I’ve played a fair few strategy games in my time, and the formula made popular by Overcooked! (amongst others) has been applied to pretty much every scenario going. However, taking control of a pit crew isn’t something that was on my wish list, but Speed Crew puts you in the driving seat (not literally of course).
You and the gang are looking to teach Dominion Torrento a lesson he won’t quickly forget, by being the best darn pit crew in the business. The narrative is weaved together by cutscenes before and after each championship, which offer the odd laugh too. In all honesty the storyline isn’t very important but does get the setup out of the way nice and quickly.
Your team is responsible for fixing the race cars as they pull into the pitlane, sporting a whole manner of battle scars from the track. It’s a race against time as you sort out as many as you can to ensure your team covers as much distance as possible, racking up the laps.
You can play solo, but many of the levels are clearly designed for two or more players. In fact, up to four of you can play at once to keep the cars in tip top condition. It’s a shame that there is no online matchmaking, but you can still play over the internet with your mates.
The main campaign is split into championships that take place every decade or so. There are ten rounds, and in each you are competing against other pit crews. A live leaderboard tracks your progress, and you’ll earn points relative to where you place. Certain rounds will also offer the opportunity to unlock something new, whether that be a playable character, or some gear for them. Your avatar can be customised from the main menu before each level, along with your vehicles.
There are also a couple of sponsor events that can be unlocked as well, which are structured in the same way as the others, apart from offering a little more challenge. Their names are also somewhat familiar, and should get a chuckle if you’re into your racing.
As the drivers arrive, the first thing you’ll need to do is diagnose the problems with their cars. There’s a variety of issues that will need addressing, including bodywork damage, shredded tyres and empty fuel tanks. In the pit area, there are different tools to help you get the job done and things start off pretty straightforward. Most methods will have one stage, for example hammering the bodywork back in place. To replace a tyre though, you’ll need to jack the car up first before getting the drill on it. Changing engines is more complicated again, as you will need to pop the bonnet, remove the engine, repair it and then reinstall, all before the car is good to go. Each round mixes up what is available to you, for example a manual wrench is slower, but an automatic one will need charging after use.
As you progress, so does the complexity and new gizmos, whilst alternative methods of getting the job done will be introduced, thanks to the R&D department. This can make things both easier and more difficult, depending on how you look at it. Upgraded tools are more efficient, but items such as the mobile diagnostics unit need to be wheeled to within range of the car before you can get cracking on sorting the issues.
As a result, you will need to quickly assess the situation and then prioritise which issues to tackle and in what order, taking into account the various obstacles and such that are found in your working environment. This is where your dash comes in handy, which will give the edge when crossing the road and such.
You’ll also need to be careful of hazards, but perhaps most obviously the cars pulling into the pits, or zooming through. If you get hit, you’ll be taken out and lose precious seconds before you respawn. Sticky surfaces, freak weather patterns and other elements are regularly thrown in to keep you on your toes.
When your pit area gets crowded, the straightforward control scheme starts to falter a little. I’ve been saying this a lot in regards a few games recently, but the accuracy in targeting which item to pick up suffers, and this can cost you precious seconds. It’s nothing game breaking, but it is irritating.
In some scenarios, troublesome saboteurs will turn up looking to damage the very cars you are fixing up. Despite them looking tough, a well placed slap will see them soon scuttle off with their hammer between their legs. It’s these pesky folks that feature in the head to head mode too. “Sabotage” supports up to four players, and one of them is there to simply cause mayhem, by smashing up as many cars as possible.
As before, giving the saboteur a few slaps will wipe them out for a few seconds, before they can respawn. It’s fun, but with a full compliment it’s very easy to keep the saboteur at bay, stopping them from causing any real damage.
Speed Crew looks pretty enough, with it being easy to spot what you need as you scan the pit area. The stylised visuals do catch the eye, but the cutscenes are where the game’s character comes to life. The music is catchy too, but manages not to overstay its welcome as it bounces around your head. It’s with this in which Speed Crew aims for, and hits, the “all ages” marker. It’s a fun racing pit based strategy game that never feels too overwhelming. It’s certainly not easy to get top marks in each round either, and there are plenty to sink your teeth into. 48 in fact.
It’s also a game that is a perfect fit for DLC and regular updates, and such things have been promised too. There’s an opportunity to diversify what’s on offer, because despite “Sabotage” mode there aren’t many other ways to play. There is a gradual drip of new tools to get to grips with, and the level design gets gradually more complex, which mixes the action up enough to prevent it getting stale.
Speed Crew manages to feel different enough despite opting for a tried and tested format. Solo or with friends, everyone can have fun with this one.