Stunt Guy 2.0 – Review
When I got my hands on an iPod Touch a few years ago, I was immediately taken with iOS as a games format. Sure, many traditional games just do not work on a touchscreen but if you design a game around the hardware, you can get some truly enjoyable results. Add to that the fact that games were often free, or just dirt cheap, and for a while there it was the best gaming format for years.
One of the really nice aspects of iOS gaming is how it draws inspiration from retro gaming. In the case of Stunt Guy 2.0, the obvious spiritual successor is Spy Hunter, the famous vertically scrolling drive ‘em up. However, an even more direct comparison can be made with Super Stuntman, a little-known Codemasters budget title for the 8-bit home computers of the ’80s. As with that title, Stunt Guy 2.0 sees you driving up along a scrolling road, avoiding traffic, collecting items and hitting ramps in to perform stunts.
The idea is that you’re a stuntman filming scenes for a demanding director. Each stage starts with you clinging onto the roof of your vehicle. Messing up a stage sees your body being flung up the road before being run over by an ambulance, so you probably want to keep your eyes firmly on the tarmac ahead.
The controls are straightforward enough with the only two being to steer left and right (accessed by touching the appropriate side of the screen). Acceleration is automatic and so all you really need to concentrate on is avoiding bad things and hitting good things.
The stages in the game are short, clocking in at around a minute or so, which is perfect for a quick go. A standard stage will have a fairly narrow road to follow (there are no curves in the road) with off-road ditches on each side that harm your car if you stay on them for too long. Later stages further narrow the road or split lanes up with more damaging off road sections but fundamentally the gameplay remains the same.
Beating a level then unlocks a new challenge on it. Beat a level once, and the next time you play it there may be a jump at the end and then further ending obstacles such as roadworks or police blockades. These don’t really add much variation though and ultimately you are just playing the same stage ten times before moving onto another, most likely very similar, road.
The core gameplay is reasonably good fun though albeit in a very simplistic way. 2D road racing avoid-em-ups have been around for over thirty years now and there’s probably a reason you don’t see them that often anymore. The viewpoint limits your view of oncoming traffic a little and simply dodging left and right probably isn’t enough for a generation of gamers who need fifteen buttons to play most games these days.
The controls themselves are also a little bit slippery and imprecise. Never to the point where the game is unplayable, indeed the difficulty is no doubt designed around the inertia of the steering, but it could be crisper. Also, you don’t appear to have any control over the stunts you perform when you hit a ramp. Apart from going up on two wheels if you hit the ramp just right. It’s all just a bit too one-dimensional.
The cheerful presentation helps Stunt Guy 2.0 puff up its chest and pretend that there’s more to it. The cartoony visuals are nice enough, in a Plants Vs. Zombies kind of way, and the boisterous (if repetitive and annoying) rock soundtrack adds an air of confidence to the proceedings. Also, there’s a fair amount of stuff going on in the menus that suggests there’s some depth in the game but ultimately this is all just smoke and mirrors which attempt to hide how shallow the game is.
A look in the menus shows a fleet of unlockable vehicles and stages as well as a selection of enticing looking upgrades. However, the reason why iOS gaming has gone from being a fun and exciting land of gaming opportunities is all too evident in games like this.
Those vehicles and upgrades cost either in-game currency (earned for beating stages) or ‘gears’ which are just objects you occasionally pick up during the stages. They take quite a lot of grinding to afford them or, depressingly, you can pay some real cash and bypass the grind. As much as this kind of nonsense is par for the course and very much here to stay, I’m not a fan. That said, upgrades aren’t a necessity for playing the game (although upgrading in most games usually adds to the addictive qualities of it). However, the IAP shilling continues.
After playing several stages, the game informed me that I had run out of ‘film’ and that I could use my gears to buy more (thus slowing down the already snail-like upgrading), pay some real cash to buy even more, or persist with a ‘camcorder’ that would let me progress but would limit the amount of in-game cash I would be paid for each scene. Obviously, fuck buying IAPs for a game I’m reviewing so I went with the camcorder option. This downgrades the visuals, which is annoying but not game-ruining, and the game lets you know that you’ll get another reel of film (good for a single one-minute run) every twenty minutes. So either pay real money, play with diminished visuals, or wait twenty minutes between each one-minute level. Hmmm.
If this isn’t annoying enough, using the camcorder occasionally makes ghost images crackle into view, obscuring the gameplay. This can cause you to crash quite easily and at this point you will, quite rightly, think fuck this game.
You know what? Yes. Fuck them. Fuck making me wait to play the game properly. Fuck giving me a choice of paying real money, playing a downgraded version of the gameplay or leaving the game unplayed for long enough to generate more film. Your game is average. There’s a hundred better choices that I can think of on iOS to waste my time with so trying to impact on real life resources as if I give any kind of fuck what your shitty Spy Hunter rip-off is going to do next is ludicrous.
Charge me 69p or even a couple of quid, and I’ll happily play something like this for a bit. The limited gameplay wouldn’t keep me engaged for long – trust me I’d have fucked this off long ago if I wasn’t reviewing it – but it wouldn’t leave a sour taste in my mouth either.
Sure, the price of ‘gears’ isn’t too expensive but where does it end? How long before I need to buy more? Therein lies the whole problem with the free-to-play model, the costs really aren’t up front at all. In the unlikely event that I were to become hooked on Stunt Guy 2.0, how often would I need to shell out my next 69p? How much longer before the paper-thin gameplay of this costs me the same as something like FTL?
On top of that, the game has in-game adverts (currently jokey ones, but I don’t know if these are placeholders for real ones later on when the game goes live – if it isn’t then fuck this game twice as it’s just there to get in the way for literally no reason) and you have to pay to go ‘ad-free’ (although this appears to give you more gears as part of the package). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen F2P done a whole lot worse, but with a game this achingly ordinary, I don’t see why anyone would feel the need to shell out cash to play more of it and I have no idea why I’m being punished by the game for wanting to play (especially as a reviewer, but also as a gamer).
Stunt Guy 2.0 is ordinary, shallow, and ultimately pointless; normally that kind of thing actually works quite well on iOS but when it starts hamstringing itself to make you part with more cash, I lose interest even faster than I already was. It lacks the addictive qualities to make any IAPs worthwhile and never gives you the impression that better things are to come later on in the game.Pros
- Simple, retro-flavoured gameplay.
- The graphics are okay.
- Shallower than the puddle of tears I'd weep for John Terry's death.
- Bullshit IAP/F2P model that actively impacts on the gameplay if you're not prepared to pay more or stop playing for a while.
- Slowing the upgrade process to a grind really harms any addictive qualities the game could have had.
- Imprecise controls.
- Annoying music.
Charge me a one-off price and maybe Stunt Guy 2.0 would keep a permanent place on one of my (later) homescreens but start acting the dirty scutter with IAPs for a game this ordinary and what little goodwill the game generates is lost. iOS is full of retro-styled games that don't resort to this nonsense. Stick with those instead.
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