Jet Car Stunts’ arrival on the PlayStation 3 and Vita marks the popular mobile game’s first foray onto consoles. Historically, adapted smartphone titles end up feeling a little, well, off when they’re converted to consoles – but there are exceptions. The big question, then, is whether Grip Games has managed to make True Axis’ sky high racer feel at home on Sony’s systems. The answer is almost.
As on mobile devices, this remains a moreish romp – much more so than you may imagine looking at its screenshots. A vehicular platformer in the same vein as, say, Trials Fusion, the title’s 36 tracks (plus tutorial) find you boost jumping between geometrical shapes, setting speedy lap times, and gathering up stars stashed in increasingly awkward locations. These differing objectives add variety to the gameplay, which prevents repetition from setting in.
The problem is that it’s hard – very hard. While this isn’t a bad thing per se, the learning curve is so steep that you’ll find yourself confronted with a 90-degree upturn in difficulty not long after beating the tutorial stages; sadly, there’s no room for a more gradual upslope here. It doesn’t help that the title’s 3D perspective works against it at times, with the camera being particularly problematic, causing flooring to vanish in places – not exactly ideal.
However, stick with it, and, like RedLynx’s aforementioned motorcycle sim, there’s fun to be found. The process of repeating levels until you get them right is one of the game’s greatest triumphs; it can be infuriatingly difficult at times, but it’s more than capable of sucking you into that familiar ‘one more go’ groove. Indeed, the title’s arguably at its best when you play it in short bursts, but it can be hard to put down if you’ve got the patience to navigate its non-existent learning curve.
It really benefits from the physical controls available on PlayStation, too, which replace the touch-based inputs that its predecessor employed. Cars are exceedingly satisfying to manoeuvre, both on the ground and in the air – and it’s when you’re soaring from surface to surface, rolling your vehicle to set your direction, that the title truly shines, with the game’s surprisingly detailed skyboxes being the highlight of its otherwise simplistic art direction.
Jet Car Stunts is the type of title that puts good gameplay ahead of presentational panache, and it’s more than capable of keeping you occupied in that department. Impenetrably punishing levels and an unfair learning curve will put many off, but it’s massively moreish if you manage to roll with it. This is not exactly a high-flier, then – but it’s still a cut above other smartphone conversions.