The App Store is chock-full of driving and flying games of every kind. There are games in which you pilot a spaceship, or a Lamborghini, or an F-22 Raptor, and through every imaginable kind of terrain and situation. Despite all these different games, Jet Car Stunts manages to take the basic idea of a driving game and add an impressive new element that makes it radically unique.
As you could probably tell by the title, the added element is that your car has a powerful jet engine mounted on the back. But instead of just using the jet engine as an over complicated speed boost, it also functions to propel you forward when you’re airborne. And flying through the air at remarkable speeds is quite a big part of Jet Car Stunts.
Unlike many driving games on the App Store, the focus of Jet Car Stunts is platforming, not racing. So instead of manically trying to beat another player or a computer, you’re trying to beat your own time — and often the levels are difficult enough that you have to really try to finish the level at all.
Jet Car Stunts supports Openfeint, and if you look on the leaderboards you may notice some entries have a small video icon next to them. If you click the icon, you’ll be able to view a video that shows exactly how that player accomplished the level. This is incredibly helpful once you get to the more elaborate levels: you’ll see what I mean once we discuss the level design.
The game has three modes: a very complete and thorough tutorial, the basic platforming mode and the frantic time trial mode. The tutorial mode is divided into three sections separated by difficulty: the first section covers basic concepts like acceleration, steering and how to rock the jet car from side to side if you get knocked over. The second covers how to jump off ramps, how to use the afterburner (the jet!) to propel yourself further and faster, and how to control yourself as you fly through the air. The last section explains how to use the air brake to slow down and level yourself, and also teaches you to conserve fuel for the afterburner.
The two primary game modes are platforming and time trial — the difference between the two is that there’s a different set of maps. In time trial mode, time is crucial, whereas in platforming you can take your time if you wish. The time trial maps are circular, so you try to finish the required number of laps as fast as possible. The platforming maps are huge and often stretch as far as you can see.
The controls for playing are simple: you tilt to steer, and have buttons to control acceleration, brakes and the jet. The controls make sense and it doesn’t take long for them to feel like an extension of yourself. The top bar indicates how much fuel you have left to power your afterburner. In Casual mode, this bar will recharge whenever you’re not using the jet. In Normal mode, the only way to refill your fuel is by driving through a checkpoint.
When I tested out a few levels on my fourth generation iPod Touch, gameplay was incredibly smooth: the graphics were simple, yet satisfactory, and there was no lag whatsoever.
The level design in Jet Car Stunts is certainly unique. The path you are meant to follow twists every which way, leading you left, then right, then around a loop, then over a jump. There is plenty of variety and none of the levels are too similar. The background scenery consists of several scattered cubes and rectangles. While at first they seem to serve no purpose, the more you play the more you’ll realize that you can sometimes use them to finish the level much faster.
If you’re creative and don’t mind forming your own unconventional way of doing things, you’ll often find you can skip whole sections of the level by careening off certain blocks or flying off jumps in a direction you weren’t meant to go. This is surprisingly much more fun than you would think, and intentional or not, to me it was one of the most interesting aspects of the game.
Suggestions & Improvements
Jet Car Stunts is a game with a lot of potential. The team behind the game have the core mechanics down solid; controls are tight, gameplay is smooth and the jet ability is awesome. However, I think they could have gone a lot further. Unlike many of the other racing games out there, Jet Car Stunts is fun because it’s unique and gives you a freedom that other racing games don’t — the freedom to fly.
If they wanted to take full advantage of this freedom, it would be cool to see giant open levels with optional objectives. A level where you could hurtle off jumps and see how high you could get or how fast you could drive. Levels like these would open up a ton of new possibilities, and that’s something I’m hoping gets changed in Jet Car Stunts 2.
Jet Car Stunts is a solid game that, in my opinion, could’ve been much better. But don’t let that turn you away from getting the game, because everything that is there is fantastic. If you’re looking for a fresh new driving game that isn’t quite like anything you’ve played before, check it out! You just might like this game.