It only takes a wee bit of imagination to refresh an otherwise hackneyed old thing; something my wife continually likes to remind me about my dress sense. But in the case of the AppStore, when a new game is released that falls into one of the more popular categories (Tower Defense, Zombies, Tower Defense with Zombies), unless it’s backed by Developer McMegabucks from Dollarland in the US of Banknotes, it can tend to get swallowed up by the zombies and towers and zombie towers. It also makes it more boring to review, because essentially, they’re all the same.
But Stunt Star: The Hollywood Years is different. Different in that it isn’t actually different at all, but different enough to be somewhat different. Who’s more confused here, me or you?
It’s one of the genres that could easily get ingested in the sweaty innards of the AppStore digestive tract – a trials/ physics stunt game. Yes, there plenty of those. How good of you to notice. This one charts the rise of a would-be stuntman’s journey to Hollywood, beginning with small scale events in the back of a lowly farm, all the way to mega-death scenarios in front of thousands. Expect a whole load of bumps and bruises in-between.
It’s all very trialy and physicsy and stunty in the way you’d expect – draw a ramp at one end of the level, tap the accelerate button to get one of your variety of vehicles moving, and use the ramp to launch yourself in the air. Obstacles such as buses and helicopters lie in your path, and it’s best to jump over, rather than smash into them, (rule number one for aspiring stuntmen). The angle at which you draw the bridge affects your success greatly, as do considerations such as speed and whether you attempt a back or front flip.
Once you’ve landed, you must come to a stop in-between two flags in order to pass the stunt. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I competed a gnarly backflip at 200 miles an hour only to fail because I overshot the last flag. Or, perhaps because this is me we’re talking about, you can.
Graphically it’s a crisp cartoon style that looks like it was enthusiastically drawn by some talented college student looking for a way into the industry. That is to say, it’s nice. You have a range of power-ups such as rocket boosts and parachutes which help you land which can be purchased with your choice of credit – which thankfully isn’t actually isn’t too hard to get hold of – or of course, real money. Sound is nothing too much to write home about (if anyone still does that), but is inoffensive enough.
So it’s all kind of what you’d expect, but what charmed me about Stunt Star was it’s sense of humour. You can’t help but love the sight of a cameramen and boom mike guy in the background as you wait to take your jump, and of course, the ambulance waiting for you at the other end just in case something bloody happens. Your unnamed stuntman also dances a humorous jig at the end of each successful stunt, but the star of the show is your director who informs you that his budget only allows for a certain number of retakes, so you better get the stunt done as soon as possible (a nice way to introduce a time limit where other trial racers would just say – ‘You have a time limit’), and dryly suggests you should try not to kill yourself on the next take. My favourite quote of his though, is this:
‘In this scene, Joey Cornballs is trying to impress Katie Cowpusher by doing a backflip over a canyon. So…do that.’
The whole thing reminds me of a of Chevy Chase or Bill Murray movie in the 80′s. If you’re a younger reader, that’s a good thing. Believe me.
Also a good thing is that screeching to a halt just before the last flag to successfully complete a stunt – especially one of the trickier ones – is actually quite satisfying. It’s pretty much all you could ask for in a game like this which probably has hundreds of relatives in the AppStore. Go then, strap on your helmet, rev your engine, and try not to fall into a canyon. Katie Cowpusher wouldn’t be happy with that.
@KevThePen. It’s Kevin on Twitter, and has nothing to do with stunts.