The premise to Vroom Kaboom is simple – it’s a tower defence game in which you have to defend your oil rigs while attacking your opponents at the opposite end of a multi-laned battleground using nothing but vehicles. It’s a novel take on the genre, replacing the genre standard static defences with mobile ones and adding offensive play to the formula. It turns the genre on its head in a lot of positive ways but unfortunately lacks the execution to really make the most of those innovations.
When you begin the game, you’re ran through a tutorial which can barely be classed as one. You’re given a checklist of activities to perform like “Use X Vehicle”, “Use this ability” and “Recycle a card” but Vroom Kaboom fails to tell you how to execute these activities or why you would. For a game that’s twisting the genre to such a degree, this is a poor introduction to the game and leaves a sour first impression. It took 4 hours of play (and all of the load screen hints) for me to really understand what I was doing or why. I wouldn’t expect someone who isn’t forcing themselves through the game to review it to hang around for that long, to be honest.
Once you’ve completed your ‘training’, you’re given the choice to compete in a series of events with three distinct themes – a Mad Max-esque desert theme, a neo-Tokyo highway theme and an empty waterway theme. The differences in these Vroom Kaboom themes are simply cosmetic as the unique visual objects within each one make no impact on the game play. The gas pumps in the desert theme, the road signage in the Tokyo theme etc are all superficial which you can drive right through without consequence.
To save you the headache of trial-and-erroring your way through the first few hours of Vroom Kaboom, I’ll explain it here – the aim of each match is to blow up the oppositions oil rigs before they can blow up yours by hurtling vehicles into them. You’re given 2 lanes in which you can spawn vehicles but in each of the various tracks, the lanes increase to as many as 5 with room to push between or outside them. When you’re controlling a vehicle, you can choose which lane your vehicle drives along, perform an action specific to the vehicle you’re driving (like shooting the canon on a Tank, jumping with a sedan or self-destructing with bike) and activate a nitro boost to give your chosen wheels(or propellers) a speed boost.
You can spawn multiple vehicles but you can only control the actions of one vehicle at a time. Spawns are controlled by ‘cards’ which are drawn periodically and presented along the bottom of the screen. Each card has a cost from 1 of 2 in-game currencies (oil or flames…?) which can be picked up as you drive along the roads. As well as currency, you can also pick up cards which are added to your collection and mines which, when you’ve hit your target, explode a few seconds later to do added damage.
Once you’re figured all of this out (almost none of which is explained outside of the load screen hints) there’s a lovely strategic depth hidden within Vroom Kaboom. Do you play the expensive and slow moving Frank the Tank and gun down as many opposing vehicles coming your way? Do you put on a fragile but cheap motorbike in order to gather as much resource as possible then flood the field with heavy movers? Have I got enough space to launch a missile (yeah, you control them too) without it being knocked down? Choosing what to play and when to play them becomes a real mine field. There’s no winning formula to Vroom Kaboom except for figuring out what the hell you’re supposed to be doing in the first place.
Even when you have figured out what you’re doing, Vroom Kaboom is a real test of your patience because the AI is so much better than any human player at doing the one thing that’ll give you an upper hand – having more than 1 vehicle in play at any one time. Gigantic heads float above their controlled vehicle as they guide them through the action and you’ll see these heads zipping back and forth between vehicles. They seem to do this with ease where as a an actual player has to switch between vehicles, then figure out where they are on the track, then act accordingly.
This is aptly demonstrated in the 1 v 1 battles with the AI. Getting half way across the battlefield with 1 of your 2 spawns to see 5 vehicles all doing separate things coming barreling towards you is mind boggling. Thankfully, most of the matches give you an AI companion to play alongside which levels the playing field somewhat.
Outside of the core game, there’s a deck building system and loot box unlocks which are awarded when levelling up. Much like everything else in Vroom Kaboom, this is left totally unexplained and even after ten hours with the game, I’m still totally bewildered by the system. There’s something called Scrap which I think you can use to buy new cards but I’ve been unable to figure out how because of the unwieldy menu system in place.
Despite the three different locations to play in, the visuals in Vroom Kaboom are uninspiring and quite samey. Only a handful of vehicles carry much personality to them and stand out from the crowd of wrecks and bangers presented everywhere else. Explosions are a far less grandiose than I would expect too.
There’s also a general lack of polish to almost everything in Vroom Kaboom. The menus are difficult to navigate and some of them are simply a list with a number at the end. Some of the environments also look pretty rough. One particular annoyance is the UI that shows which vehicles have been destroyed and by who during a game. Because it’s likely that you and your allies will be playing a number of the same vehicles over the course of a match, you’re never quite sure if a vehicle if you’ve played has been destroyed or that of your allies. It’s a poorly thought out system that might have been served better by giving each participant their own colour rather than blue for friendly vehicles and red for hostile ones.
Vroom Kaboom occasionally shows glimpses of an enjoyable, strategic game and an ingenious twist on the tower defence genre. Unfortunately, these glimpses are buried beneath a near impenetrable learning curve, an over powering AI and some poor design choices. I can only really recommend this game to those with a huge amount of time and patience, those that have a masochistic desire for hours of trial and error and those willing to forgive a lack of polish.
Vroom Kaboom is available now for PC (as both paid and free-to-play), PSVR and PS4 (reviewed on a standard PS4)
Developer: Ratloop Games
Publisher: Ratloop Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we recieved a copy of the game from the publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.