Jet Car Stunts review for PS Vita, PS3, Xbox 360

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Grip Digital
Developer: Grip Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Leaderboards

I have fond — if somewhat fuzzy — memories of playing Jet Car Stunts back when I first picked up my first iPod Touch a couple of years ago. While it wasn’t one of my favorite games ever or anything, back in the nascent days of touch gaming, it was one of the best games available on iDevices (which, obviously, wasn’t as big an achievement then as it would be now), and showed that games on Apple’s little technological wonder could be a little more complex than, say, Doodle Jump. Consequently, I was curious to see whether the game’s status as a great mobile game would carry over to platforms with buttons and thumbsticks.

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Short answer: nope, not really. Not for the reasons you might think, though. You might expect that the game’s short levels and basic controls don’t translate well to longer sittings, but as the Trials series has already shown, such concerns are unfounded. There’s not a massive difference between pressing buttons and nudging joysticks, and pressing the screen and tilting your device, so in that respect, the transition is pretty smooth.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the rest of the move over. To be blunt, the game feels unfinished. While the core game may be there, that’s pretty much it. There’s no music or extra sounds, for starters; while that may not sound like a big thing on paper, when you’re actually playing it, the absence of ambient noise is surprisingly noticeable. To only hear the roar of the engine, with no radio blaring or audience cheering in the background, just feels kind of weird. I know that, technically, the tracks you’re racing on are suspended in the middle of the sky, but I doubt that Grip Games wanted players to feel like they’re racing in a giant, empty void.

Of even greater concern is the fact that the camera is so lousy, it makes it seem like the game is irredeemably glitchy. Though, alternatively, it’s quite possible that Jet Car Stunts actually is insanely glitchy. Either way, it does the game no favors that when you land upside down — as you’ll probably do quite a bit, since Jet Car Stunts is nothing if not incredibly hard — the camera doesn’t know how to handle it. I can’t count the number of times it looked as though I was just floating in mid-air, left to spin my wheels uselessly, because the game hadn’t registered that I’d flipped over, missed a jump or somehow landed on the underside of the track. It only takes a button press to reset to the last checkpoint, but you have to think that a slightly more completed game wouldn’t have issues like that.

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What makes the whole thing really bad, though, is the price. Where the original iOS version of Jet Car Stunts can be had for $2 (albeit with an extra $2 for a bonus pack of levels), this one costs $8, and — Vita/PS3 cross-buy notwithstanding — it’s hard to see what justifies the price difference. If this was a drastic improvement over the original, with a better camera or great ambient sound, it might make sense, but absent those changes, it just seems like you’re paying extra money, and not getting all that much in return.

Grade: B