Whilst ‘You Suck At Parking’ may sound like an echo from your driving instructor of old, it is also the name of an upcoming arcade driving game developed by Happy Volcano. You’d never know that this is the team’s first racing game, as our initial impressions of the recent pre-release demo are very positive indeed.
‘You Suck At Parking’ requires precision stunt driving around increasingly challenging and crazier obstacle courses. Dotted around each course are several car parking spaces that you’ll need to casually slide into. Why you may ask? This is all in the name of time trial honours and collecting hearts!
Each level has a time limit to beat and you gain hearts based on how many of those parking spaces you fill. Later levels are unlocked by collecting a certain number of hearts so expect to learn and improve through repetition.
Reverse parallel parking triple loop
The levels in the demo have been thoughtfully designed to ramp up the difficulty and show you the breadth of hazards in your path. You’ll start with a few chicanes, graduate to ramps and bridges and before you know it there are giant magnets and wind machines throwing you around a half-pipe like a dirty sock in a washing machine. Later levels also reveal plenty of AI-driven cars that can follow specific routes or patrol certain areas. Sometimes these cars will push you out the way or sometimes they’ll steam-roll you into oblivion. Oh, and there are bounce pads and minefields. Together. Ouch.
With the carnage being untethered and frantic, what surprised us was how grounded and responsive the cars feel to drive. Happy Volcano has clearly taken inspiration from the mid-1990’s arcade classics and the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis for you Americans) beauty ‘Super Skidmarks‘ felt like a natural stable-mate. The cars have oversteer built into them, which plays beautifully into some of the reactionary gameplay you’ll be having.
You’ll want to crank hard left to avoid something, overdo it, panic and then crank hard right and explode in a ball of fire. ‘You Suck At Parking’ rewards a smooth player who can also carry a bit of zen behind the wheel. Quickly you’ll understand that feathering the throttle is your friend. You see, basically a simulator…
There are two other factors that you need to balance when playing ‘You Suck At Parking’. The first is that each time you play, the order in which you need to fill the parking spaces are shuffled. This isn’t made entirely clear from the off and better signposting about this would be welcome. The second is every car you drive has a fuel tank that depletes quickly. The fuel isn’t related to your throttle sadly – it is purely time-based. This enables levels to get bigger, more complex, and it’s at this point where the demo ends.
The final challenges introduce fuel tanks to replenish that timer. Miss the tank, you’ll conk out and it is back to the start. Muck up a stunt on the way and you often don’t have time to try again.
The further into the game I went, the more it started to take on a Trackmania quality. Each run requires perfection as a certain flow is required. Put a wheel wrong and a swinging magnet may suck you up or a mine carefully placed off the ideal line will end your day. We can’t wait to see the perfect runs uploaded onto YouTube as they’ll make for entertaining viewing.
Speaking of the view, the graphics have a lovely touch to them. The levels themselves have a cutesy city vibe, but the best is saved for the overworld. Here, grass satisfyingly glides out of your way like a thick carpet. The area feels more like LittleBigPlanet meets Dutch farm playset. There are windmills, boats and lots of verticality to traverse. Football fields with giant balls to ram around are included too.
The overworld grass is the only element that has any kind of texture to it though and it would be great to see that ‘playing at home with my imagination’ tone carry over to over things too.
Inside the levels, the main graphical issue I had was with all my failed attempts! On the more chaotic levels crammed with AI cars, burnt out or conked out carcasses are left stranded where they rest. The problem is, when you’ve got 30 or 40 of them left as black square husks, it looks a little unsightly. We also found the shadow of our car when jumping didn’t always feel like it was in the right place, leaving us in the sea and a tad confused.
Building for the future
One huge part of the game not included in the demo is the level editor. Assuming this implemented in an easy to understand manner, there is an awful lot of depth to be mined here. Over the course of the demo alone there were half pipes, wind fans, magnets, boost and bounces pads – not to mention the garages that spawn endless AI cars too.
The game is ripe for making crazy levels to test your patience as well as making fun memes and technically impressive synchronised ballets. We’ve only seen snippets of the editor in promotional videos but it looks tile and block-based, so it should be quick to put something half decent together.
The current release date for ‘You Suck At Parking’ is currently slated for later 2021 and it is shaping up to a cracker. The demo I played is available for free on Steam right now, and the initial reveal trailer listed console development too. When the time comes, you’ll find us at the barrier revving for carnage.