Stunt Wheels – Review

Title   Stunt Wheels
Developer  Kempt Games
Publisher  Kempt Games
Platform  iOS
Genre  Arcade, Driving
Release Date  June 4, 2015
Official Site

It’s fair to say that we weren’t very impressed with Kempt Games’ previous iOS offering, Stunt Guy 2.0. It was a vertically scrolling driving game that was low on excitement and big on IAP nonsense. Aside from being particularly average, it personally marked for me the exact moment that the iOS gaming scene lost me as fan. Kempt Games cannot be held solely responsible for the money-grabbing trend that turned iOS into the best indie games platform of the late Noughties into the mess it is now, but Stunt Guy 2.0 truly was the game that broke my camel’s back.

However, Kempt Games have continued with their ‘Magnificent Stunts‘ series and Stunt Wheels is its latest addition. As expected, it is another driving game but this time is based on tracks rather than vertically-scrolling roads. The overhead camera angle gives the action a Super Sprint or Micro Machines kind of feel, and the only controls are left and right steering via on-screen buttons or tilting. No-one ever uses tilting for these games though, right?

That said, I’m not a huge fan of touchscreen controls either, but they actually work quite well here. The racing action is pretty chaotic and the full-lock steering and low traction means that you are generally wrestling to stay in control, but that’s where the fun comes from. The stunts element is actually a little underplayed though, with flips occuring automatically as you hit ramps, but with the racing being as over the top as it is, the stunts are pretty unnecessary anyway.

There are also power-ups to collect. These are activated automatically, which keeps the controls simple but does take away the tactical element of having them. Thankfully these aren’t the usual race-ruiners that we see in other racing games, and we’re not mad at all that one of them is called the Laser Wang!

Winning races levels you up which, in turn, unlocks new vehicles. This element of the game needs a little work, as the cars don’t really feel that different to each other, and so far I’ve never managed to lose a single race on any of the game’s tracks, including the last ones which aren’t any harder than the first ones. There is a harder difficulty level on offer but I tend to focus on ‘Normal’ when there is a choice.

The only difficulty comes from there being no indicators to tell you what turns are coming up. There is no mini-map, no guidance arrows, and no track markers. Given how close the overhead camera is, you really have to react quickly to turns, or memorise them. Luckily, the tracks are short enough that you’ll soon figure it out but, even so, it does feel like a real oversight.

You can, of course, buy cars with real money but so far I can see no reason to do so and given that the game has no Career Mode progression as such – yes, you do level up but you can approach the tracks in any order and you don’t unlock any along the way – there would appear to be no grind points or paywalls. In fact, the lack of structure to the single-player game is pretty strange and clearly needs work.

We weren’t able to test the multiplayer mode as this links multiple local iOS devices to a Mac OS host hub in split-screen format, which may well give you the kind of challenge you need to really get your teeth into the game if you’ve got the setup to handle it. There’s probably a good technical reason for doing it all that way but a proper iOS-only multiplayer mode would have been more convenient.

While Stunt Wheels needs a lot more work when it comes to the structure of the game, the core playability is there, and with a few tweaks this could be the best racer on the system. With its cheery presentation and decent graphics, the game can actually be pretty impressive. Especially early on in races when you are vying for position and setting off the weapons, but until they sort the game balance out, Stunt Wheels is hard to recommend.

  • Decent controls that are hectic enough to give the game a manic feel without being unplayable.
  • Great cartoony graphics.
  • Good sense of humour.
  • Far too easy.
  • Single-player mode has no structure to it.
  • Pointless levelling up aspects.
  • Faffy multiplayer configuration.

An action-packed racer with a lot of charm and playability but one that is let down by lack of focus and difficulty. With a few a tweaks, Stunt Wheels could be essential but until then its positives are weighed down by some bad design choices. Ultimately, Stunt Wheels is a well-programmed but pretty poorly playtested game but one that is worth keeping an eye on.

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