreshing addition to the racing genre unlike any I have seen before. The controls are simple and the gameplay is accessible but things soon develop into a far more complex challenge. For those who prefer gaming in short bursts, this could be a popular title far into the future especially as the developers have promised much more content is still to come.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC|
|Release Date||September 14th, 2022|