Once in a while, a game comes along that’s so simple in its premise that it takes you by surprise. For all the blockbuster titles, massive stories and whatnot, it’s nice to have a snappy little game that mixes things up. First, for me, there was PAKO Caravan, which was essentially Snake-with-cars. Now, there’s You Suck At Parking: a game about parking automobiles in tiny squares.
As on the nose a title as you can get, You Suck… is a simple concept, expanded on into tougher levels and obstacles as it progresses. The gameplay never changes, there’s no catch, it just gets harder to park each time. The concept of parallel parking and keeping in the lines goes right out the window soon enough. You’ll just be hoping to reach the parking spot in time.
So, have Happy Volcano put out this year’s indie smash hit for me (and hopefully you), or does it need to be towed away? Buckle up, we’re going to find out.
Left A Bit, Right A Bit…
As you may have gathered from that introduction, You Suck At Parking has one very easy gameplay mechanic. Played from an elevated top-down perspective, you take your selected vehicle, drive it within a time limit and park in one or more parking spots. There’s a catch though: you can’t stop moving.
Well, that’s not entirely true. You can stop, but if you do, it’ll end your current car’s “turn”. There is a brake, but it’ll need to be dabbed carefully, as there is also a fuel gauge to keep an eye on. Run out of fuel and that’ll also end your “turn”. So far, it sounds pretty simple: park in a space, don’t run out of fuel or come to a complete stop.
And for the first few courses, it is that simple. But the further we get, the harder the levels get. Safety barriers are removed or replaced with explosive ones, for example. Ramps, drops, fans, teleporting gates, magnets, sloped curves… oh yes, it starts to become a game of logic, skill and time trial pretty quickly.
As you may have gathered, the trick here is to drive hard, fast and not stop… until you need to. The skill is to try and do it without using any extra cars: using three cars to fill three spaces, for example. You can restart a level at any time, or respawn a car with a tap of down of the D-pad.
As you can imagine, the aim is to get a perfect park on each level. Time-taken isn’t a factor for the perfect, just making sure you don’t use any extra cars. The time factor is more for the leaderboards; trying to be the fastest and parking perfectly.
It can get tense on some levels, downright frustrating on others. But to give an insight in to how fun it is overall: my brother and I racked up five straight hours on it without realising in one session.
Bubbles? From An Exhaust?!
So, the driving has been covered, but there’s got to be more to it than zipping cars about novelty tracks. Well… yes and no. The tracks are nice and varied, going from grassy types to an icy bunch of courses the next. Each biome has its own unique features that add to their difficulty.
But what about the micro machines? Thankfully, there is a level of customisation to spruce things up a bit. For one, players aren’t just restricted to using a car. There’s trucks, vans and others to unlock, but that’s not all. There’s hats for them too. That’s right, novelty deer stalkers and propeller caps galore. You can get exhaust effects, too.
Yes, it sounds daft but you can unlock various little nicknacks and extras for your vehicle, all in the name of jazzing it up. They have no bearing on gameplay, meaning it’s all still down to skill and frustration. Regardless, it’s quite cathartic to stick your own personal stamp on your car.
Right, You Bloody Do It
In terms of multiplayer, You Suck At Parking is a bit limited. Granted I’m playing it pre-release, so it isn’t going to be teeming with other players, but even so there’s not a mass amount to explore. That being said, just because it’s minimal doesn’t mean it’s lacking in entertainment value.
Imagine you’re near a parking space, and your fuel is running low so you’re attempting to roll into it. That’s hard enough in the single player, so imagine what it’s like with three more cars vying for that same space. It gets mental, like Micro Machines meets boules. Think you’re safe and Mr. Frugal might have a bit more juice to shunt you out of the way. Or you might be Ms. Cunning and do the same thing (which is alright when you do it). That’s how tense it gets.
And of course, there’s the whole take-in-turns nature afforded to the single player. Not strictly multiplayer, per se, but it’s what my brother and I were doing. It has the same addictive play to it, just as much as it did when I called it my favourite game at last year’s EGX.
Online leaderboards are there for those that really want to push themselves. I used to, back in my Trials heyday, and even now it’s nice seeing myself in the top ten on some levels. I know when it hits general release that will soon be decimated, but the competition will be thriving when it goes live.
Weaponised Controller Frustration
So, I’ve mentioned how well it plays, but now how You Suck At Parking controls. If it were a weird, disconnected kind of control scheme, it would be easy to blame faults on that. “No, it wasn’t me, I wasn’t stuck to the track” and whatnot.
Fortunately (or not, if your pride is too fragile) that isn’t an issue here. Controls in YSAP are tight, like precision platformer type. And that’s not a passing reference either, there are some levels that require little tweaks and strategic hops between ramps to line up the next part of the track.
There’s even shortcuts that the keen eye/time trial perfectionist will spot on repeated playthroughs. When it comes to the Mastery levels, spin-off tracks that are a step up, you’ll be needing to master the fiddlier aspects of… well, “car platforming”. I say this without hyperbole; it gets ridiculously hard at times, let alone getting perfect parking finishes.
Screeching To A Halt
Unfortunately, when a game comes along as twee and entertaining as You Suck At Parking, it’s hard to pick fault unless it’s glaringly obvious. There isn’t any in YSAP’s core gameplay, thankfully, but it’s got some sneaky mechanics in its unlockables system.
Again, limited due its pre-release nature, I can’t explore it fully, but there’s a “content pass” system to it. I can’t unlock it yet, so I can’t pass a full critique on it. Happy Volcano state they’re “always offering content”, which is indicative of more paid content, namely car extras. Which, if that is the case, gets a big fat negative cross on my “perfect game” checklist. I like my content to be in my content, not extra.
Other than that, there’s nothing else I can find fault with in the tiny car parking game. Which just means one thing left to do… after another crack at a perfect on this bastard ice level.
Driving That Test Of Patience
In conclusion, You Suck At Parking is a hard game. It will frustrate the hell out of you, make you swear a lot and want to rage quit. But, and here’s the twist, it will also make you determined to just do one more level, again and again. It will hook you back in because you know damn well you can do it.
Ultimately, is that not what players want in a game? Something that you love to hate, or vice versa, that squeezes as much attention out of you as what you paid for it. That’s where this game excels. Like OlliOlli World, it’ll hook you in with its charming visuals and blindside you with downright challenge. But then, we’d only complain if it was too easy.
If it seems that this review is a bit shorter than most of mine, it is. There isn’t really much more to say without padding it out for SEO purposes. It’s a simple concept, it looks bright and quirky, and ramps up the difficulty to “hard as balls” when it really comes down to it.
If that’s all you need for something to tickle your arcade gaming need/budget, then You Suck At Parking will keep you seething with rage and laughing with glee in equal measure. Just remember: don’t try things like this out in the real world.
A challenging and addictive driving game, You Suck At Parking maximises a simple premise to provide hours of laughs and fun. Either in single player or against friends, this game is among the most pleasing arcade games you’ll play this year.
You Suck At Parking is available from September 14th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One (review platform), Nintendo Switch and PC.
Developer: Happy Volcano
Publisher: Happy Volcano
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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