Turbo: Super Stunt Squad

September 13, 2013

Despite being well into my twenties, I’m not beyond enjoying the odd animated kid’s flick. It’s hard to go past an engaging story that maintains the playful innocence of early childhood, and while animation studio DreamWorks may not have the same track record as Pixar, the company has proved itself more than capable over the years. Unfortunately for Turbo: Super Stunt Squad – the latest tie-in production based off the recent DreamWorks film, Turbo – the movie magic here is largely absent. Everything on face value functions fine, though that special spark so commonly achieved on the animated cinema-front fails to ignite in Turbo’s debut outing on consoles.

Turbo, the movie, is largely based on the racing exploits of its titular snail, who’s DNA becomes fused with nitrous oxide and renders him super-fast. It was surprising then to see Stunt Squad resemble something more akin to the Tony Hawk games of generations past. Players are tasked with boosting and tricking their way across a variety of freestyle arenas that are essentially human environments towering over the average snail-racer. It’s been done before in games like Toy Story, but the presentation carries a admirable charm: you’ll use kitchen sinks as half pipes, grind along extension cords, and bounce off tabletops, furniture and other household objects which add up to create an over-sized playground.

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One or two players (via local split screen) can choose from a selection of racers, though the different starting stats of each snail, such as trick ability, are incremental. Nevertheless, the move-list available to your racer handles competently and is deep enough to allow some variety, too. Hitting a face button mid-air performs a grab, and these can be tweaked by tilting the left stick. Similar inputs trigger grinds and hand-plants when near an edge railing, while building enough speed allows your snail to race along angled walls. Tying together combos is achieved by performing a wheelie or nosie with quick thumb-stick gestures, and filling your trick metre in the bottom corner will open up a special manoeuvre, SSX -style. Your ultimate aim, however, is to complete objectives within an arena to unlock subsequent levels and power-ups, and it’s therein where Stunt Squad’s primary problem lies.

Despite the trick system’s adequate handling, attaining points for tricks only contributes to a handful of the aforementioned objectives. The rest of your objectives are relegated to obtaining random collectables scattered throughout the game’s stages in hard-to-reach places. As Stunt Squad incorporates a significant degree of verticality in its design, and ascending an arena to reach its more valuable collectibles requires deft timing, precision-jumping, and a constant stream of momentum, faltering usually results in your racer tumbling down to ground level. This allows frustrations to quickly creep in, which is further compounded by an imposed time limit on every stage. Thankfully, you only need complete a single objective per run, but the result is a stop-start affair that undermines the whole freestyle-playground vibe Stunt Squad is seemingly shooting for.

Perhaps developer Monkey Bar Games is aware of these potential frustrations given its inclusion of a non-timed mode that locks out most of your objectives but allows you to explore an arena at your own leisure. Likewise, you can collect certain power-ups which are used to upgrade your racer’s attributes, which in turn can improve more important functions such as handling. However, these inclusions don’t serve to eliminate Stunt Squad’s fundamental design issues; instead, they simply better equip you to manage them, which is small compensation. A reset-position button, an option to reverse, or a drift manoeuvre to account for the wide arc your racer takes when turning, all would have been welcome additions to ease annoyances, but such options are non-existent.

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What’s most frustrating, though, is that Stunt Squad is not necessarily a bad kid’s game (on the contrary, it’s technically solid), but it thwarts younger, less-skilled players’ attempts of embracing it, which is primarily who the game is developed for. Even during the opening hours, I contemplated how enjoyable Stunt Squad might have been had it disposed of the time limit, allowed players to explore its worlds unrestricted, and allowed for the completion of multiple objectives per run, all the while keeping intact its challenging core.

Admittedly from a seasoned gamer it’s an odd complaint; Stunt Squad obviously wants to reward players with perseverance, in contrast to others who might be content to simply ride on the coattails of their movie counterparts’ success. Likewise, I must commend Monkey Bar for not taking the Mario Kart route, which probably seemed a more obvious direction in line with the film, but Stunt Squad’s restrictive nature tarnishes what is otherwise a sound game, and only the most patient of gamers will find extended enjoyment in Turbo’s frustrating, trick-happy world.


Environments are creative and charming | Technically sound trick mechanics offer some depth and variety | Snoop Dogg voices one of the characters


Objective-based gameplay locks out later levels for younger, less-skilled players | Imposed time limits create restrictive, stop-start affairs | Emphasis on vertically-structured levels lead to frustrating falls

Overall Score: