I like the trees in this game. I really, really do. Or rather, I like some of the trees in this game; the purple ones. These trees stand out with their inexplicable glowing branches, almost like sickles that have cut into something unknown. Humanity has a deep-seated fascination with which they cannot comprehend, like the popularity of hit shitcom The Big Bang Theory. Merely catching these in the corner of your eye makes it virtually impossible not to veer off the road into their warm, Grimace-like embrace.
Jeep Thrills is somewhat thrilling. This is another budget release from Funbox Media, the same publisher responsible for thrusting all those explosive copies of Speed upon the PAL market. And much like that racer, Jeep Thrills is actually pretty old for the first world, originally released in America back in 2007. It’s also a PlayStation 2 port, just to complete the whole ‘yep this is a Wii game alright’ package.
So we’ve got all these Jeeps, see. Off-road beasts, scientifically created to show how much of a jerk you can be in a shopping centre car park. The game starts off with a few different models to pick from, each with slightly different statistics. However, they all keep that true-to-life charm of the real thing™ in that every vehicle controls like a big thick log of pig crap and does multiple back-flips upon hitting even a rough patch of grass.
It’s clear the developers at Gamesauce took a bit of inspiration from Excite Truck, which is always nice. Sure, ridiculous(ly awesome) tricks are totally out, but there’s a turbo boost via the D-Pad. Timing it just as the jeep launches off a jump will reward you with a further jolt of speed upon landing. Likewise, the tracks are completely over-the-top in their design. Massive ramps and dips, dangerous shortcuts – there’s over 30 courses spread over six different environments. 35 to be exact. This is what you call padding out a paragraph. Some of these are just slight variations, but that’s still pretty impressive! Résumé worthy.
The basics for a good time are all here. Jeep Thrills should be a fun, mindless (and thrilling) arcade racing game. It’s just that, well, exceptionally poor handling and collision detection really kinda drags this down towards the league of swamp monsters. You can tilt that Wii Remote all you want; these Jeeps aren’t going to to tackle a corner any time soon. It’s clear little effort was placed in the transition from a Dual Shock joystick to this little white remote of physical arm-flab burning goodness.
To best explain this, just imagine a car from The Flintstones. Picture one of those trying to turn in a hurry, where the only thing powering it is some prehistoric goon shredding the skin off their feet to accelerate and brake. It can’t. It can’t turn fast enough; the steering wheel is a slab of rock which is connected to even bigger rocks. This is what the Jeep barely evolved from.
Meanwhile, the CPU jabs you in the ribs with a cane and twirls its mustache, a devious cackle of smug superiority left ringing in your ears. Any contact with a rival Jeep always penalises you no matter what. You’ll either stop dead in your tracks or start flipping around in the air like you just don’t care. By the time that beast manages to land the race is over and everyone’s gone home. The window of opportunity is tiny in this game; one mistake almost guarantees you’ll need to restart.
This could be laughed off if the same bizarre physics and controls applied to the CPU. I remember having a jolly good guffaw watching other cars struggle to complete a race by grinding upside-down in say, San Francisco Rush, but nope. They blatantly stay ‘glued’ to the road here in Jeep Thrills, turning a light-hearted arcade game into some Linkin Park-a-thon.
For what started out as a PlayStation 2 game – and ended as a $15 shelf filler – the visuals are passable. The Jeeps actually sport real-time reflections which just seems so mind-blowingly out of place compared to everything else. Seriously, what the hell. Those purple trees bouncing off my bonnet, it’s almost poetic.
But really, sometimes the price tag (and the addition of purple trees) just can’t save a game. What a shame. Doomed to a life next to Wheel of Fortune and Game Party 17 on the Kmart shelves.