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Petite Adventure Review

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It’s happened again. Another game has suckered us in, thanks to our unrequited love of Micro Machines. We haven’t had a proper sequel in the series in yonks (we don’t count the humdrum World Series), so we get weak at the knees whenever a game even has a whiff of Micro Machines’ fun and style. But they all break our heart, and Petite Adventure is no different. 

There was a clue on the Xbox Store page that Petite Adventure wouldn’t hold a candle to Turbo Tournament, the finest of all the Micro Machines. ‘Single Player’ it says, in the Capabilities section. Well, there are red flags and then there are stonking great red flags, so big that you can race over them, and it’s the latter with Petite Adventure. You can’t have a solely single-player Micro Machines clone, no matter how indie or budget you are. You just can’t. 

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So, we grumbled and got into the driver’s seat alone. Clue number two was that Petite Adventure was broken down into challenges, rather than tracks or grand prix-style events. That’s because Petite Adventure leans on a different – and just as forgotten – classic of the racing scene: Stuntman. What Petite Adventure wants to do is construct fiendish challenges, and then pit your completion of them against the clock. More than anything else, they represent stunt-like minigames. 

So, one challenge might sellotape a wrecking ball to your back-bumper, and then encourage you to flail it about in the hope that you might pop some balloons. Another thrusts a large white ball in front of you, and wonders whether you can nudge it into a golf hole. There are coin collectathons, slaloms, events where you need to doughnut around in a circle, and others where you need to obliterate cones with a laser strapped to the top. 

Writing them down, they seem exciting. I want to play that game. Sod the constant Micro Machines comparisons: a tiny Stuntman, where you fire lasers and knock paper balls off tabletops? Yeah, that’s got potential. 

But hold your freaking horses, because Petite Adventure squanders all its potential very, very early. It doesn’t take long to realise that Petite Games, makers of Petite Adventure, don’t have this. And it all stems from the controls. 

Driving around in your limo, police car, school bus or Ecto 1 (inexplicably just there, waiting for a lawsuit) isn’t all that bad, perhaps a little overly sensitive and jumpy, but then you hit something. Graze anything, even by a pixel, and you will come to a grinding halt. There’s no arcade-like bounce or ricochet: no, we’re in simulation territory, with a complete and utter stationary stop. So, you’re reversing (which, at least to our tastes, has the controls mirrored, which we never got used to), trying to get into a position where you can regain the momentum you need to fly off a ramp. And you better hope you don’t knick anything on the way.

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Except the cars are all primadonnas, refusing to play if you make even the slightest mistake. A wheel rises up on a tiny piece of cardboard? Nah mate, you’re wheelspinning now, and your car is stuck. Hit a ramp a millimetre out of position? You are leaning, Italian Job-like, over the side of said ramp, and can’t get back up again.

There’s a respawn button, but – and this is truly hilarious, and should be seen to be believed – it teleports you several metres up in the air of where you got stuck, landing exactly as you were before. Stuck? Respawn and get stuck again. It’s a special form of torture. We can imagine vindictive gods coming up with it. Even better, you can spam the respawn button and climb ever-higher, dropping your car down from an incredible height with exactly the same result. We did it for kicks.

Hit something and you stop. Reverse and you’ll drive in the wrong direction. Hit something badly enough and a wheel rises off the ground, making it impossible to continue. Respawn and you get a repeat of the same problem. What is the solution to this unfeasibly punitive approach to mistakes? You play every level incredibly slowly. Because the controls are such that a simple tap of the acceleration button will send you hurtling through the race, and there’s so much damned detritus on the track that your only solution is to drive about like my grandad on a Sunday with his flat-cap on. 

Which, as you can imagine, is about as fun as driving about like my grandad on a Sunday with his flat-cap on. It’s a tentative trundle around some tight arenas, hoping that a moment of madness won’t leave you precariously balanced on the tip of a pencil. The time ticks down, and the hope of a gold or silver on the level evaporates, but, by golly, we just want to finish the damn thing so we never have to play it again. Please, don’t make us play it again. 

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Luckily, the achievements in Petite Adventure pop relatively early, offering you 1000 Gamerscore gold for participating in each of the different types of challenge. If you have any sense, you will press the eject button, James Bond-style, and parachute away to serenity. But stick with, and you have thirty-two challenges across three difficulties, all increasing in infuriation. We commend anyone who completes all challenges, and we reserve a fool’s crown for anyone who chases gold in every level. There’s no achievement for it, you mad-lad: who are you trying to impress? 

What can we say in commendation of Petite Adventure? We quite like the look of it. It’s a simple, polygonal take on Micro Machines, and we were initially down with it. Everything is crisp and clear, and there’s an undeniable joy of playing a car that’s rattling around on a desktop. The concept’s good too: there’s no denying that a good game could emerge from it. And we even found some fun in a couple of the challenges, particularly those that avoid ramps, jumps and tiny obstacles that we could hook a wheelrim on. In particular, the cone-laser levels raised a chuckle. There’s something hilarious about owning a military-grade laser and using it solely to chop up police cones. 

But we’re scraping around at the bottom of the barrel for compliments. Petite Adventure is a single-player, challenge-oriented take on Micro Machines, and we’re happy to admit that there’s a strong game to be made with that setup. But that game isn’t Petite Adventure. That game would have embraced arcade fun, rather than getting bogged down in simulation precision. 

Petite Adventure is like a driving instructor, tutting and stamping on the brakes whenever you want to get going. It’s impossible to find the fun with all that going on. 

You can buy Petite Adventure from the Xbox Store

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