Shockingly simple but fiendishly addictive, Jet Car Stunts is a racing game with a difference. Driving a car that is part car part fighter jet, you are tasked with zooming round a track in the quickest time possible. Standard fare for a racer you would be forgiven for thinking – the difference is that this track is floating and comes complete (or incomplete) with massive gaps in the track that serve as jumps between the start point and the finish line that often require you to boost across, drifting and skidding around as you do so.
Jet Car Stunts has you controlling a car around a simple, blocky looking track, aiming to achieve the quickest time possible. With a press on the right trigger the car boosts, panels shifting to reveal the Jet from the title. Boosting and drifting become commonplace, but one mis-step sees you skidding off the track into the sky beyond. Corners quickly lead into jumps that require the use of the boost to achieve the right speed to navigate, but speed ends up sacrificing control, and the game becomes a tightrope as you balance these two factors off against each other in order to achieve the quickest time possible while maintaining the best racing line – you know that if you boost two much you are more likely to skid off the track as you loose control, but not enough and you end up falling as you misjudge a jump by going into it two slowly. Control in the air is limited, so when you jump you know almost instantly if it is enough to get you where you need to go or not – you can break, and angle the Jet Car slightly, but you cannot miraculously recover from a poor initial jump.
Such a simple premise ends up becoming a highly addictive race to the finish, in a game where I found myself constantly stopping and restarting levels because I knew I could get a better start off the grid or take a corner in just the right way to shave seconds off my finish time. Taken on their own the graphics look like something straight off the original Xbox, but the game itself more than makes up for that, with the end product being more than the sum of its parts – everything just seems to click together to make Jet Car Stunts work. The controls feel just right, achieving the right balance when drifting around that corner to fire into a boost along a straight before launching into a jump, navigating through hoops and half tunnels in mid-air, the whole time knowing that a slight miscalculation will launch you off the track only to restart at the previous checkpoint, the timer ticking up the whole time.
It is this constant ticking of the clock combined with the desire to beat the quickest time that allows Jet Car Stunts to play it’s wild card – the Ghost Car. Such a stable of the racing genre, Jet Car Stunts uses the ghost car as hundreds of racing games have before it , but it only adds fuel to the desire to win. The first time you start a track, the ghost car is from a previous players run, loaded via Xbox Live. Should you beat that player, the next time you retry the level another ghost car has taken it’s place, alongside your ghost car from the run you just completed. I realise this is nothing new, but here it is shocking how effective it is in dragging you back in to play the level again. This alone amounted to me restarting countless times – if I saw my ghost car take a corner better than I did it was a quick few button presses to restart the level and do it over, logic dictating that I should be able to beat myself. I would forget about the other ghost car in the end, and end up constantly challenging myself to beat my own previous record, forgetting about whether a run had earned me a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal and focusing on the time alone.
The game has three main modes – Platforming, Time Trial and Collector. Platforming has you navigate the specific levels against other ghost cars, each level gaining in difficulty as you go. Time Trial is the obvious race against the clock in order to achieve the quickest time possible, and Collector has you complete levels collecting stars along the way. Yes they are all variations on a theme, but each serve in honing up your skills, and it is Collector that is by far the most challenging of the three modes. Gone are the ghost cars and instead they are replaced by Golden Stars for you to collect as you boost and skid around each track, the difference being that the stars often appear in places along the track you will have not even thought to have visit, such as the floating coloured blocks that up until this point I felt were just there as decoration.
I wouldn’t normally go for the racing games when presented with a choice, but I found something here that was both enjoyable and highly addictive, the urge to revisit levels and beat my previous times costing me countless replays of the earlier levels. Completionists will be able to race through each level, but the draw is in coming back and beating your previous time. Racing game aficionado’s might not be satisfied with the controls or the lack of specifications or customisation, but if you are looking for a simple racer that is fun and addictive, Jet Car Stunts might just be worth a look.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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