In Roundabout, you’re basically hydroplaning nonstop. That’s the easiest way I can think to describe this open world puzzle game where you attempt to drive a powder blue limousine that’s endlessly spinning on its axis. This means if you try to drive in any single direction you will just end up spinning donuts. It’s a ridiculous constraint, but Roundabout revels in ridiculousness. In a way, its intentionally-awkward controls lend to driving what Surgeon Simulator 2013 lends to surgery. Roundabout uses its cumbersomeness to its advantage and offers up an obstacle course based around driving in circles.
When I first stepped into the driver’s seat I found it almost impossible to go anywhere except into the nearest wall. Just getting the car to move in a straight line is a nigh impossible challenge best fit for a Hollywood stunt driver and not someone who regularly wipes out in Mario Kart. It didn’t help that I was driving through a claustrophobic city played from a top-down perspective--similar to the early Grand Theft Auto games. Trees, other cars, lamp posts, and really cramped alleyways that I had no business driving down were the bane of my existence.
When I say "bane of my existence" what I really mean is that my car would explode if I bumped into too many things. And I bumped into a lot of things. Thankfully, the game constantly doled out checkpoints so that I could quickly retry tricky spots. This was especially helpful when I was attempting one of the game’s missions, which all involved me picking up a friendly stranger and bumbling through some hellish urban maze on the way to his or her destination. Except for the one where cars started raining down from the sky. That one got a little weird.
Speaking of weird, the game also employed full motion video cinematics. These campy cutscenes provided some context for you missions, such as the lazy soccer star who wanted me to drive him to the soccer field, and then drive a soccer ball into the goal for him. The talent for these scenes is pulled primarily from developer No Goblin’s own backyard of Seattle, Washington, including other local developers, YouTube personalities, and whoever responded to their brilliant casting call. No matter how vexed I got while driving, it was well worth it just to see the next super-cheesy, 70’s-inspired interstitial.
If all this sounds like I’m putting down on Roundabout, know that isn’t my intention. Wrapping my head around its unusual control scheme was definitely a challenge at first, but after spending some time with the game I found there were moments when everything just clicked. By timing the rotation of my car perfectly I could glide in, out, and around every little obstacle without even a scratch--for a minute or two at least. There’s a method to this madness, provided you don’t get too dizzy along the way. Roundabout is coming to PC, Mac, Linux, and Xbox One though ID@XBOX later this year.See more coverage of GDC 2014