Jet Car Stunts. A car with a jet strapped to it, in which stunts are performed. Reminiscent of other automotive platformers like Gripshift and Trackmania, this port of a hugely popular iOS title has been given a lick of paint and access to traditional controls on PlayStation3 and Vita.
Platforming mode is given top billing with a simple premise – navigate the mysterious floating track, pass each checkpoint and get to the end without succumbing to the track’s twists, turns, loops, jumps and inconveniently-placed random floating blocks. Your car is capable of a limited amount of boost using its jet, and passing a checkpoint is the only way to refill your boost gauge. Managing the boost meter carefully is vital, as often you’ll encounter a few large jumps in between each checkpoint. Too much boost early on will result in you falling short before the next chance to refill, though learning when to conserve boost on each stage can be a matter of trial and error.
Jet Car Stunts is also very difficult.
On the ground, the car handles great – tight turning circle, drifts with minimal effort, and it can be chucked around even the tightest corners at high speed. In the air it is a little less willing to listen – you have some control over altitude, but little over your direction. Air brakes let you make slight adjustments at the cost of a drop in speed, making it vital that your takeoff is in the right direction as veering even slightly off course is often difficult – and sometimes impossible – to rescue.
As you start progressing through the stages, the jumps get bigger and harder to successfully navigate. The in-air camera does little to help you land these, as the angle will often see your car blocking out the entirety of the platform you’re trying to land on, making it feel more like luck than skill when you do eventually land it. In addition, the game is not afraid to waste your time. It’s difficult from the start, which is great – but sees fit to impose a ten-retry limit on you before arbitrarily deciding that you are too much of a failure and must restart the level in its entirety. Retrying before the first checkpoint even counts as one of those ten retries, meaning plenty of time will be spent messing around in menus thanks to this archaic progression gating.
A practice mode is available for each level in which you can retry indefinitely, but bafflingly it gives you infinite boost and no indication of how much boost you’re actually using! Given the heavy emphasis on meter management during a proper run, having infinite boost renders practice mode largely useless. Its entire existence is questionable as allowing a sensible number of retries would remove any requirement for a practice mode. Achieving the higher ranks on each track is the real challenge – something that wouldn’t be compromised by allowing the player to fail a hundred times along the way.
Time Trial mode is straightforward and shows Jet Car Stunts in a much more positive light. Boost management is once again crucial in order to maintain momentum between checkpoints, and the on-track handling really shines as you throw the car into corners it has no right getting around. Restarting carries little penalty, as you are deposited back at the last checkpoint and given a small time refund – a great way of ensuring that one mistake won’t immediately ruin your entire run. Stages are probably a couple of laps too long for their own good but this is a minor quibble.
Collector mode baffled me completely. Each platforming stage has five stars littered about the area and they are seemingly impossible to collect – it’s unclear whether you’re supposed to gracefully land on the seemingly-inaccessible platforms they are located on, or whether the appropriate behaviour is to boost through the star and off into the abyss.
Jet Car Stunts shows a ton of promise, but much of the game is locked behind some pretty awful criteria for progression. With a camera that lets you see where you’re going and a sensible retry policy, it’d be transformed into a difficult game that rewards perseverance and skill. At present it is a frustrating experience that gives the impression that it wants you to stop playing as soon as possible, leave it alone and never come back.