Review: Roundabout

You know, for all the flack FMV (full motion video) games tend to get in the modern era, they were excellent at creating unintentional humor. As such, the idea of a company purposefully pushing for a game with nonsense FMV comedy sounds like a pretty fun idea. Developer No Goblin decided to go all in with this concept for the creation of Roundabout. It’s a puzzle/reflex/driving game where all cutscenes are FMV sequences and it’s unlike anything that’s come out in a long time. Well, if you were one of the 20 people who played Kuru Kuru Kururin on the GameBoy Advance, then you’ll have a leg up gameplay-wise.

Assuming you weren’t a Kururin diehard, the basics of Roundabout are as follows: you’re a limousine driver named Georgio Manos who loves to drive in circles. Well, it’s not so much that she’s doing donuts as much as the limo legitimately spins around continuously. This “revolving chauffeur” draws a great deal of attention but is also tough to wrangle through streets, beaches, and hillsides. Because of this continue clockwise (or counterclockwise) motion players must carefully weave about through traffic, buildings, and other obstacles to drive folks safely to their destinations.

Get used to seeing Georgio’s vehicle explode in a fiery mess as new players will find it difficult to control the limo. Its perpetual motion leaves little time to stop and think. Thankfully, after a while the mechanics do start to feel natural. Once finally over that initial hump, playing Roundabout actually starts to feel a bit like controlling a ballet. Guiding the limo up, down, and around obstacles without even denting your car once feels awesome. For those who need more help, there’s also a variety of unlockable upgrades, although only one can be active at a given time, these definitely help for drivers of all skill levels.

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One odd, but surprisingly compelling, feature of Roundabout is its sandbox world. Although it’s got nothing on games such as GTA in regards to scope, each town you visit is packed with things to do. There are story missions (all about taxi-ing weird locals around), challenges (bouncing balls, killing pedestrians, etc), and lots to purchase. Buying different buildings provides Georgio with a persistent additional salary which is useful for obtaining new items. What kind of items does a hip revolving limo driver need? Hats! But not for her — for the car. Customization is completely optional but lends to the overall humor of the game.

Speaking of humor, it’s impossible to ignore the storyline and its presentation. Although at first it seems like Roundabout is like a more puzzling version of Crazy Taxi, soon enough your riders will push the story along in unexpected ways. Of course, the most appealing (or distracting) aspect is the fact that every new pickup brings a FMV sequence along with it. Everyone seems to be acting with a ton of passion, but in ways that are completely ridiculous given the story. Characters are far more like caricatures than real human beings which celebrates the unintentional legacy of FMV titles. Even though No Goblin frames these sequences as a “70’s B-movie,” the modern style of comedy made it impossible to view through such a lens.

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This isn’t a bad thing, though. Through and through, Roundabout presents itself as an amusingly awkward game. Outside of a ridiculous cast, the world itself is as vibrant as it is nonsensical. As Georgio’s revolving vehicle becomes more renowned, other cars suddenly start mimicking her style. Even though civilians are routinely run over, leaving behind only cartoonishly large red smears, no one ever seems to care. Thanks to a wacky little world, players simply feel invited to continue exploring even after they finish the storyline. It takes 2 to 3 hours to finish but maybe up to five to get 100% completion.

The only issues which cropped up during a playthrough on Xbox One were wholly focused on presentation. In some instances characters sounded like they had recording sessions done in different locations, leading to echo-filled or noisy voices. As for FMV sequences themselves, there are some pixelated/grainy scenes on occasion, as well as iffy green screen effects. FMV has certainly come along way since its super compressed console origins, but I expected better here. It’s also obvious that the humor itself might be off putting to some, but it certainly jived with me.

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Closing Comments:

Wacky is the word which first comes to mind when reading about Roundabout, and it’s the lasting impression players will have even after they’ve stopped spinning. The mechanic of driving a limo which never quits revolving is utter nonsense but is actually a tremendously fun gameplay challenge. As for the FMV, it establishes the game with an entirely distinctive vibe which seems to appeal to all kinds of gamers, not just those who grew up with a Sega CDI or 3D0.  Those looking for something completely different in their gaming library ought to download Roundabout.