Roundabout: Review - Games Weekly

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Roundabout: Review

Roundabout  is  the  kind  of  game that you have to force your friends to try for themselves before they’ll understand, because the elevator pitch will just get you funny looks.  Described as a “Seventies B-movie game where you drive a constantly revolving limousine”, this is Crazy Taxi on LSD, and it’s wonderful.

It turns out that constant turning was the additional factor driving games needed to turn them from mindless occupation into satisfying challenge. Take roundabouts, a popular feature of the town Roundabout in which Roundabout is set. In the real world, the direction in which you drive a round a roundabout is dictated by the highway code. In Roundabout, you judge it by which way your limousine is spinning, easing into the lane at the right moment so that the unstoppable revolution carries you safely around the curve.

Getting from A to B in Roundabout is a matter of weaving through cluttered streets, hanging back in wider spaces so that you can enter tighter ones at the right point in your turn. Coins that build up a score multiplier encourage momentum, but a stronger draw is the feeling of flow when you judge a sequence of obstacles just right. As you progress, the obstacles become more obnoxious, but you also learn new skills, such as the ability to change the direction of your spin or to jump onto buildings.

Crash into a wall or tree trunk too many times and your limo explodes, but you're never sent back too far. And Roundabout is forgiving on what constitutes an obstruction. Fences and traffic cones were made to be scattered, and pedestrians are collateral damage, disappearing beneath your tyres with a squelch andared smear Cunningly, any evidence of low production values is forgiven as it fits with the overall design. That B-movie flavour is most obvious, and most delightful, in the live action
cut scenes. Each is deliberately low budget, filmed in the backseat or against a low-res backdrop, with a cast of corny characters from druggie Disco Sylvain to Georgio’s love interest Beth. Some brief exposition and off you go, taking a vicar to kidnap an unwilling groom, or helping a park ranger run down the Endangered Bird Hunting Committee.

Roundabout’s story is ridiculous, funny, occasionally moving, and even when it’s over you’ll want to keep going: replaying missions to fulfil objectives, trying to top the leaderboards in different challenges, collecting paint jobs and upgrades, maybe even playing through all the main missions as quickly as possible in the “eSports Speedrun Mode”. Not because of that completionist compulsion either, but because driving a revolving limousine is so much fun that you’ll want more reasons to play.


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