Everyone loves a mad scientist, especially one with the proclivities of a deranged motorhead. They’re funny, smart, and know how to work on an engine block. When you add one of these charismatic characters to an endless running game, then you might have a recipe for motor-powered mayhem. Lets see if Turbolab Pursuit will get away with your hearts and phones.
Turbolab Pursuit is your standard sort of endless running game. Each of its procedurally generated levels are different from the last and there is an abundance of awful things obstructing your path. What helps to set games apart in this over-saturated genre is to inject a bit of charm. Turbolab certainly tries its best to be quirkier than other offerings on the App Store, but it fails to aspire to anything more than the same old thing.
You play as a mad scientist named Professor West, with Einstein-esque hair and a mustache, who is being pursued by a gaggle of black clad mafioso baddies in a blimp. West is looking to create the perfect car and the mafia wants to get their awful mitts on the Professor's project. You blast your way out of your lab in a prototype car and initiate a chase full of flips, follies, and the occasional explosion.
There are two simple controls in Turbolab Pursuit. Touching the left side of the screen will fire whatever is loaded into your car’s weapon. Everything from little balls of energy to homing rockets can be picked up throughout the level or bolted on as an upgrade after collecting enough coins. Sadly, you don’t have any manual controls when it comes to aiming. Your projectile just fires towards the nearest enemy. It makes for somewhat shallow gameplay. It would have been much more fun introducing some skill into the combat.
Tapping the right side will launch your car in the air. This is effective for avoiding the many obstacles and negotiating the upper reaches of the level. But, like Tiny Wings, if you land your leap in the right spot, you’ll get a nice boost up the other side of the hill.
The controls leave a bit to be desired. I couldn’t help but feel that the game would have been better off with gesture based controls. You would then be able to tap anywhere on the screen to fire your weapon in that direction. Then you could have much more control on the path of your ramshackle rockets and pop gun ammunition. That being said, the jump would then have to be mapped to a swipe up, which works well in most other endless running games and it should be just fine here.
The real fun of Turbolab Pursuit is, well, in the lab. You can upgrade your car with a dizzying assortment of attachments to enhance different attributes from speed to jump height. You afford the upgrades through the coins you collect on each run through, but if you’re of the rich and lazy type, you can also purchase them with real cash money. Their effects are definitely tangible and make getting away from those bandits a bit less difficult.
Being a procedurally generated game doesn’t mean that graphics are excusable. Games like Ronin are achingly pretty and there is no reason for low res sprites and lackluster level design. Even though this game tries to evoke silly cartoon charm, it comes off as something that is only half finished. The backgrounds could have been infinitely more intriguing and help to set up what little story there is by giving you a sense of place. The characters and buildings themselves are just a bit boring and you feel like you’ve seen it all before.
Sadly, Turbolab Pursuit fails to capture any sort of innovation or charm within the endless running genre. It is fun for a few minutes of wasting time while waiting for a root canal, but you wouldn’t want to spend actual money on the game. It doesn't quite plumb the desperate depths of gamings horrid underbelly, but it doesn't soar high on the wings of the perfect prototype car. It is simply a serviceable and slightly forgettable little dalliance with entertainment. It simply feels like a game we’ve all played before. Too bad our little motorhead scientist isn’t able to outrun the bandits of mediocrity.